On Being American

I was listening to Michael Savage on the radio the other night. I know it’s poor mental hygiene to indulge in such vices, but it’s all that was on the small talk radio circuit down here. For those of you who don’t know, Michael Savage is a self-avowed nationalist who hosts a nationally syndicated talk show called the Savage Nation.

That night he defined a country as a border, language and culture. With this as a basis, he went on to propose ending bilingual education and the complete closing of the borders. I had an instinctual revulsion to this diatribe but like all emotions, they are best consumed when understood. So the question really is what is an American?

Let’s take the statement that a country is defined by its border, language and culture. First, from an historical perspective this is most definitely true. Every country in history, save one (I’ll get to that in a moment), has been defined in its entirety by a combination of these three things. The Romans or the Ottomans or the Russians or any of the other empires of history may have many languages being spoken within them but there was certainly a defining culture, nationality and language that ruled over these other cultures and ethnicities. Secondly, from a pragmatic point of view, all countries, including the United States, are defined by a geographic border. However, there is one difference; one shining contrast that separates America from every other country in history and defines our greatness for all time . . . American was founded on a principle.

America was founded on the real and immutable fact that man is a rational and independent being granted by nature (we can argue about the word “Creator” later) with rights to use the gifts of his nature. This was the country that gave man a place to execute his rights without hindrance; to truly pursue life, liberty and happiness.

Now I can already hear the shouts that this just isn’t true, the Soviet Union was founded on the principle of universal collectivism. To put it clearly, collectivism isn’t a principle, value or even a practical reality. It is merely the old notion that man must serve the state. This is the same governing notion that gives all of those countries who have used border, language and culture as their justification. In other words, most countries must have their people feel attachment to their state based on their ethnicity, language or even by the simple fact that they live in a particular area.

No, it was America that defined their country by the choice of its citizenry to accept its founding principle. A country defined by nothing but its citizenry’s acceptance of the truth of its foundations. It is this difference that draws the best and brightest to this country. They join not by force or by the usurpation of their lands, but by their recognition of our guiding principle.

How does this apply to the definition of what is an American? Well, there is no such ethnicity as an American. We are a country of mutts. While most of us speak English, we are still a country of immigrants who at any given moment is accepting the next wave of new citizens to whom language is only a barrier to be overcome for success in this country. And hell, to be perfectly honest, we stole our language from the British the moment we declared our independence. So there is no language called American. There is a geographic boundary to this country. But this alone is the only similarity with the other countries of the world. This land is home to any man who says, “I am an independent being who will think for himself and act as a rational creature” is immediately an American. By contrast, any man who demands that others care for his lack of ability pledges his allegiance to the rest of the world. And that applies even to those, who by chance of birth, happens to have a US passport.

I will not die for my neighbor because he is the closest man to me. I will not die for my neighbor because he speaks the same language as me. I will only die for a man who by action and spirit represents a value to me. I will only fight for the independent man. Any man who demands the allegiance of another without offering value is a charlatan at best and a despot at the worst. So the next time a man begins to talk about himself and his neighbors as Americans who are granted some special privileges that other men aren’t, let’s make sure they really are. I think the results of such an examination will be nothing but terrifying.