ARE YOU AN AMERICAN?
This message was posted by Donna Sarrell. Thanks Ron for sharing this and I hope my readers enjoy this as much as I have? I will try to read this at least once each week. C Brewer
I AM AN AMERICAN
That’s the way we put it, simply, without any swagger, without any brag, in those four plain words. We speak them softly, just to ourselves. We roll them on the tongue, touching every syllable, getting the feel of them, the enduring flavor.
They are a manifesto to mankind; but speak those four words anywhere in the world, outside of the United States, and those who hear them may misconstrue their meaning. It may be viewed as a claim to American exceptionalism, as bragging, or elitism. So we need to feel our pride in ways that are appropriate to the time, place and circumstance.
Still, when we say “I am an American”. We speak it humbly, thankfully, reverently. They are more than words, really. They are the sum of the lives of a vast multitude of men and women and wide-eyed children.
They are a pledge. A pledge that stems from a document which says: “When in the course of human events,” and goes on from there. A pledge to those who long ago dreamed that dream before it was set to paper, to those who have lived it since, and died for it.
Those words are a covenant with a great host of plain Americans, Americans who put their share of meaning into them.
Listen, and you can hear the voices echoing through them, words that sprang white-hot from bloody lips, scornful lips, lips a tremble with human pity:
“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
“Don’t give up the ship!”
“Fight her till she dies… “
“Go ahead! . . . Do you want to live forever? . . . “
“Don’t cheer, boys; the poor devils are dying.”
Laughing words, June-warm words, words cold as January ice:
“Root, hog, or die. ..
I’ve come from Alabama with my banjo. . .
Pike’s Peak or bust! . . . Busted, by God! . . .
Wait till you see the whites of their eyes….
When you say that, smile….
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right….
I am not a Tennessean, but an American.”
You can hear men in assembly summoned, there in Philadelphia, hear the scratch of their quills as they wrote words for the hour and produced a document for the ages.
You can hear them demanding guarantees for which they suffered through the hell of war, hear a Yankee voice intoning the text of ten brief amendments.
You can hear the slow cadences of a gaunt and weary man at Gettysburg, dedicating not a cemetery, but a nation.
You can hear those echoes as you walk along the streets, hear them in the rumble of traffic; you can hear them as you stand at the lathe, in the roaring factory; hear them in the clack of train wheels, in the drumming throb of the airliner; hear them in the corn fields and in the big woods and in the mine pits and the oil fields.
But they aren’t words any longer; they’re a way of life, a pattern of living.
They’re the dawn that brings another day in which to get on the job.
They’re the noon whistle, with a chance to get the kinks out of your back, to get a bowl of soup, a plate of beans, a cup of coffee into your belly.
They’re evening, with another day’s work done; supper with the wife and kids; a movie, or the radio, or the newspaper or a magazine and no Gestapo snooping at the door and threatening to kick your teeth in.
They are a pattern of life as lived by a free people, freedom that has its roots in rights and obligations:
The right to go to a church with a cross or a star or a dome or a steeple, or not to go to any church at all; and the obligation to respect others in that same right.
The right to harangue on a street corner, to hire a hall and shout your opinions till your tonsils are worn to a frazzle; and the obligation to curb your tongue now and then.
The right to go to school, to learn a trade, to enter a profession, to earn an honest living; and the obligation to do an honest day’s work.
The right to put your side of the argument in the hands of a jury; and the obligation to abide by the laws that you and your delegates have written in the statute books.
The right to choose who shall run our government for us, the right to a secret vote that counts just as much as the next fellow’s in the final tally; and the obligation to use that right, and guard it and keep it clean.
The right to hope, to dream, to pray; the obligation to serve.
These are some of the meanings of those four words, meanings we don’t often stop to tally up or even list.
Only in the stillness of a moonless night, or in the quiet of a Sunday afternoon, or in the thin dawn of a new day, when our world is close about us, do they rise up in our memories and stir in our sentient hearts.
Only then? That is not wholly so — not today!
For today we are drilling holes and driving rivets, shaping barrels and loading shells, fitting wings and welding hulls.
And we are remembering Wake Island and Bataan, and Corregidor, and Hong Kong and Singapore and Batavia; We are remembering Warsaw and Rotterdam and Rouen and Coventry.
Remembering, and muttering with each rivet driven home: “There’s another one for remembrance!” They’re plain words, those four. Simple words. You could write them on your thumbnail, if you chose, Or you could sweep them all across the sky, horizon to horizon. You could engrave them onto stone, you could carve them on the mountain ranges. You could sing them, to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.”
But you needn’t. You needn’t do any of those things, For those words are graven in the hearts of 130,000,000 people, they are familiar to 130,000,000 tongues, every sound and every syllable.
But when we speak them we speak them softly, proudly, gratefully, respectfully for those that went before……..
I Am An American
I AM PROUD TO POST THIS WONDERFUL ARTICLE. CB