Monday, March 9, 2009
I Am the American Spirit
I am the American Spirit
I wrote this assay for my Political Science class in 2007.
After reading, American: Beyond Our Greatest Notion, by Christ Mathews (2002), I was reminded of all the great people that helped built the character and drive of our Nation, and its extraordinary people. The author somehow connects the reader directly to what it means, and feels to be an American. During the rough times that we are going through, namely, Global terrorism, and national confusion, that threaten our Democracy, it is very easy to forget all those who struggled before us, to give us the kind of rights and freedom which we now posses. As an American, “the constant rebel” in me sprang forth asking and screaming for “freedom from fear, freedom of worship, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom from want” (Matthews, 2002, p.183). All equally important to me because I can not have, say, freedom of speech or freedom of worship and still be slave to fears. By the same token, I cannot be free from fears and still be tied to wanting. I think these freedoms precede and guaranty the freedom to pursue happiness, which the founding fathers wisely bestowed upon us.
“To understand Americans, start with the fact that we are a self- made country” (Matthews, 2002, p.27). As an American, I do believe I have the opportunity to be who I want to be, and recreate myself. But things are not as easy as they look on paper. One has to go out there and knock on many doors, before one finally opens. In other words, one have to create the opportunity, it is not freely given. However, if you really want to better yourself, and believe in hard work and discipline, then America is the place where you can realize your dreams. No other place on Earth would give you the opportunity to create a path to fully develop your inner potential, so you can get to be whatever you want to be. Here you can move up the social ladder, if you have it in you. In other countries, like in South America for example, this is virtually impossible. I guess that is the American mystique that attracts so many immigrants to come here. I know that is why I came here twenty-five years ago when I was a teenager.
The Underdog: I know a person who came to America when he was fourteen years old. At the age of seven he lost his mother in a car accident, and his granny, already fifty years old, raised him. He never met his father. He stopped going to school in the seventh grade because he had to find a job, so he could help his granny and his other three siblings. Tired of working under miserable conditions for long hours and low pay in the cotton fields of central El Salvador, he opted for emigrate to the United States. He came to New York speaking Spanish only. He taught himself (with only a dictionary) how to speak, read and write English while working in coffee shops all over the city. He became American citizen years later, and enrolled in a GED course trying to pursue a college education (his childhood dream). He got his GED and went on to college. With hard work and dedication, he got a Liberal Arts degree, and is now pursuing his Bachelors in Bilingual education. As you may sense, this poor fellow has been, and still is, striving against all odds to better his life. I hope he succeeds. I know he will.
Pioneers: America is well known around the globe for being the pioneer in many achievements, the Democratic experiment for example. And if I have to select an American challenge for all of us to move forward collectively “to push the envelope.” I guess the challenge would be to dare rescue our beloved Democracy from its kidnappers, or how Cornell West (2004) calls them, “The Plutocracy, and the fundamentalist gang.” The political confusion and polarization these days is such that it is very hard to distinguish who is telling the truth or what is the truth, especially when the Media outlets are being use to keep us frozen and paranoiac, which is how I feel. We as people, as American, must demand more clear explanations from our government officials’ doings. We must demand more truth telling and accountability from all news channels and newspapers. In addition, we must demand honesty and ethic from all our local political representatives. If we do not do that, I am afraid we deserve to be punished. We must come together and help push the wheels of our Democracy so it can continue moving forward. Otherwise, it will remain fixated on September, but October will never arrive. Let us try all over again as good American that we are, and make “a government of the people, for the people,” as opposed to a “Government of the haves, for the haves more.” Perhaps this sounds like a dream out of utopia, but dreams do come true here in America. Let’s come together and save our “embryonic” Democracy.
Optimism: “Franklin Delano Roosevelt would place his extraordinary mind and spirit behind a bold plan to reverse the nation’s deteriorating conditions” (Matthews, p, 181). When the nation was going through great stress due to the Great Depression and World War II, “it was this man indomitable optimism that convinced the country it could prevail against the worst economic and military threats in its history” (p, 180).
According to Matthews, FDR was the best president of the twentieth century, not because he was clever at deceiving the American people, as the majority of today’s politicians do, but because he believed in the spirit of our nation. Although he suffered from Polio, his warrior spirit and optimism kept him on his feet guiding our nation out of dark times. Who will dare follow FDR footsteps, and protect Democracy abroad without undermining Democracy here at home? Where is the new breed of Abraham Lincolns, Thomas Jefferson’s or JFK’s? Are they hiding under their sheets trembling with fears, shitting in their pajamas? Did they sell their spirit to corporate elites as Cornell West (2004) has point out? Have they been arrested, secretly and cowardly, via Patriot Act accused of freely ventilating their views (or what they, “Capitol Hill Gang,” paint in their favor as treason) about the present administration? I guess we will never know. I do hope, however, that in the near future America return to be what it has always been: The star that shines and guides the lost sailors at the Sea.
Mathews’ book reminded me how proud I should be to be an American, and all the benefits and responsibilities that that entails. Here I am exercising some of my privileges. I am the American spirit Christ Mathews talks about in his book, and it is my duty to remind my country men of theirs. Where is your American spirit?