“You’re American if You Think You’re American”

Steven Den Beste writes another excellent essay on the difference between America and Europe. Money quotes:

I’m afraid that one of the reasons there are problems of communication and diplomacy right now across the Atlantic is the incorrect European assumption that “the US is essentially a European country”.

Someone pointed out a critical difference: European “nations” are based on ethnicity, language or geography. The American nation is based on an idea, and those who voluntarily came here to join the American experiment were dedicated to that idea.

You’re French if you’re born in France, of French parents. You’re English if you’re born to English parents (and Welsh if your parents were Welsh). But you’re American if you think you’re American, and are willing to give up what you used to be in order to be one of us. That’s all it takes. But that’s a lot, because “thinking you’re American” requires you to comprehend that idea we all share. But even the French can do it, and a lot of them have.

We are Americans. We are not Europeans living in America. If you don’t understand the difference, then you do not understand us at all, and as long as you persist in thinking of us as Europeans living in America, you’ll continue to be mystified and frustrated by what we do.

And be sure to read the last two paragraphs.

Oooh! Ouch!

I think Steven needs to compile his essays into a book, too.

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