Gregory D.

  • Oregon

What does America mean to you?

By Gregory D.
Portland, Oregon

Before I begin with my take on the true meaning of America, I want to find common ground, a point where most, if not all, agree that such a thing defines the spirit of America and its people. One thing comes to mind; freedom. We may see freedom in very different ways, but nearly all believe in a truly free nation, and subsequently, what we might believe to be a truly free world. The concept of freedom itself transcends beliefs, backgrounds, and ideologies. But this is where it splits into several distinct paths. What does freedom mean? The concept of freedom is universal, but its implementation in practice is not. In any nation guided by the spirit of freedom, the government must interpret that in the way that they see fit. Does freedom mean to be free from the maliciousness of the world, or does it mean to be free from intervening in the business of the people? This one question, what does freedom truly mean, is the root of much of the political discourse in democratic nations. As the universal spirit of America, the idea of freedom cements itself into the initial question. What does freedom mean to me, personally? I interpret freedom as being rid of restraints that prevent one from reaching their full potential, blocking opportunities that could have presented themselves and stopping the people from becoming truly strong. The most immediate threat to that is the maliciousness of the world, so I lean towards the first interpretation of freedom. I also recognize the legitimacy of the other side, as excessive governmental intervention is also a great threat to personal freedom. However, I believe it is a lower priority to the immediate threats that come with the malice of the world.

As an American citizen, I acknowledge that I am given opportunities that many dont have the luxury of. Being born in the United States, I didnt have to fight my way into citizenship. Being born into a family with a reasonable financial situation gives me a springboard that many were not given. Most importantly, being a citizen of the United States has put me in a very stable position, virtually safe from domestic wars and economic collapse. This gave me many opportunities that others do not get. Ive never had to worry about whether or not I would eat that day, or if my house would still exist when I come home. This is significant, but I do not believe that this idea is specific to America. Many other countries share these characteristics, though not necessarily to the same level as that of the United States. So, while opportunity and security are indeed core ideas of the American spirit, they are not unique to what America should specifically mean.

With the national spirit of freedom and opportunity being shared by many other nations, there must be much that sets America apart from the others. A second way to look at the American spirit is its treatment of different cultures. America doesnt have a distinct culture of its own. One could argue initial British influence, but these two have diverged significantly since the late 18th century. So, what truly connects America together? In many nations, their binding is in shared culture, but in the United States, there is none of that. Other countries in this situation have consistently collapsed in the past, and yet America still stands, despite cultural and political divisions. What is different about America? I am inclined to believe that it is our shared core beliefs and shared dreams that act where a shared culture is absent. This circles back to the belief in freedom being shared by all. This is what sets America apart from the world, this is where America is different. While many other countries believe in freedom as a national spirit, America is unique in that it embodies freedom into its core identity as a nation. It is exceptionally rare that a nation would go so far based on a shared dream, rather than a shared culture or identity. Rather than simply having adopted freedom as a byproduct of demands, the concept of freedom is permanently embedded in the fabric of our nation.

The moment freedom is compromised, America stops being America. This is where America distinguishes itself through other nations, as without freedom, America will never be itself. The difference between America and other nations does not lie in the existence of its spirit of freedom. Rather, it lies in the depth of its spirit.

Conclusively, the spirit of America, the identity of America, is not founded in race, culture, or religion. It is hardly even in shared political beliefs. Rather, it is the core shared dream of freedom that connects all of us together.