What Makes YOU 'American'?

What Makes YOU 'American'?

Immigrants should not have to prove that they are American.
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The answer seems obvious enough; if you were born here or you live here, you qualify. And yet, the answer is constantly up for debate.

Directors Katharine Round and Ben Steele released a short film via The Guardian, centered around the city of Dearborn, Michigan. They provide five drastically different stories of life in the city, each story attempting to define American identity. Dearborn is particularly intriguing in how it grapples with this; it is home to the largest Arab American population and the largest mosque in the states. In addition, the impoverished population is overwhelmingly white.

Unsurprisingly, the documentary begins shortly after Trump’s presidency began; the contrast between the five individuals lies primarily in how the presidency affects them. For women like Sarah and Suehaila, feeling unaccepted by a community is almost commonplace. As the child of immigrants, Sarah remarks the sense of appreciation for America that the immigrant experience instills. Her parents left war in Lebanon to pursue a better life, and given that she has just graduated law school, it is evident that that pursuit was successful. She claims her American identity proudly; per the aforementioned definition, she was born here and feels that origin should not affect one’s right to that claim. Nevertheless, she notes that Muslims now experience an oppression of the mind here, as they are not allowed to freely be themselves.

As a child of immigrants myself, it is difficult to watch her story downplayed and invalidated by other voices in the documentary. They 'otherize' those who are Muslim, and admittedly see them as a potential threat. Conservative citizens like Bob Dutko are vehement in their disagreement with Islam, and describe violence as inherent in the religion. Another citizen, Rob, echoes the claim that undeserving people overseas are employed over those living an “American life.” He claims that discrimination is exercised towards him for his allegiance to Trump and that he wants the country to exist as it was “designed to be.”

His claim of an America “designed to be” a particular way is not too far-fetched. History demonstrates the systematization of white privilege. Whether in our incarceration rates, salary margins, or employment opportunities, there is constant reassurance that white lives are of greater value. For Dutko and Rob, the presidency has aired the concern that being American demands a singular narrative.

This documentary is a difficult watch. The horror stories of history emerge as an established part of our present. And yet, it ends with a montage of mass protest against the mentality that being American must fit a given schema. Dearborn, Michigan is a snapshot of a much larger conversation; immigrants should not have to prove that they are American. The idea of an American having a single race, religion, or class is apparently dominant, and as the film demonstrates, is dangerous. For women like Sarah, Suehaila, and myself, the need to reform that archetype is more imminent than ever.

Cover Image Credit: Stocksnap

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I'm A Democrat, and I Hear Too Little From Republicans

Since starting college in September, I have not come across a single vocal Republican.
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I go to a liberal arts college. The definition of a liberal arts college according to Wikipedia is a college that “aims to impart a broad general knowledge and develop general intellectual capacities.” When I read broad general knowledge, I believe this is talking about having a wide range of topics covered and viewpoints discussed. I have noticed that liberal colleges also focus on having diversity, whether that be in races, sexualities, genders, cultures, or opinions. That is all well and good in theory, but often it does not play out.

One specific voice that I barely ever hear from on my campus is Republicans. Obviously, if you’ve ever read an article of mine, you may have noticed that I am quite liberal. Initially, I loved the fact that everyone around me had the same viewpoints I had and thought the same way about everything. However, recently we had ROTC members visit one of my classes, and they talked about how the military can bring in a voice that is different from most of the other voices in the class. I am definitely not pro-war (and apparently neither are most soldiers, which was new to me), and was annoyed at first that they were even visiting (not that I don’t respect soldiers, because I do). However, while they were talking, I realized that having various voices in class and around campus is incredibly important for discussions.

Since starting college in September, I have not come across a single vocal Republican. I have never had my ideals about the world challenged or questioned. Growing up in an environment like that can actually become toxic. Without opposing opinions conflicting with yours, it never allows anyone to reach further into why they believe what they do. I never thoroughly think about why I am totally against X or totally for Y, and I think that having knowledge about other opinions is critical in understanding your own. Knowing all sides of an argument helps you find the opinion/argument that most aligns with your ideals. Having other voices could even educate you on a topic you thought you were super knowledgeable about, but you actually were fed the wrong information sometime in your life and you never thought to correct it or fact check.

Having ROTC members come to our class and speak to us about their various beliefs made me realize that I had always had this thing against anyone in uniform, but really I just don’t like the act of war. I realized that I still respect and appreciate the soldiers, and the people who fight for this country may even have some of the same views that I do.

Overall, although I may disagree with one political view or another, it is still important to understand and be knowledgeable about all views on a subject to better my own arguments and beliefs! This is definitely something I am going to work on from now on, and hopefully I will come across more diverse viewpoints as I go through college.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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America's Downward Spiral

Why we're suffering from the transgressions by all sides of the political spectrum.
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Ever since I was a little boy, just playing with all my toy cars and drawing everything I could think of, I thought the United States of America was the best country on the globe to live in. I mean, we have everything from beautiful coastlines to vast mountains to picturesque meadows, so all the machinations within the nation should be equally hunky-dory, right? Wrong! And as a quick heads-up, if you're offended or triggered by my opinion, I understand and respect that because these are just my feelings on why America's where it is at this point in time.

Since Trump got elected to office back in November 2016, the state of affairs within the government has gone from one that our Founding Fathers are proud to a non-stop terrible episode of the Apprentice. While Paul Ryan did a good thing by leaving, his overall legacy will be a generally negative one, as far as America's concerned. for the Republicans. To make matters worse, James Comey, the same person who has been castigating Trump for being "mentally unfit", is directly responsible for him getting into the White House in the first place! If that's some screwed-up irony, then I don't know what's going on over in our nation's capital.

Truthfully, the way America's been going down the drain isn't solely the fault of Comey or Trump. As far as I'm concerned, I blame it on every side of the political spectrum. And no, I don't care who began what that one time or whatever, the bottom line is, America would have a much better reputation in the world if all of us didn't keep shooting ourselves in the foot.

I'm not shocked by the fact that everyone in politics will be prone to sniping each others' agendas, while unintentionally highlighting their flaws. When you add blind loyalty to the mix, it can turn solving problems within American society into a nightmare.

For the past several decades, the Republicans have tried to do anything possible regardless of American society's best interests, not helped by the fact that their actions are usually anchored by that "old white boys' club" mentality. Don't get me started on how they constantly say they're a champion for the working class, but in reality, they only line their pockets for a lot of stuff they don't even need to survive! The worst of it all is that they lied to us about the cause of a minimum of two wars, and for what? Total control on overseas countries they barely even studied in school and college!

While Democrats are a major influence on much of the progress America makes, they are NOT prone to any slip-ups that the people ended up suffering from. Much of the politicians on this side are campaigning with good intentions, but they're not striking with the intended tone. I agree that policy should come before personal agenda, something that the Blue side has been guilty of in recent years. In fact, all the identity politics, safe space and free speech conflicts on college campuses are mostly their faults, and taking those same concepts into the real world of politics only made it worse for me to support them more.

Independents don't play as much of a role in all this, but their biggest sin is not intervening to stop issues from getting as big as they are! Now, while I was a bit harsh in airing out my grievances regarding the drama surrounding society and politics, I am upset by the fact that we citizens are constantly suffering the consequences of political shenanigans.

As far as us, if we let this continue, the experts say that America will be in shambles by 2050; or worse, we could fall even harder than the Roman Empire. I know we don't deserve this happening to any of us, so, stop the downward spiral. Make a change.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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