What does it mean to be an American? I ran across a couple of articles this week(http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/02/24/the-many-reasons-to-homeschool/)( http://www.the-american-interest.com/2015/01/06/rejecting-the-blue-progressive-worldview/) that got me thinking. Not what does it mean to become an American or to be born one but what does it mean to BE an American. What are the common, core values that make up an American. Once upon a time, whether you were a woodsman in Maine or a cowboy on the plains, a businessman in Chicago or a trader in San Francisco you shared a similar outlook with regard to your mores, character, and your expectations of polite society.
Sure, we have always been a divided society. I grew up an Alabamian first and American second. But regardless of where I have lived around this nation and around the world whenever I have encountered other Americans there was always a shared bond of experiences and expectations. It troubles me greatly that this is becoming largely no longer true. We have become a postmodern nation of subcultures most of which are antithetical to what it used to mean to be an American.
I myself find I now have divided loyalties. After 20 years serving in America’s Army I don’t like to think of myself as an American anymore. There are other titles that are dear to my heart. I’m a Christian, I’m a libertarian, I am a Permiculturist, I’m a Hoodlum, and a Barfly. These things define my tribe. It’s clear looking at American culture in the 21st century that we are Balkanized. No longer is their trust in American institutions that we once established among ourselves preserve our life, our liberty, and our property. Once upon a time we trusted the police, the courts, and the jury of our peers to protect us from injustice. Once upon a time we entrusted our children to educational experts. Once upon a time we trusted our fellow citizens. No longer.
Now, we isolate ourselves, we categorize ourselves, not on our Americanness but on our otherness. We self select based on our economic-social strata, ethnicity or our religion or sexual persuasion. We no longer have common heroes or a common culture base. Very quickly we are going to find we are no longer Americans.
And here I find myself challenged. Will I continue to fight for an idealized America that only really existed in our ideals? Or will I Balkanized myself, surround myself with those I consider to be of my tribe, leaving all the rest fend for themselves as best they can? I don’t know the answer to these questions. I’m not naïve enough to believe that America ever has lived up to her ideals. But if we abandon those ideals to something smaller, something more comfortable for us, something more Balkanized, we may find it a very bloody business.