Who Is An American? Essay

Who Is An American? Essay

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Many historians, philosophers, and citizens of the United States ponder the question, “Who is an American?” Eric Foner discussed this question in depth, revealing that America is made up of political boundaries and ideologies that contribute to the success of the United States. This question applied personally to Mary Matsuda Gruenewald as she and her family were taken from their home in Washington state and taken to internment camps in the midst of World War II. Gruenewald shares her story in her book, Looking Like the Enemy. She asked herself this question, saying, “I always felt that I was Japanese-American and I belonged in America, that I was part of the group. Before December 7, 1941, it never occurred to me that I was not” (Gruenewald, p. 11). This question is the embodiment of the contradiction between the ideals of democracy and the reality of inequality. Historical events like Japanese-American internment following the attack on Pearl Harbor, which capture this controversy, are explained by the consistent uncertainty, fractured community, and loyalty created by the United States of America.
Uncertainty and skepticism have remained underlying influences in government and society since the establishment of the United States. After the Revolutionary War in the late 1700’s and the United States declared independence from Great Britain, citizens and government officials were left considering American values and liberties. The people were able to create their laws and guarantee their rights, but they were left unsure what they found most important. In the 1800’s, as the nation divided over the dispute over slavery, the government questioned liberties of African Americans. They were held as slaves for many years, and during ...


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... to be a “melting pot” for cultures around the world to come together in unity and loyalty to each other and their country, but the assurance of equality is fragmented amid ambition and exclusion.
Mary Matsuda Gruenewald and her family serve as exemplary examples of determination and hope during times of inequality in the United States. Although the standard of equality and democracy contradicts the existence of inequality and exclusion, it can be explained by the development of uncertainty, community, and unity society has created in America. These ideas have shaped American history by influencing wars, laws, rights, and freedom of the people who are a part of this great country. Though it is a balance and a battle to maintain equality and opportunity for all, it has, as Mary Matsuda Gruenewald acknowledged (page 221), become our treasure, our story, and our life.

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