Witnessing America as an American during this particular time in history can be challenging. On one hand, many disagree strongly with the President’s actions abroad. On the other hand, America is home and a large part of how many identify as people. Defining what kind of culture one can call home can mean lots of things. It can mean what music one finds comforting, what food one loves or how one defines good and bad. But it’s almost impossible to separate one’s home country from its culture.
So, when a country begins to exhibit ideals and ideas that don’t jive with personal morals – it can be difficult to cope. How can someone claim to love their country and yet be so angry with the actions its leaders take? One way to handle the dissonance is by reading about the past. Being an American isn’t just about Congressional deadlock, although disagreement and argument do seem to be at the core of our republic.
To understand American culture, whether local or not, history is tantamount. What is the Constitution? How was it formed? What were the Federalist Papers and why is everyone so up in arms about open seats on the Supreme Court? Of course, America can be understood on a surface level without these key pieces of knowledge – but it helps to clarify some things beyond the headlines. People ask why America is so divided these days. But, thinking back, America has always had division and disagreement. It’s part of what makes up the culture of the country. The founding fathers believed that argument and debate would give way to the best solutions.
The Constitution, for example, wasn’t formed simultaneously with the Declaration of Independence. Rather, it took time. The former British Colonies were ruled using the Articles of Confederation for many years after independence, because it allowed each state to maintain a veto vote in the federal government. It meant that states’ rights always superseded the federal government. It took time, 85 Federalist Papers and virulent opposition and debate to form the Constitution. The two main warring parties, the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, wrote papers, screamed and argued until a compromise was formed. The Constitution was only ratified by the states because of the Bill of Rights, also known as the ten amendments to the Constitution that ensure the rights of the people. So, dissonance and debate has always been part of American history and culture.
Where does that then leave wary Americans who don’t feel at peace with their country or the actions of their leader? By reading about the past and understanding just how much debate there was, how much rowdiness there has always been in American history, can act as a sigh of relief. American history shows that political actions might not always seem right at the time, but through honest debate that gives everyone a voice and right to speak – the path has mostly kept its course. Reading about the past helps to put the present in perspective and that, while it may seem like today is a dramatic and intense age of American politics, it might just be par for the course.
Being an American living abroad makes it difficult to square American governmental actions with their moral beliefs, and many often find themselves questioning their culture. But spending time examining American history may reassure them that they not the only American who has felt confused and angry, and they certainly won’t be the last. So long as there are people who speak up, make noise, and demand equality – America will find its way back to the right path.
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