Ending American labels
What does it mean to be an American? This morning I want to present my views.
First of all, I am proud to be an American. I love this country and all it stands for. The Constitution was written more than 200 years ago, but is still pertinent today. Our system of three parts of government works well most of the time as long as people remember that there are three parts for a reason.
When I taught school the Pledge of Allegiance was recited every morning. The children stood as they repeated it. It was the same when I went to school.
In my class the helper for the day was allowed to hold the flag and begin the Pledge. It was a coveted job. Each child proudly took their turn at this job. I did have some children through the years who belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation who were not allowed to repeat the pledge or hold the flag. They were allowed to sit quietly.
I remember during the years I traveled overseas that we were told not to wear the colors of the flag or anything that had a flag on it to prevent discrimination.
Being an American has responsibilities as well as rights. It is the responsibilities that are at this point being forgotten. We have the responsibility to treat people with respect. We have the responsibility to respect the flag.
There is a whole protocol that involves the flag. Each flag needs to be respectfully disposed of. Veterans groups and Boy Scouts each conduct flag disposal ceremonies. At this ceremony burning is the method of disposal.
In a parade the flag is due respect. People remove their hats and stand as it passes.
At sporting events when the National Anthem is played everyone stands — until the last few years when it has become popular to kneel instead as a protest. Do not get me going on this concept. The players are mighty glad to accept their huge contracts to play sports, but are not willing to respect the flag of this country.
It is a fact the NFL has lost sponsorships and spectators because of their attitude. I no longer watch their games. It will be the same with other sports if the professionals do not get a handle on this. Sports figures used to be revered but they are losing some of their luster.
Now I want to present a novel idea. It just may help with the current discrimination that is taking place. Are we not all Americans? What if we simply referred to all American citizens as Americans and drop the moniker — African Americans? Once that term is introduced there is a type of reverse discrimination. I do not care what color their skin is as long as they can do the job. By adding the term “African” to the label as American they are setting themselves apart.
We do not refer to those who immigrated from Germany as German Americans. We do not call those who came from Cuba as Cuban Americans. Do you get my point? Why are we still calling them African Americans? Either they are African, or they are American. They cannot have it both ways.
When they immigrated to this country years ago, they dropped the country of their origin as they adopted their American citizenship – and shame on them if they are not American citizens!
There is a month called Black History Month recognized by all. There is no other race or nationality that has done this. Yes, the culture is maintained, but it is maintained within their community. When people immigrated here, they learned the language. They assimilated the culture. They did not expect the culture to change to their way of thinking.
The native language can be maintained within the home. Family is the place to pass on the recipes, to pass on the traditions. I have many German recipes as well as some from my Dutch grandmother. I do not claim to be German or Dutch. That is my ancestry, my heritage. While I cherish those customs, I have adopted the culture of an American.
Once you become an American citizen, I believe you commit to the culture and language of our country. I believe you honor the flag. To do anything else is a slap in the face to our veterans who risked life and limbs to ensure the freedoms that we hold so dear.
Although I have English, German, Dutch, and even American Indian roots I do not think of myself as having loyalty to any of these groups. My ancestors gave that up when they became American citizens. They learned to speak English — not as a second language but as their primary one.
As for the defacing of American monuments I also want to weigh in. We cannot erase history nor should we be. Those monuments are there to remind of us our history — the good and the bad. The bad should never be repeated — how are people to know if all the reminders are gone?
I loved history. I loved learning about the things that made us great and the things that we were not proud of. The U.S. of America is the country it is today because of our history. We must remember that. The flag is one reminder but there are others. Maybe history is not being taught as much as it should be. We can all use a dose of reality at this point. We can all learn from our past.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org