With the 14th anniversary of September 11th comes a national day of patriotism. We adorn our homes, classrooms, offices, and shops with decorations of red, white, and blue, wave flags, and chant the Pledge of Allegiance.
With that patriotism, the question lingers somewhere in the cosmos of what exactly makes someone or something “American.”
Is it our cowboy mentality? Is it our fascination with guns? War? Standing up for what we see is right? Or our rights?
America is a place where women can vote, and are entitled to an education. America is the birthplace of The Catcher in the Rye, rock and roll, jazz, motown and rap music. America is a country that is not even 250 years old, and its citizens will fight to their deaths in defense of the reputation of “greatest nation on Earth.” Which is it, obviously.
Is it our vast regions? From our beautiful  beaches and breath-taking mountains, to our dry deserts and concrete jungles?
We have the City that Never Sleeps! We launched the first space shuttle! We’re God’s country! How do we like our tea? In the harbor, of course! Others call it “imperialism,” and we like to call it “Manifest Destiny.” Who is our King? Elvis Aaron Presley!
God bless our cowboy mentality. Even to this day, at High Noon, fifty-somethings peek our their windows to see whether or not Gary Cooper got the bad guy.
Our favorite drink is Coca-Cola, and our idea of alcohol is moonshine. We like our Star Wars, and we were the hub of the Sexual Revolution. We have our Bob Dylan writing “Positively 4th Street” in Washington Square Park, and we are the home of Hollywood and Vegas, baby.
We drive Mustangs, Harley Davidsons, pickup trucks, and ride bulls. Thanksgiving is our holiday, the teddy bear is our favorite toy, Mickey Mouse is our icon, Hershey is our chocolate, and don’t let anyone fool you: we have the real football.
Our sex symbols are Marilyn Monroe and Farrah Fawcett. Theodore Roosevelt riding a moose seems normal to us, and no, we never lost a war!
Dr. King is our idol of equality, and we still hang posters of Muhammad Ali in our dorm rooms.
Two words for you: John Wayne.
What is it though that makes all of these very different things “American?” What does apple pie, Microsoft, and Beyonce have in common?
Being “American” is a tapestry. It’s woven with complexity and turns out beautiful.
Whatever  being “American” is may never be clear. What is clear, though, is it’s in the hearts of every single one of us. Every time we get in a car and drive across the country, we’re reminded of our vasteness. We need to take planes and trains to get to the other side of our nation in practical time.
Like any good ol’ American would say, we truly are the greatest nation on Earth. Events like 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and the Great Depression, while devastating to each and every one of us, only proves our strength even more with our ability to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and strike back, even harder.

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