Remember what it means to be an American

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I’m not a proponent of forwarding unsolicited e-mail, unless the e-mail contains a very good joke of course. But I received a particularly well-written patriotic e-mail message last week. The writer, through several forwarded versions of the message, is not identified.

The e-mail says a real report published in a Pakistani newspaper offered a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American. The writer goes on to say that an Australian dentist wrote the piece to &8220;let everyone know what an American is.&8221; As it turns out, the &8220;Australian dentist&8221; story is a hoax, as are most such e-mail messages. But the message provides an interesting overview of our culture and what makes it different from other cultures of the world.

The &8220;Australian dentist’s&8221; response is basically to say &8220;if you are looking to kill an American, here is the type of person you are looking for.&8221;

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It’s a pretty good read for starting off a new year. Here is the text:

An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan. An American may also be a Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as Native Americans.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses. An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American is from the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God given right of each person the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need. When Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country. As of the morning of September 11, 2001 Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.

Americans welcome the best, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes. But they also welcome the least.

The national symbol of America, the Statue of Liberty, welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America. Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of Sept. 11, earning a better life for their families. I’ve been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 other countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.

So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and every bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.

Todd Carpenter

is publisher of The Democrat. You can reach him at 445-3618 or by e-mail at