What does it mean to be an American? For most of us, it seems to mean only that we were born in this country and therefore have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of cheeseburgers.
Election time always seems to bring out the worst in people. Or perhaps just their 15 minutes. And we see the daily reminders on TV and such of just how backwards we are as a society. Crazy McCain Lady, Joe the Plumber (and the people holding up signs supporting "Joe the Plummer"), angry blogs on both sides of the political divide (and yes, I am guilty of it as well). Seems there is little room for tolerance of others opinions.
What is an American? Is it the white middle or upper class? Born into this land with a deep felt sense of entitlement? Is it the immigrant from Europe here to work and study, and staying to become a citizen? Is it the illegals from any nation who come here in hopes for a better life? Red States? Blue States?
There are as many ways to divide our society as there are stars in the heavens, yet very few talk of bringing us together under a common cause. There are probably too many differing opinions to really ever get people to see eye to eye on things. And those opinions are mostly formed from experiences based on regions.
Living as I do in the "great white North" I don't have nearly the racial interactions with someone living in the South or Southwest would. Oh, we have our enclaves of different races, but we are mostly fish belly white up here. Sadly that leads to a distrust, and sometimes hatred, of those who are "different". Personally, I enjoy mixing with the Latinos or Somalis, the Hmong or the Serbs. It's fun to eat different food and learn about other cultures. As a white guy, I have learned a lot, and have a lot to learn about people from other parts on our planet.
But I always seem to run into those folks who gripe about those non-white people. Who claim that the "foreigners" are just taking jobs, or too lazy to get jobs, or using the welfare system to steal our tax money. They talk out of their hindquarters, because I've only met folks who are hard working, trying to do the best they can, supporting families and living the American Dream.
I know there are people out there that think Americans should only be white, middle class and Christian. But the reality is that Americans take all different shapes, colors, religious beliefs and personal beliefs. Trying to come up with a set of laws in a country with so many differing opinions has proven to be nearly impossible. Yet somehow, we all seem to pretty much get by.
I'm looking forward to a day when we can come together as Americans, regardless of any differences, and really live up to our potential. I think for me that is the American Dream. And I think that a dream it will forever remain.