Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A complex American identity

< where are you from?” said the Israeli man who I somehow ended up in a conversation with in a Tel Aviv market.

“The states,” I replied.

“Oh really?” He exclaimed. “So how do you feel about Trump?”

I rolled my eyes and excused myself.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t talk further with this man. Well, when every person I met on my trip to Israel this past winter break asked me this same question, you can understand my mental proximity to breaking point.

I even feel like long before the 2016 election, questions like this were thrown in my direction whenever I traveled overseas. “American politics” seems to be a central topic of discussion among people outside the US. I use “American politics” in this context to mean anything relating to Trump and any major legislation relating to abortion, LGBTQ rights and gun control. I hope these people realize we have some good politicians too.

Perhaps my discomfort with these conversations has to do with my discomfort of having an American identity itself. There are such severe problems, both within the government and the general citizenry, that I hate linking my identity to this classification. I know all countries have problems. It’s just that there are certain issues, like how we are one of just a few countries without paid family leave, that throw me over the edge.

However, I could not consider any other possible nationality. I was born and have lived my entire life in America. Both sides of my family have resided in the US for at least a few generations.

This is a pretty luxury problem of mine, as my country continues to challenge the abilities of others to become American. Whether it is through the strenuous citizenship process or the high level of deportations ordered even by our beloved Obama, accepting outsiders would not be a way that I’d describe my country. Ah, this is another insecurity I have about America to add to the list. In fact, I would make this my main insecurity, that my country is not very welcoming.

Over winter break I remember expressing these same thoughts with my one of my longtime friends. I told her my frustration in the wake of the election. The hateful values presented by America were now confirmed. At that point, I was almost willing to go through the citizenship process for the next country I could think of.

She then told me something so basic, but so important, that I cannot believe I did not consider it sooner.

She said that even in a democracy, the government in power couldn’t accurately portray the people. The intricacies of any political system are the cause of this disagreement. Sure, there are indeed many American citizens who hold the bigoted views of Trump and gladly voted him in. At the same time, though, there are also many Americans working hard to change the status quo. They are fighting on all ends, whether it’s against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia…I could go on for quite a while here.

And if I can speak of anything good that arose from this election, it is seeing the increased passion among these community activists to fight for their causes even harder. Seeing all the protests happening just weeks after Trump took office, we Americans are showing that we will fight with everything we got and not let authoritarian policies make any legislative progress.

So what does it mean to be an American? Our actual political views drastically vary among one another. But a common trait among us is this will to fight for what we care about. Now that is something to be very proud of. I cannot thank my friend enough for helping me realize this basic truth.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *