“Americans were in effect, told that they could be whatever they wanted to be or happened to be as long as they recognized that the same applied to all other men and they were willing to support and defend the government that guaranteed that dispensation. It is possible to become and American in a day.” – Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, pg. 53
Is this what being an American is all about? Is it strictly about the pursuit of self-interest or is their more? I believe there is more. Being American is certainly at a minimum about pursuing happiness, as Allan Bloom notes, but it is about much more than simply happiness.
To be an American is to pursue life, life in its fullest and that involves seeking truth and defending it at all costs. This is something the social left and the fanatical right have forgotten. In our post-modern world, we have been told that truth is relative and that absolute truth doesn’t exist. And yet, the very core of being an American involves the search for and the defense of truth. Without truth, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot occur.
To be an American is to pursue liberty. But liberty isn’t just the freedom to do whatever I want when I want, it is the freedom to act, speak and think in ways that build others up and the freedom to curtail my actions, words and thoughts when they tear others down. True freedom is self-regulating understanding that my life is not the most important thing in the world, but that the lives of others matter too. This is true freedom.
Truly to be an American is to be a lover of righteousness, truth and the defense of these realities. They are not simply ideals without any concrete bearings, they are actuals facts and though some may argue with where they facts are found. I will declare unequivocally that to be an American is to be a lover of Jesus who taught us to Love God and Love our neighbor. This is the American ideal loving God and loving your neighbor in order to pursue life, liberty and happiness. And this certainly can’t happen in a day, it takes a lifetime of dying to oneself in order to reach for the American ideal.