Identity of Freedom
Being a nation of immigrants and newcomers from all, even the most remote, corners of the globe, the United States of America has become a phenomenon of a society, which identity was formulated as a combination of different ethnicities, races, and traditions. There is probably no culture that has not contributed to its creation. However, American identity is something more than a mere integrated mixture of the representatives of various nations gathered “under one roof” within the geographical borders of the USA. It is the state of the overwhelming mental freedom that distinguishes a representative of American nation from anyone else and constitutes the main integral part of his or her identity.
The idea of liberty that united people has been the cornerstone of the creation of the American state. In 1791, which is only two years after the US constitution came into force, Americans perpetuated their freedoms in a form of the Bill of Rights, the initial ten amendments to the country’s supreme law (National Archives, b). According to this document, the representatives of the nation have gained the guaranteed liberty of religion, speech, press, and, therefore, a freedom of the expression of their thoughts and ideas in a written form. Besides, the Bill of Rights declared a right of every American citizen for the freedom to hold meetings and take part in the assemblies of any kind. Another priceless liberty given by this set of amendments is a free right of petition that provided people with an equal right to influence their government. Declaring these freedoms and making them a part of the Constitution have shown their importance to the whole nation.
As the President Jimmy Carter once said, “America did not invent human rights; human rights invented America” (Carter). This quote perfectly illustrates the role and the importance of human rights and liberties and how much they have contributed to the building of the American identity. Therefore, these liberties became the integral part of the personality of any American. They became not only the cornerstone of the democracy but also the firm foundation for the creation of the concept of a distinctive American citizen.
What is more important is that being an American does not imply merely enjoying the guaranteed freedoms but also spreading them among the others. The initial step that was taken by the nation towards this goal was to free itself from the evil of racial and gender discrimination and to diminish all the existing inequalities so that every human being living in the United States could share this spirit of liberty and be united under the name of it. The triumphal abolition of slavery that took place in 1865 (National Archives, a) and the subsequent acts that helped to cease every form of racial segregation became the turning point of the formation of the American identity. The colored people finally became recognized and equal members of the society that could influence on it. Consequently, the value of human freedoms and tolerance became even higher.
However, the matter of race was not the only stumble block on the way to the creation of a free and equal American nation. Another important social change that has seriously added to the formation of the US citizen identity was the eradication of gender inequality between men and women. It was only in 1964 when a legendary Civil Rights Act was passed and women finally became equal members of the American nation. They have gained the right to work where they wanted and to be valued for their professional skills (National Women’s History Project). The eradication of these inequalities allowed further improvement of the social order. It has changed the way of people’s thinking and, therefore, changed the face of the whole American nation.
It becomes obvious that in the course of the development of the American society the ideas of freedom and self-sufficiency have firmly rooted in the minds of Americans and flourished in the form of the new generation of people who managed to overcome their own prejudices related to race and gender and form a nation of tolerance and equity.
Since the time when every single US citizen received the right to enjoy his or her natural freedoms, a whole new generation has appeared, and the concept of American identity has gained its momentum. This has become a completely different nation of free and open-minded individuals, a nation of the new Americans. This country has grown into a progressive society that is free of prejudices and that values everyone, in spite of where he or she has come from. This has become a state where everyone can be what he or she wants to be without any fear of being misunderstood or even condemned for. This has developed into a land where one can profess his or her particular religion, adhere to the traditions and culture of the land he or she originated from, and love whom his or her heart has chosen. It has become a state where everyone is free to be themselves.
One might object and say that the bare concept of freedom cannot be the element that is able to unite such a large and diverse nation. However, in the course of the US history, freedom has proven itself to be the feature that every American values the most. So many lives were sacred during the battles for independence. Numerous people have risked their fates to cross the oceans to reach the faraway land America. The colored population has suffered many years of injustice to become free. This is the cost of freedom that made it so valuable to all of the Americans. The price of this liberty was too high, and that is why the whole nation is willing to unite and preserve it in every aspect of life.
This liberty of self-expression that now constitutes a main component of the concept of being an American has substantially evolved. It now can be seen not only in the legally enshrined fundamental rights, but also in a lot of different aspects of the modern everyday life. The spirit of liberty has reached every possible dimension of life. Freedom has almost become a synonym to the world “America”.
First of all, the most obvious example of the liberty of being an American is the rejection of the imposed beauty standards. America is a country where the way a person looks like is his or her personal business. The US citizens do not follow the standards, they create their own ones. The newly introduced concept of the body-positive culture is a great argument that supports this claim. Instead of trying to follow someone else’s vision of beauty, American women decided to establish their own. They literally incorporated the idea of freedom to be who they are into the worlds fashion industry and managed to convince the world with the idea that every person is beautiful. They showed the world that being an American is to consider oneself beautiful and valuable no matter if one is slim or overweight, has long or short hair, has a tattoo or body piercing and so on.
Furthermore, one might notice the manifestation of freedom of expression in the way people create couples and choose their loved ones. In the United States, no one has to hide their feelings and be ashamed of them if they neglect the traditional cross-gender practices. The society does not stand in the way of anyone’s personal happiness. If one chooses to love a person of his or her own gender, he or she is free to do it. If the two people of the same gender enjoy the company of each other and have mutual feelings they are free to express them. The fact that they are Americans allows them to do so.
The spirit of liberty went even further and changed the way Americans treat gender; they consider it not only in the terms of deciding who you want to be with but also who you want to be yourself. The nation has evolved and became mature enough to tolerate those who decide to change their gender in the name of their personal happiness. It is not a secret to anyone anymore that there are people who believe that they were born in the wrong body and who are not comfortable with the gender they were given during their birth. Some of them take a serious decision and change their personality via some medical and cosmetic beauty procedures. Thus, the American society that considers freedom to be its main value has learned how to tolerate their decision. This tolerance and acceptance of the other people’s ways of life distinguishes Americans from the other nations.
Generally, one does not bear American identity if he or she does not share the value of freedom and does not understand the necessity of being tolerant. He or she should not consider oneself to be a true American citizen if he or she cannot overcome the prejudices and is willing to dictate his or her will and impose it to the others. One is also not a representative of American culture if he or she condemns or bullies other people on the grounds of race, gender, ethnical origin, religion, or any other unreasonable cause. If one is motivated by hatred or any kind of impatience and is not able to understand other people’s decisions and accept the way other people lead their lives, but still is physically located on the territory of the United States, he or she is not a representative of American identity. He or she is rather a guest in the environment of freedom, but not the creator of it.
The concept of American identity is a complex phenomenon that cannot be described in a few words or explained in the simple terms. It has many dimensions and numerous integral components. However, the most distinct aspect of being an American is the sense of the comprehensive feeling of liberty that has become a basic part of literally the whole life of any US citizen. To be an American is to be a free individual who is proud of being who he or she is and tolerant to the people around. To be an American is to be a human who lives in a harmony with the society. It is also the feeling of the necessity in liberty as much as humans need the air they breathe. An American is a live embodiment of the spirit of freedom, and I am proud to be the representative of this nation.
Carter, Jimmy. “Human Rights Speech”. The Carter Center, www.cartercenter.org/news/editorials_speeches/ireland_061907.html. Accessed 13 September 2017.
National Women’s History Project. “Living the Legacy: The Women’s Rights Movement (1848-1998)”. Nwhp.org, http://www.nwhp.org/resources/womens-rights-movement/history-of-the-womens-rights-movement/. Accessed 13 September 2017.
National Archives, a. “The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery”. Archives.gov, www.archives.gov/historical-docs/13th-amendment. Accessed 14 September 2017.
National Archives, b. “The Bill of Rights: A Transcription”. Archives.org, www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript. Accessed 14 September 2017.