Important to define our national identity


Americans are a diverse lot. It’s something to protect and be proud of.

Who am I?

It is perhaps a very complicated question for someone like me, who was born in the United States, my country of origin. In my opinion, the American national identity is composed of many characteristics.

What is an American?

Is it someone who has Native American roots? Or someone who has white, black, yellow or red skin? Is it someone who immigrated to the United States, or whose ancestors lived in other countries, or someone who speaks English and often some other language like French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese? Is it someone who accepts and celebrates other cultures, or someone who is Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu or Baptist?

What is an American?

Is it someone who believes in life, liberty and happiness or someone who participates in a democracy? Is it someone who supports a free enterprise system and equality for everyone, or someone who hates war and unemployment?

What is an American?

Is it someone who celebrates the Fourth of July with barbecues, hamburgers and hotdogs, or someone who wears jeans and loves to eat apple pie? Is it someone who dines at a Chinese restaurant on Monday nights, at an Italian restaurant on Wednesday nights and at a Mexican restaurant on Friday nights, or someone who lunches at a McDonald’s restaurant five days a week? Is it someone who visits Disney World at least once, or someone who follows football, baseball and golf?

What is an American?

Is it someone who possesses the American Dream – to be a homeowner. Or a family who drives two cars and has at least two televisions? Is it someone who holds a lot of credit cards, or someone who shops at Wal-Mart several times per month?

What is an American?

Is it someone who fears breast cancer, prostate cancer and heart disease? Is it someone who is concerned about pollution and the environment, or someone who desires to explore alternative energy sources?

I believe that all the preceding characteristics contribute to the national identity of the United States, among other things. The United States is a melting pot of cultures, a land of immigration, a heterogeneous country, and a multicultural society.

I possess many of the preceding American characteristics. For example, I have Native American roots on my mother’s side, and my ancestors immigrated from Canada and Germany to the United States. I continue to speak and write French because it is my maternal language, my mother’s first language. Her parents emigrated from Quebec to Maine here in the United States. I am multicultural myself.

In that case, I support freedom and equality for all cultures and for everyone. I practice my right to vote in a democracy. I celebrate the Fourth of July. I have some jeans, and I like apple pie. I hate war, unemployment and pollution. Instead of consuming petroleum, I think about producing energy from the sun, wind and wood in my own home.

In addition, I have realized the American Dream, having my own house which I share with my husband. We possess two televisions. I have visited Disney World three times and I shop at Wal-Mart several times a month.

I think that this question of national identity is always important in the United States because of racism.

It is essential that we examine and know our national identity here in the United States because it is so diverse and because it holds us together in community. It is the common ground on which we all walk. It is also what I am, an American.

On the other hand, it is equally important that I recognize my Native American, Canadian and German roots for answering the question, “Who am I?” It is important that I keep my roots alive by way of the French language and the Native American Medicine Wheel, because diversity creates a rich life for me and for my country.

Finally, it seems that liberty and immigration are the foundation of the United States. One theory even proposes that Native Americans immigrated to North America a long time ago from another continent: Asia. Is it possible that the national identity of the United States is immigration? It is certainly something that we all have in common.

What is an American?

Who am I?

I am an American.

Virginia Sand, who grew up in Waterville, is a teacher now living in Bangor.