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Archive for January, 2015

What It Means To Me To Be An American

During this time of division in our country I have to remember why I joined a women’s group whose members can trace at least one of her ancestors to serving in the military during the American Revolution. This experience made me reflect on what being an American means to me.

Even as a school girl, I loved the story of the Pilgrims. They were men and women of conviction, crossing the vast ocean in a small ship to inhabit an unknown land. It would be like us leaving earth and colonizing Jupiter or Mars.

My ancestors didn’t book a cruise on the Mayflower. The first of my English ancestors were already at Jamestown. Others followed William Penn to his land grant in the New World. From Scotland came the Bryce clan; farmers and religious ministers that immigrated to Georgia. My paternal grandmother’s people were Swedish. They established Delaware. My maternal great-grandmother was a Toof. The Toofs were Dutch and settled in New Amsterdam before it became New York State. The Haas line left from Bavaria, Germany to become Pennsylvania Dutch. The Irish side arrived last, no longer able to endure the Great Potato Famine. There standing on the shore before any of them took a step on dry land, were the proud Choctaw, my Native American ancestors. To this booyah, my grandsons have added a Latin flavor.

I share my genealogy because this diversity is the heart of what flows in the veins of native-born citizens. As an author I have a rich heritage on which to base my heroes and heroines as close as my own family tree. Men and women blessed with a pioneering spirit; wanting only a better life for themselves and their children.

Someone in my family has served in the armed forces since the Revolutionary War. When I look at the red, white, and blue flag, I am proud that my people stepped up and risked it all for my freedom. I don’t cringe when I see news film of people in other countries incited to burn our flag? They can’t conceive the concept of freedom or self-government since they have never experienced it. Yes, I do when it takes place in the United States. How selfish and self-centered for one of us to consider it his birthright, as an American citizen, to destroy a symbol of what many others have given their lives to maintain, his constitutional right of freedom of speech.

Unfortunately, in the United States our institutions of learning are in trouble. High schools focus more on sports than civic lessons. American History should teach cause and effect and not just memorizing dates to pass an exam. We need to remember what led us to war or economic depressions so we can avoid reliving them every 20 years..

Two hundred years after the writing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we are still a work in progress. Stagnation is a killer. America is a land of continued change.

Each person’s concept of being an American is different. This is mine. What is yours? Embrace it. Express it. Wave a flag. Pat a soldier on the back and thank him in peace time not just war. Be patriotic.

“…one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.”

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