I never really thought about what it meant to be “An American” until just the last few years. In this context, “An American” equates to my status as a United States Citizen. I had the flawed understanding for a long time that the Constitution granted me that status. I later realized that no where in the original Constitution is any definition of the formal legal status except for the words Natural Born for key elected positions. This was meant to exclude any foreign influence in the formation of the young country.
A more precise definition of Citizenship would not come until 1790 with laws passed to define Naturalization. That law was an evolutionary document that later included a more equitable representation including women and other people that were excluded in the early versions.
The idea that if you are born here you are a citizen has evolved from those laws and many Supreme and Lower Court rulings over the two hundred plus years as a nation. All in all, it does give some structure and framework which helps us to better define not only our rights, but our responsibilities. The privilege component has evolved as our forefathers (and to be fair foremothers) built a solid foundation in the land we now recognize as the United States.
My great grandparents on Dad’s side were immigrants to this country. They arrived on a sinking ship in Philadelphia in 1845 at the start of the Potato famine in Ireland. Their lives in County Donegal are mired in mystery to us since no record of their time there survived the purges of later years when the newly formed Republic of Ireland suffered a number of church burnings. Since they were probably rent farmers in a predominantly Catholic area, its no big surprise that their records were assumed to be burned with the old Kirk of the Presbyterians that burned.
When they arrived, only their daughter could write in English. The language was a mixture of centuries of “Auld Scotch”, North Country Irish, some smattering of English but certainly not suitable if they would survive in the New World. Upon arrival, the ship they were riding began to sink before it reached the mooring place in Philadelphia and a scramble to off load the people resulted in losing all of their meager possessions except for the “Irish Bible” and the clothes they all wore.
Welcome to America. There were no welcoming groups other than maybe a few women from the Irish Societies in Philly who tried to keep the newcomers from being cheated by unscrupulous landlords who would take advantage of them by bullying them into apartments that were already well past the date they should be torn down. The Irish were already pretty unpopular with the longer term Americans and the sudden influx caused by the Great Famine made it even worse. Undereducated, unskilled, no money, little promise for work in a hostile city environment (from Philadelphia to Boston), this was my families entry into the American experience.
They gradually followed the pattern of so many other immigrants. The one promise America had was that if you wanted to work, there were places you could. They would not be easy, you mostly paid your own way, and there were no promises that when you got there they would hire you. But they went anyway. The Swedes, the Germans, the Scots-Irish and so many other nationalities that would end up forming one part of the tapestry that is America.
Sacrifices were made all along the way. The graveyards of Philadelphia were filled with those who never made it past the shores of the new land. All along the routes, settlers discovered that many parts of the new land were actually someone else’s “Old Lands” and the meetings were not always hospitable. But the rigged people kept pushing further and further west and change ultimately became the way forward.
The work was hard. Coal mine. Steel mills. No regard for life in many cases other than the value of a hand on a shovel or someone to push carts full of ore. Health care was often non-existent and the quality of life was limited to the small amounts of pay you could gather from your eighty hour weeks. Miraculously, those people built communities, schools, Churches, roads, infrastructure and step by step built an America that was the envy of the world. Without their sacrifice and labor, there would be no America. But in many ways, there was no choice if they were to survive.
These pioneers not only survived, they built a place that was the envy of many around the road. For generations since that time, we have built cities, educated ourselves light years beyond our ancestors capabilities, fought global wars of liberation, and created a world so far beyond the imagination of those earlier settlers, they would not be able to conceive the results.
We have something worth fighting for.
The Federal Government in those days mostly adhered to its role as defined by the Constitution and its amendments. Even their stated role of providing for the national defense was hobbled by the reality of living within the means of the money they could collect for taxes and support. The war between the states started a major change in the role of government that has grown to its current size and overwhelming impact.
In a world made significantly smaller by improvements in transportation and communications, a centralized way of dealing with other countries is imperative to survive in this modern world. Unfortunately, the down side is that many people now want that same centralized answer to every problem and every issue. The days of individual responsibility have been replaced by the new phenomena of people who are now expecting the government to be responsible for everything from the air you breathe to the way you are buried in the ground.
Even worse, clever politicians have learned how to manipulate that sense of entitlement to sway mass groups of people
The last few election cycles should be the clearest indicator that the message is now owned and driven to obtain an outcome that can only destroy the fabric of America. Patriotism has been twisted into a new definition that punishes those who have built this land. Fairness and equal treatment are illusionary concepts that have been skillfully corrupted by smooth talking hucksters who create class warfare in order to maintain their power.
When a smooth talking politician stands before a special interest group that has been self-defined as being “disadvantaged” and offers them other people’s wealth in order to gather their support, America starts to crumble.
When that same politician tells that and other groups that he needs their help in the “fight” just who are they fighting?
How far will that fight go? In order to satisfy the need to maintain power, which rules are we willing to break or modify?
If the same person who calls for a fight also controls the Justice Department and all of the various agencies, at what point will they become soldiers in the fight?
What about the military? Aren’t they supposed to fight too?
Who are they fighting?
If you believe that hard work and personal responsibilities are the bedrock of America as it was when founded, they are fighting you. If you feel that the federal bureaucracy is wildly out of control, you are the enemy. You stand between redistribution, spreading of the wealth and frankly slavery to a new form of government never envisioned by the Founders. In my lifetime, I never envisioned a future where the Chief Executive Officer of the country would call on one group of citizens to fight another. I can see a revised posture of Lincoln in his Washington Memorial: slumped over, head in hands with tears streaming down his face.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Abraham Lincoln, Republican
If you wish to be President of the United States of America you are President of ALL the Citizens. You cannot cause division with people who you disagree with and expect to remain a President of anything. America deserves a President for all of its citizens.
If you chose to fight your fellow citizens to achieve goals that are not commonly accepted and betray the American dream, you should do the honorable thing and step down and follow your new quest full time.
As a United States Citizen, I am assured the right to have a President by the very Constitution that every President is Sworn to Uphold and Defend.
I find it hard to believe that you can be my President while wanting to fight me and at the same time encouraging my fellow citizens to do the same.