WHAT IS AN AMERICAN?
|ORIGINAL LETTER published by the National Review Online: http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-ferrara092501.shtmlWhat Is An American?
A primer.By Peter Ferrara, an associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law.
September 25, 2001 9:20 a.m.
Note: Portions in blue were in the copy that is circulating via e-mail but were not in the original letter.
|RESPONSE by an unknown person. According to e-mail “urban legends,” this response was done by an environmentalist to the Australian dentist who wrote the original.|
|You probably missed it in the rush of news last week, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper there an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American. So I just thought I would write to let them know what an American is, so they would know when they found one.
An American is English…or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan. An American may also be a Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, or one of the many other tribes knows as native Americans.
An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them choose.
An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.
An American is from the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God-given right of each man and woman to the pursuit of happiness.
An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need. When Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country. As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.
An American does not have to obey the mad ravings of ignorant, ungodly cruel, old men. American men will not be fooled into giving up their lives to kill innocent people, so that these foolish old men may hold on to power. American women are free to show their beautiful faces to the world, as each of them choose.
An American is free to criticize his government’s officials when they are wrong, in his or her own opinion. Then he is free to replace them, by majority vote.
Americans welcome people from all lands, all cultures, all religions, because they are not afraid. They are not afraid that their history, their religion, their beliefs, will be overrun, or forgotten. That is because they know they are free to hold to their religion, their beliefs, their history, as each of them choose.
And just as Americans welcome all, they enjoy the best that everyone has to bring, from all over the world. The best science, the best technology, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes.
Americans welcome the best, but they also welcome the least. The national symbol of America welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America. Many of them were working in the twin towers on the morning of September 11, earning a better life for their families. (I’ve been told that the people in the Towers were from at least 30, and maybe many more, other countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.)
So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo and Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, and every bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world.
But in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.
So look around you. You may find more Americans in your land than you thought were there. One day they will rise up and overthrow the old, ignorant, tired tyrants that trouble too many lands. Then those lands too will join the community of free and prosperous nations.
And America will welcome them.
Pass this around the World!
GOD BLESS THIS WONDERFUL NATION
“God is our refuge and strength… Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change.” Psalms 46:1-2.
Who is an American? For the sake of argument, let us assume the U.S. convention that “American” only refers to the people of the United States and excludes the rest of the Americas. Throughout history, there has not been one America. There is the America that defeated slavery, that fought for an 8-hour workday, that stood for women’s rights, that welcomed immigrants, that championed civil liberties, that ended the war in Vietnam …
But there is also the America that dropped more bombs on Vietnam than all bombs exploded in World War II, or the America that threatened the use of nuclear bombs against non-nuclear opponents (like North Korea in 1950, Guatemala in 1954, Vietnam in 1969, etc.). There is the America that invaded and overthrew governments in Chile, Iran, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, etc. and then attacked Iraq for invading Kuwait. There is the America that today seeks war in Iraq, that is willing to defy international law, that condemns Iraq for violating UN resolutions while looking away when allies like Israel do the same. There is the America that threatens to demolish Iraq for blocking UN weapons inspectors while itself refusing UN inspections by OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), that punishes Iraq for its oppression of Kurdish people while arming U.S. ally Turkey as it oppresses its own Kurdish minority.
Then there is also the America that marches for peace and against Bush’s war for oil in hundreds of events during the week of September 11, 2002 in cities throughout the United States. Defining an American is not that simple.
America is indeed a wonderful cultural mosaic but America is also the birthplace of “manifest destiny”–the notion of a God-given right to dominate “inferior races” like native Americans, Africans, Mexicans, Hawaiians, Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos. There is the America that celebrates its cultural diversity and the America that despises spics, chinks, niggers, wetbacks, gooks, ginneys, nips, polaks, yids … (to sample a few of the 1,389 racial slurs in common use in the United States). Below are some quotes from different Americans through the ages:
“The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
Africans are “barbarians who would, if they could, become the destroyers of our race.”
“Masters want us for their slaves and think nothing of murdering us in order to subject us to that wretched condition.”
The Irish immigrant is “a mongrel mass of ignorance and crime and superstition, as utterly unfit for its duties as … for the decencies of civilized life.” Irish children inherit the “stupidity of centuries of ignorant ancestors.”
“Were the Chinese to amalgamate at all with our people, it would be the lowest, most vile and degraded of our race, and the result of that amalgamation would be a hybrid of the most despicable, a mongrel of the most detestable ….”
“Filipinos are vain, unreliable and of rather low mentality …. These men are jungle folk, and their primitive moral code accentuates the race problem…. The ever increasing brood of children of Filipino coolie fathers and low-grade white mothers may in time constitute a serious social burden …. [W]e must remember the danger to our future generations ….”
“I feel like a criminal running away from a crime I did not commit. And this crime is that I am a Filipino in America.”
“There is still a lot of discrimination in theaters and swimming pools and the Police are always arresting us…. They treat us like we are criminals just by being Mexicans or of Mexican descent.”
“How could I as a 6-month-old child born in this country be declared by my own government to be an enemy alien?” “Doesn’t my citizenship mean a single blessed thing to anyone?”
“[U.S. Human Rights Commissioner] Kirsanow raised the possibility of internment, for camps for the mass detention of Arab Americans, at a Commission hearing in Detroit on July 19. He … raised it as a serious and reasonable possibility in the event of future terrorist attacks against the United States.”
“Islamics cannot fit into an America in which the first loyalty is to the American Constitution. They should be encouraged to leave.”
There is “an increase in bias-motivated incidents against Asian Pacific Americans, particularly Sikhs, Indians and Pakistanis … [and] a wave of draconian government measures that send a message of intolerance and discrimination…. 9 murders and attempted murders, as well as nearly 250 incidents of hate [were documented] in a three-month period…. Six months after September 11th, what it means to be an immigrant in America has been transformed. Certain immigrant communities, particularly those who are, or appear to be Muslim … are bearing the brunt of policies….”
“Are the great principles … embodied in that Declaration of Independence extended to us? What to the American slave is your Fourth of July?”
“[W]e have 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. … Our real task in the coming period is to device a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. … We should cease to talk about … unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization.” (italics mine)
“In 1980, the ten highest compensated U.S. executives had an average annual pay package of $3.4 million, but by 2001 that had skyrocketed to an average of $155 million – and this while the typical American household in the middle quintile barely stays ahead of inflation.”
“The share of the national wealth owned by the top 1 percent of Americans increased from 22 percent to 42 percent between 1979 and 1996, according to Rep. David Obey…. while the bottom 60 percent of Americans experienced an overall decline in their net worth. The total compensation of about 30 CEOs of major U.S. corporations surged from 44 times an average worker’s wage in 1965, to 212 times in 1995…. What does such an increased concentration of the U.S. wealth mean? … it suggests that our society is more a plutocracy than a democracy.”
Two-thirds of U.S. foreign aid is military aid.
“The United States’ larger interest…would be served by the demise of the Taraki-Amin regime, despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.” (italics mine)
“To hurt the Russians, the U.S. deliberately chose to give the most support to the most extreme groups. A disproportionate share of U.S. arms went to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, ‘a particularly fanatical fundamentalist and woman-hater.’ According to journalist Tim Weiner, ‘[Hekmatyar’s] followers first gained attention by throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. CIA and State Department officials I have spoken with call him “scary,” “vicious,” “a fascist,” “definite dictatorship material”.’ … [T]he U.S. began recruiting and training both mujahideen fighters from the 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and large numbers of mercenaries from other Islamic countries. … [T]e U.S. government channeled to the Afghan rebels over the next decade … between $3 billion and $6 billion, or more. … CIA operations officers helped Pakistani trainers establish schools for the mujahideen in secure communications, guerrilla warfare, urban sabotage and heavy weapons. Although the CIA claimed that the purpose was to attack military targets, mujahideen trained in these techniques, and using chemical and electronic-delay bomb timers supplied by the U.S., carried out numerous car bombings and assassination attacks in Kabul itself.”
“One of those who escaped from the World Trade Center said, “If you’d seen what it was like in that stairway, you’d be proud. There was no gender, no race, no religion. It was everyone helping each other.” But … [s]ince the attacks, people who look like Arabs or Muslims have been harassed, assaulted, even killed. On the Saturday following that terrible Tuesday, in Mesa, Arizona, a gunman shot to death a Sikh owner of a gas station, fired on a Lebanese clerk at work and an Afghan family at home…. We must understand that when wars are fought to save democracy, the first casualty is usually democracy itself. The world we live in doesn’t need more weapons. … We are seeing freedom shrink and fear expand…. Now, under the guise of fighting terrorism, the FBI is going back to spying on law-abiding citizens…. [T]he administration is busy asserting sweeping police powers over the American people….”
“[T]he US Government’s economic stimulus package given to corporations to offset their losses as a result of September 11 [was]: $1.4 billion for IBM, $833 million for General Motors, $671 million for General Electric, $572 million for Chevron Texaco, $254 million for Enron, at the same time that countless, if unnamable, victims have sought assistance to restore their broken lives, but who have yet to receive something from the Government.”
Some of the fundamental changes to Americans’ legal rights by the Bush administration and the USA Patriot Act following the terror attacks:
“Opposition to a war on Iraq grows daily… Let today’s climate of shock and dismay bring people together in demanding … a transformation of this society that puts love of justice and peace in command…. With tens of thousands more now active in anti-war activities, we can see that the seeds of unity do exist…. From them could grow flowers that might transform the rubble of the Twin Towers into gardens for all people, all life on the planet.”
“The US Army School of Americas (SOA), based in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains Latin American soldiers in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. Graduates of the SOA are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America. Among the SOA’s nearly 60,000 graduates are notorious dictators…. Lower-level SOA graduates have participated in human rights abuses that include the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians.”
“Amnesty International today warned in a new report that secrecy surrounding the training of foreign military and police put the U.S. at risk of training forces or individuals that commit human rights abuses. The report was issued as the Bush Administration seeks to expand the provision of military training to foreign forces. … The report outlines … the record of US training in Colombia, Indonesia and Rwanda, where military forces have committed serious human rights violations.… The United States trains at least 100,000 foreign soldiers and police from more than 150 countries each year at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, with the number trained increasing markedly since September 11th, 2001.”
Let us work for peace and justice, and condemn the killing of innocent people — be they American, Iraqi or anyone else — instead of glorifying one “America” at a time when the America led by rich men tied to the oil industry pursues war in order to control Mideast oil and maintain their profligate consumption of the earth’s resources.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2002