When speaking of the national identity of Americans today, there is not one clear cut picture like there used to be in previous decades. When the first settlers came to America from Europe they came to start a new world, a new country together. They identified as a group of people from assorted countries coming together as one. Their goal was to start a new life away from the rules and regulations of their home country’s rule. When it comes to people living in the United States they share one common trait in their national identity, which is the freedom to live their life in the manner they choose.
The Melting Pot
People around the world have left behind their lives in other countries and immigrated to the United States in hopes for a brighter future. Immigrants left war-torn countries, countries in which they suffered tremendous oppression to come to America. These individuals made this decision because the national identity of America has boasted a land in which people had immeasurable rights and freedoms not allowed in other countries. With so many people coming to America from around the globe America became known as “the Melting Pot.” The phrase is an accurate assessment as around the U.S. are people of all races and religions living together.
In a country with such ethnic diversity, one thing that America has never had with regard to national identity is an ethnic identity. Americans are of all races, colors, and creeds. Unlike many other countries with an ethnic identity it is simply not possibility to put an ethnic face on Americans. The typical American can be qualified as everything from African American, to Asian, European, Spanish, Mexican, or Native American to name a few. This extreme ethnic identity is a direct result of the never ending influx of people of all ethnicities coming to America since its founding.
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Tensions over Diversity
With an incredible influx of so many different races, religions, and cultures coming to America, the national identity was one of diversity but one of conflict. Like all countries throughout history tensions between those born in the United States and those that immigrated to the country caused tension and a blurred line related to exactly what the national identity of America was. More people were displaying pride in their own cultures, home countries, and true to the concept of the “melting pot,” the American national identity became blurred.
The Impact of 9/11
When a country, such as America, becomes the home to immigrants from around the world, tensions as well as a break in unity occur. No matter where a person came from originally, when the United States was devastated by the terrorist attacks on 9/11 there was a surge in pride, patriotism, and unity. People of all races, religions, cultures, and monetary levels came together as a nation. There was pride in being an American, even if through emigrating from another country after birth. There was resurgence in patriotism. Americans, despite suffering tremendous losses on September 11, reaffirmed belief in the United States and what living in the country stands for as a person.
The United States was no longer a country where the differences in languages, religious and culture beliefs were diminishing or erasing the American national identity. Americans came together as a show of solidarity with each other. Americans exemplified the motto placed on all coins and paper banknotes, “E Pluribus Unum” out of many, one.
The national identity of Americans is about more than the red, white, and blue, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Star Spangled Banner. The national identity is about patriotism and a blending of many cultures. In more recent years the American national identity has come to mean many things, and not all of them are positive. Regardless of your personal opinion of the current state of the United States, one thing remains the same, Americans have the freedom to be who they are, believe in what they want, and voice their opinions and beliefs even if people disagree. Freedom of speech and freedoms in general, will continue to remain the most important aspects to the American national identity.