What is America?

January 20th, 2010

Sunday, I slept in after a good night with some friends. On Saturday night we had some interesting conversation about the United States. I was talking to a friend from India, a friend from Pakistan, a friend from the US, and a friend from Palestine/Egypt. Our American friend brought up that many people say that they are not proud of being American. Or that some international students say that they dislike America. The American also expressed that he was not happy with immigrants who refuse to call themselves American, even after living in the United States for many years. He said that he was proud to be an American. Our Indian friend said that she will always be an Indian. Even though she might live in the United States in the future, her culture will always be present in her household. Our Palestinian friend also expressed that he will always be an Arab and that his children will definitely be Arabs too. However, he added that if his children choose to identify themselves as Americans, he will accept that. In the beginning of the conversation, it was mostly four international students against one American. The American kept stressing that we all study in the United States and that us studying here is part of how America is defined. Eventually, people started giving in. The Palestinian mentioned that he is not even welcomed by all of the Arab countries, but that the United States accepts him. Later, others joined in and expressed some form of gratitude for being able to live and study in the United States. Although we all have our criticisms of the United States, we certainly don’t come from perfect places ourselves. The United States might have its wrongdoings, but the fact that a Palestinian, a Dutchman, a Pakistani, an Indian, and an American can discuss what it means to be in this country, shows that America is a great place at the same time.

Bastiaan

5 Responses to “What is America?”

  1. Gijsberton 22 Jan 2010 at 2:17 pm

    What a beautiful, interesting, wise post! So good to share this conversation! In 1963 President John F. Kennedy said, as he visited Berlin in the middle of the cold war: ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’, to stress that alle free men are citizens of Berlin (this, of course against the communist oppression of freedom in half of Berlin and around the city). We could say now: all free men are world citizens. But I think it’s impossible to ever forget your roots, the place you were born and raised: that’s where you are at home, how ever horrible the situation may be. If you Bastiaan would continue your studies in the US, find a job there, settle there, apply for and get US citizenship, you would always still be a Dutchman, I think. And an American. A world citizen. Down with nationalities. Long live regional differences and identities!

  2. kerion 23 Jan 2010 at 4:12 am

    I like that your dad used the word world citizen, because now it makes it easier for me to throw out this next word to you…
    Cosmopolitanism!!!!

    I like reading your blogs. (I’ve started up mine again [ish]) so you should try to check up on it when you have free time (maybe while reference librarian-ing)

    keri

  3. opa reyeron 23 Jan 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Wat een interessant gesprek! Ik ben het helemaal met Gijsbert eens: geen (meestal enghartig) nationalisme, wel trouw aan je roots. Kijk maar naar de Friezen en de Limburgers in ons eigen land: die leven ook heel goed met een dubbele loyaliteit.
    Geef je een volgende keer weer een seintje als je weblog verschijnt?
    opa Reyer

  4. Sandoron 24 Jan 2010 at 7:13 am

    Beautiful conversations, those are the nights! I concur with Gijsbert and your grandpa, what interests me is that borders, in some cases, are randomly formed, mostly during the age of colonization, and people with their cultures didn’t have any influence on that. Whether you belong to Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo or Ethiopia, nationally said, the feeling of your roots still lies with your village, your family and the people and traditions you know. So as to conclude my story; feel where you belong and and live that, show your passport when people ask which nationality you have, it is of no real meaning (just shows where you geographically live).

  5. charlotteon 25 Jan 2010 at 11:33 am

    Lieve basje! wat interessant om met vier internationale studenten over dat onderwerp te praten. Ik ben het inderdaad met Sandor eens dat een grens heel veel zegt maar soms weinig kan bepalen over waar je je thuis voelt en dan ben ik het ook met papa eens dat ik denk dat waar je je ook zal settelen je altijd een nederlander zal zijn en je je daar altijd ‘thuis’ zult voelen! Ik ga nu snel je volgende post lezen want ik was een beetje achter! Liefs zusje

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