I was just looking at some of the items on my “Wish List” on Amazon and one of them is a framed copy of the Constitution with a quill feather on the bottom. My little voice said, “People are probably going to think you are pretty weird when you hang that up on the wall.”
And then I thought to myself, “Why is that? They probably would, but why? And why do I think it might be a little weird too?”
Then I considered that I celebrate my Scottish and Irish ancestry annually. We regularly make the pilgrimage to the local Scottish Festival where I religiously eat bangors, Scottish meat pies and scones and wash them all down with Guinness drafts. We sit and watch the Highland Games, listen at length to the bagpipe competitions and troll the vendor booths looking for something interesting. I’ve bought a kilt, tartan accessories, magnets with the Scottish flag and my family crest that sit on my fridge still. When the Irish festival comes to town, it’s much the same, with ethnic foods and enjoying a brief moment with “my roots.” If I could find an Italian Festival around here, I would do it all over again.
Considering this, it would not “feel weird” if I would hang my family crest on the wall, or the Scottish or Irish or Italian flag perhaps, and I doubt anyone would think anything of it, but the thought of hanging a replica of the Constitution and quill in a frame does. Why is that?
I’m uncomfortable with feeling uncomfortable about that.
I believe it might be that we just don’t see much of it. Whenever I go into someone’s house, if it has any reference to identity at all, it is usually from the countries they or their ancestors left long ago or last week.
Is it easier to celebrate being American when you are a descendent of a melting pot of nations? Is it because I am Scottish, Irish and Italian combined that my more easily unified identity is American? But I have seen others with only one heritage and only five minutes standing on U.S. soil celebrating being American more than Americans that have been here for generations.
I think it is because being American is the belief in an idea more than anything else. Americans believe in individualism, ambition and the freedom to succeed with no limits, without anyone else dictating what you can or cannot do. Our ancestors did not come here because they wanted to abandon their own ethnic identity to adopt the American identity of hot dogs, baseball or muscle cars. They came here because of the idea of American freedom.
I am obviously very proud to be American. I love this country, what the Founders believed it stood for and I love the genius and bravery it took for the American Founders to write and defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They had everything to lose, including their lives, but their resistance to their own fear forged a great country that raised the quality of life for millions around the world, and they entrusted their new nation to all of us to maintain.
We fucked it up…yes we did…I could not look our Founders in the eye if I met them today…but there is some hope left. There is a glowing ember left on the bottom of the American hearth that is our greatness. What we do in the next several years will fan it back to flames or extinguish it forever.
We should make an effort to celebrate being American with as much vigor as we celebrate our ancestry. We should make an effort to make sure we have an American flag flying somewhere, or a decal on our car window, or a framed Constitution and quill, something to show that as proud as we are of our heritage, we are just as proud of being American and that our ancestors were just as brave, and just as resistant to their fear as our Founders were when they left everything they knew far behind to give their future generations a foothold in a great land.
I am sure they would appreciate our fondness of the homelands they left, that many of us have never visited, but they left them to come to America for a reason, and they would want us to celebrate that reason too.