What Makes You American
Length: 1916 words (5.5 double-spaced pages)
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can speak the English language, or is it the fact that you were born on American soil? I believe
it's certain characteristics that set us apart from other countries. The fact we are self-reliant, and
competitive, and the compassion we bring to others are some, of many, American characteristics that help set us apart. These are the three characteristics that I have chosen to write about.
Our self-reliance begins in the1600's when English settlers came over to America on the Mayflower because they wanted religious freedom. These people were called Pilgrims. The Pilgrims didn't just come to America for religious reasons. Some of the reasons stem from their desire to preserve their own language and customs of life while others involved their livelihood. It was difficult finding similar employment that they were accustomed to in England. Therefore, their work was hard and took its toll upon the health and well-being of not only the adults, but the children as well. They came to America not knowing if they would even have any good resources in order to survive. They relied on their own judgement and things didn't turn out too bad for them.
And what about the Native Americans? Most people know that they helped the Pilgrims grow crops and also taught them how to survive on this new land, but what about the Native Americans? Who taught them? They depended on their own self-reliance, judgement, or resources. They had no one to tell them which berries were good and which were poisonous, no one taught them how to kill an animal and prepare it to cook. They taught and relied on themselves.
Another example of America's self-reliance was in1776, when Americans liberated themselves from Britain. After the French and Indian War the British needed to recoup some of the cost of the war from the colonists. They decided to tax the Americans which then resulted into the Boston Tea Party and then the Revolutionary War. Americans felt the taxes were outrageous and they didn't want to be 2nd class Englishmen anymore. They had came to America for freedom and the British were not giving it to them. The Americans wanted their independence and on July 4th 1776 we declared it!
A more recent example of Americans and our self-reliance is through the Minuteman Project. The local, state and federal governments were ignoring the U.S. immigration law. Certain Americans, the Minutemen, were getting tired of this and the fact the illegal aliens were coming into their yards, killing their animals, and breaking into their homes taking their belongings. So these Americans took matters into their own hands. They peacefully gather at the Arizona-Mexico border and patrol it, making sure no immigrants cross it illegally.
Many Americans have another trait, competitiveness, that stands out more in our country then in other cultures. Americans have this constant drive, this desire, to be better than anyone else in so many things such as sports events, business, or even education. Americans show their competitive side through the NBA, NFL, MLB, etc. All the teams who take part in these sports want to be the best and so they compete for the title. Even the little leagues compete and sometimes the parents even get into fights because they get too into the competition. In 2000 somewhere near Boston two fathers, Michael Costin and Thomas Junta, got into a fight because of both of their sons hockey game. Junta pinned Costin down to the ground with his knee on his chest and eventually beat him so much that Costin died.
Some other good examples of Americans showing their competitive side is through car dealerships or fast food companies all trying to keep up with each other trying to make the next best car or hamburger. Which also brings me to another example "keeping up with the Jones".
The 1950's was a decade during which the phrase "keeping up with the Jones"came into popular use. This phrase was representative of the growing emphasis on material possessions in America and the importance of having the same technology and material wealth in your home as your neighbors, "the Jones". If you were living in a middle class home in suburban America and your neighbor came home with a brand-new television set you would feel like you had to buy a new one too, just so you could show you could buy the finer things in life too and to show that you weren't behind the times.
Americans can also use their competitiveness in a good way though. Certain Americans are selected to represent our country in the Olympics. These Americans hope to bring honor to our country and to show that they are the best in which ever event they are participating in. This past year the Olympics were held at Athens, Greece. Americans brought home 35 gold medals, 39 silver medals, and 29 bronze medals giving a total of 103 medals all together putting America in first place. Americans competing in the Olympics can also be compared to The Great Gatsby too. Americans compete for that gold medal like Tom and Gatsby competed for Daisy's love. Another work of literature, besides The Great Gatsby, that can be compared to the competitiveness of the Olympics, is Of Mice and Men. Curley picks fights with men who are much bigger then him, including Lennie, just to prove that even though he's small he can still beat up the bigger guys.
My last characteristic is not only shown in Of Mice and Men but also The Old Man and the Sea. The characters show compassion for other human beings, a trait that Americans show more then others. In Of Mice and Men compassion is shown throughout the whole book by George who takes care of Lennie. Even though George gets frustrated with Lennie a lot, he still took care of him; he knew Lennie wouldn't be able to survive on his own. George also showed his compassion for Lennie when he stood by him. Lennie kept getting in trouble because he liked to feel nice things, and George could have ditched him and started a life of his own, but instead he understood Lennie didn't mean anything wrong by it. Therefore, he risked running away with him and getting into more trouble.
In The Old Man and the Sea, Manolin is always showing compassion for Santiago, too.
He would buy Santiago food, and catch him sardines. He would even go through this daily
fictional routine with Santiago about casting the net and making a fire for his dinner even though
Santiago sold the net and there's no food to warm. Santiago lies about his surroundings so he
can feel good and the boy never says anything because he is compassionate towards how
Santiago feels. At the end of the book, Manolin also shows his love and compassion for the Old
Man by sitting and crying by his side till he wakes up.
One other work of literature that helps prove my point that Americans show a lot of compassion is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck shows his compassion several times in the story. The first time is when he lies to the men who were looking for the runaway slaves and says that his Dad has smallpox in order for them not to check his boat so they won't find Jim hiding. Next he saw Mary Jane crying in her room because her father died. Feeling bad for her he decides to tell her that Duke and King are frauds and aren't her Uncles and that they're just trying to get her inheritance. Another time he showed his compassion was for the gang member stuck on the Walter Scott. He didn't have to go back to town and send help but he felt sorry and bad for them and didn't want them to die. The last example which I think is the most important is when he decides to go to hell just so he can save Jim again. Of course we all know that he won't go to hell for saving a black man, but he thought he would. Once again Huck shows his caring compassion for other human beings.
Another important way Americans have shown their compassion was on September 11th, 2001. The World Trade Center was hit by two planes in a terrorist attack against America. Americans from all over came together to give blood or just to raise money in order to feed the rescue workers who were working 24 hours a day. In fact, after the September 11th attacks, Americans gave just about 3 billion dollars in relief efforts. My neighbor and I raised $500 dollars for this cause. We had planned to send it to a restaurant in New York that fed rescue workers 24-7 but instead we decided we would take the money personally ourselves and work 3 shifts. We did just about everything from cleaning bathrooms to working in the kitchen just so the rescue workers would be able to rest for a moment and have the stress taken off of them.
Another example of our compassion was when the tsunami hit Asia on December 26th 2004. According to the Red Cross and Johnson and Johnson,
"Americans citizens, troubled by the devastation caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Asia, are helping those who lost loved ones and homes. As of noon yesterday, Americans privately donated approximately $18 million to the American Red Cross. Johnson and Johnson, a leading American pharmaceutical company, made an initial contribution of $2 million to relief efforts and is working with the American Red Cross to match their employees' donations to the organization. The company is also donating medical supplies, food, water, and blankets to people throughout the region. These are just a few ways the American people are supporting the relief effort."
Also, on January 8th 2005 the President of the United States, George Bush, stated,
"The U.S. government has made an initial commitment of $350 million for disaster relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction for victims of the tsunami. I have also sent members of America's armed forces to the region to support the relief efforts. United States Air Force planes are distributing aid 24 hours a day. The United States Navy has deployed the Abraham Lincoln carrier group to Indonesia with relief supplies and additional aircraft that will help reach those victims in desperate need in isolated areas. Additional American military personnel will arrive soon to assist with relief activities. In consultation with key allies and with the United Nations, the United States launched one of the largest humanitarian relief operations in recent history."
So in conclusion you may have a piece of paper saying you're an American citizen but are you really? Are you self reliant, competitive, or compassionate? Or do you have any trait that proves you're a true American? Most likely you do. Stop and think about it for awhile. You never know when somebody might ask you "What makes you an American?".