Forums: Index > The Soapbox > What is an American?

Who is an American?[edit source]

  • I would like to note that the term "American" refers to an inhabitant of the continent of America. Only in the U.S. is that term used to describe citizens of the United States of America. For the rest of the continent, this use of the term may be considered offensive. --Waldsen 03:31, 8 July 2006 (UTC)
It's not uncommon for terms to mean different things in different languages and different countries. "American" is a common short form of "Citizen of United States of America" and is perfectly fine and non-confusing in American English. You are free to use whatever term you want in your language we'll not feel offended -- Blackdog 04:32, 8 July 2006 (UTC)
Although this might be getting long enough to move to discussion, I would like to add that you have just spoken for everyone in saying that "[...]we'll not feel offended". I pointed out that the use of the term 'American' in this article may be considered offensive, which is perfectly true. On the other hand, you just gave your permission, on behalf of all central and south americans, to use the term. I agree that the term is perfectly clear in the U.S. but hopefully this will become an international forum, in which words are used in a way that we can all feel included. Also, no offense is intended in my comments, as I'm just trying to be neutral and logical. -- Waldsen 15:10, 8 July 2006 (UTC)

What citizenry describes itself by its continent? I argue not one. They define themselves by their Country, State, Province, City, or race. South Americans do not call themselves "American," but Brazilians, Peruvians, etc. Canadians do not call themselves "American." Mexicans are quite content describing themselves as Mexican, Hispanic, or Latino. Taking offense that the citizens of the United States of America label themselves by their country is ignorant at best. Midian 18:52, 24 August 2006 (UTC)

I've heard different. And Waldsen lives in Chile. I would defer this to people who would actually know. Chadlupkes 18:57, 24 August 2006 (UTC)Bluemoon
Chileans do not call themselves Chileans? So only they are allowed the use of the term then? Also, there is no continent of America, only North America and South America. To those who are offended by the use of the term American to describe citizens of the country of the United States of America, what would you prefer we call ourselves? Midian 16:48, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
America consists of the lands discovered and accredited to Amerigo Vespuci. the point is not to segregate ourselves into groups, but to identify ourselves as part of a larger community. 'American' means citizens of the New World countries, North & South. I'm an American from the United States. Chadlupkes 18:07, 29 August 2006 (UTC)
I think you misunderstood the idea, Midian. Of course we, from Chile, call ourselves Chileans. We also call ourselves Americans, because we are from America. People from Spain call themselves Spanish, and they also call themselves Europeans. People from United States do not have a national term, so they simply call themselves Americans. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, since you are from America, as long as you are referring to your belonging to the continent. The offense arises when people from the United States start calling their country America instead of United States and using the term American to say they are from the United States. At that point, you are excluding all other American countries from your definition of America.
All United States residents are American, but not all Americans are from United States.
I hope it's clearer now. --ШΔLÐSΣИ 22:05, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Waldsen, are the people of Chile familiar with the United States Declaration of Independence? I think it's important to recognize that when that document was written, there were few maps that drew an outline around a piece of land to say that the principles of that document apply only to people within that outline. I consider the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be fundamental rights applicable to all people, and the Charter of the United Nations was written in much the same way, to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom. (UN Charter, Preamble)
While the rest of the discussion on this page seems to be focused on the United States, I think there's a larger discussion that we could be having at the International level. What are the Rights of Man, and what can we do to ensure those rights are not violated by the governments that we place upon ourselves to govern and manage our common resources? Chadlupkes 00:41, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
Well, that's a pretty deep question, but I'm honored you thought of going past the national borders.
To answer the first question, no, I don't think many chileans are familiar with the United States Declaration of Independence; just as few people from USA are familiar with chilean history, few chileans are aware of US history (in both cases there are probably some exceptional events which are known).
Although Human Rights is an issue which has meaning in every corner of the globe, I hope I don't offend in saying that there are places where Human Rights is a bigger issue than in others. The United States is a country concerned with the issue, but it has never experienced the horrors of the violations of human rights in first person. Having said that, I find that while a discussion about Human Rights is illuminating in a US context, it is a theoretical discussion. To truly understand the consecuences of not respecting ideas as seemingly obvious as to not torture, we must include the perpectives of societies that have lived them.
Chile is one of the societies that have experienced the pain and misery that comes when humans don't realize we all have basic Human Rights. Chile recovered freedom merely 16 years ago, after 17 years of murder, torture, death. To live under a murderous dictator is a terrible experience, and that experience has created an incredibly strong sense of respect for Human Rights in Chile (I imagine the same for other latin american countries under military dicatorships).
Deep thought is needed to come up with a list of Human Rights, but I can name a few essential ones off the top of my head:
  • The Right to life. So simple, yet the one that has been violated the most. No human should murder any other.
  • The Right to health, education, food. All humans should have the oportunity to recieve the minimum amount for their survival. It's hard to define poverty, but there's a general consensus that it shouldn't exist.
I am certainly missing many, but the ones mentioned are a bare minimum.
As to how to defend Human Rights. Sadly, humans have a tendency to follow their own personal interests, which, contrary to Adam Smith, do not naturally lead to the common good, as history has proven. There must always exist a counter-weight to someone's actions. To that end, the idea of the United Nations is very good, but it needs to be freed from the control of dominating nations like USA, China and Russia.
Finding an answer to the quest of a world where all Humanity's Rights are respected, is a long voyage, and we're not even close to finding it, as we are all too concerned with our own success.
And I think that is where you, and many others, misunderstand. People from the USA DO have a national term, American, which comes from the name of our country, The United States of America. And, similar to many countries, we often abbreviate the name of our country to simply America. I've never met someone from a European country who identifies themselves as a European, and while part of this is due to accuracy (e.g. "I'm European"; "Yeah, but WHERE in Europe are you from?"), they mostly claim this is due to the varied and disparate ideologies within the continent. Spaniards don't want to be so simply associated with the Germans, and no one wants to be associated with the French. Not one person from Asia I've known has ever identified themselves as Asian and most find the term offensive. I didn't realize that in South America they all have such similar ideologies where they prefer to be identified as a continent and not by their individual coutries. I believed Venezuela and Chile, for example, were so different that they'd prefer to be identified uniquely. In North America we don't call ourselves North Americans, just Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans. Midian 16:46, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

What is to be an American? Reading the differents posts I see that there are at least two distinct points of view: one from people from USA and one from American countries outside the USA borders. To the south of Rio Grande we are proud to be Americans. True, we are argentinians, we are mexicans, we are bolivians, we are brazilians... but also we feel we are more than that. Some times weare Southamericans, some times we are Centralamericans, sometimes we want to include Spain because we are also partly spaniards: in those instances we call ourselves Hispanoamericans. Sometimes we want to include Portugal: we call ourselves Iberoamericans.

A very distinct point of view is the one I will call the USA point of view. They feel they are the americans and outside who knows. Probably the british brought to the american continent this island mentality that isolate them. They brought also this domination mentality from the British Empire times, which makes them to believe they should dictate what happens in the continent, mentality expressed in the Monroe Doctrine. It does not surprise me the fact that people inside USA call themselves americans. This egocentric and narrow view contrasts with the inclusive view of latinamericans.

We also strongly feel our native part. We are the descendants of the Incas, the Mayas, the Aztecs. We group ourselves into the Andean community of nations, proudly remembering the Inca Empire. No matter where we are in America, we vibrate when we see Machu Pichu, or when we hear a zampoña or a charango. We believe in Simon Bolivar´s dream of a united Latinamerica. The Nobel prize in Literature Pablo Neruda wrote:

   "America, no invoco tu nombre en vano"
   "America arboleada,
   zarza salvaje entre los mares,
   de polo a polo balanceabas,
   tesoro verde, tu espesura."

That´s what we feel, America: from the northern pole to the southern pole. --RedRoseSpartakus 17:15, 11 September 2006 (UTC)

I'm very glad to see a fellow Latin American, Hispano American, South/Central American, or as you say, simply, American! --ШΔLÐSΣИ 21:09, 11 September 2006 (UTC)
Translation of the Pablo Neruda verse:
   "America, I do not summon your name in vain"
   "Lush America,
   wild bush between the seas,
   from pole to pole you balanced,
   green treasure, your denseness."
--ШΔLÐSΣИ 01:36, 17 September 2006 (UTC)

I have a question for some of the non-US Americans... What exactly is the point of being sensitive about the use of the term "America" as shorthand for the States? As far as I am aware there's no history of that term having been made up for exclusionary purposes. It seems to me a pretty understandable contraction of the United States of America. So the only possible reason I can see to be angry about it is because it antagonizes the USA and US Americans. Rather than suggesting that those south of Texas want to be part of some lovey-dovey alliance of the two continents it seems like, paradoxically, defining yourself angrily as "American" and taking offense when that term is used to define those of us who happened to have been born in the States is a sign that you consider yourself different from (perhaps superior to?) the arrogant US Americans. I have a lot of differences with my country's culture and policies and if I had those same problems while not actually being a citizen of the USA I would think that I'd be quick to differentiate myself- not advocate for falling under the same designation as the hated US of A. I guess my question is, is this naming argument for real? Or is it just a way to show anger at the percieved failings of the States?--Vive42 01:31, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

"What exactly is the point of being sensitive about the use of the term "America" as shorthand for the States?"
Well, it has been extremely hard, but let me try to make this clear. This whole discussion is about the meaning of the word American:
  1. American = "Citizen of America". This is the true meaning of the word, by its historical definition (let's not be strict about the word citizen).
  2. American = "Citizen of the United States of America". This meaning is used in the United States of America, although probably not by inmigrants or descendants of inmigrants.
  3. American = "Son of Satan". This meaning must be used in some areas of the muslim Middle East.
Now, I am truly baffled at how much resistance this simple statement has caused, but I'll try again:
  • All US citizens are Americans, but not all Americans are US citizens.
The previous statement has a number of consecuences. One of which is the following: An article named Forum: What is an American? will discuss what it is to be a Citizen of America, which includes all American countries and territories.
As you can see, there is no problem in saying you are American if you were born in the US. There is a problem if you imply that I am not American.
I sincerily hope this is clearer. As a last comment, the discussion about the words extends only up to here, but of course the problem can be expanded to include accusations of US arrogance or Latin American envy. --ШΔLÐSΣИ 01:16, 17 September 2006 (UTC)
I forgot to address the case of the word America. The argument is the same, but you can add an example to the consecuences of the definition: America will not lead to the article on the USA because America is a continent. --ШΔLÐSΣИ 01:16, 17 September 2006 (UTC)
If you are so self-possessed to be accurate about what is and isn't an American you might want to be accurate in your basic geography and definitions first. America is NOT a continent, North and South America are two seperate and distinct contitents. "Central America" is a regional designation. A "citizen" means membership in a political community, and since the United States of America is a political community, i.e. a "country, the citizens of the the United States can and will use the term American as a national identity of our citizenship. If you don't like it, call us what you will, but we reserve the right to return the favor. Midian 17:08, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
Congratulations, I believe you have found the world's thinnest argument. While most of it is irrelevant, I'll get to the useful part. I present your logic, Aristotle style:
Premise 1) A citizen is a member of a country.
Premise 2) USA is a country.
Conclusion: Citizens of the US can and will use the term American.
Note: I invite all readers to carefully review Midian's comment and verify that his argument is in fact reproduced in the previous syllogism.
Officially, this is called a non sequitur. However, the fallacy is so daunting it deserves an entirely new adjective. It is not necessary to refute it.
Now, your critique on my position is for me to learn geography. Well, my patience is all but gone (which is why this response might be more offensive than intended... if you feel insulted, I am truly sorry). I ask you to read my position again, as it seems you understood nothing. The precise definitions of continent and citizen are irrelevant. It seems you are just making a blind attack to make a completely different point. I invite you to review my position and see that those words are not the core of my arguments.
Finally, I will say it once again, but I fear it will not be the last time, since it has been so hard to get this simple fact through: You are an American, I am not denying you that. Call yourselves Americans, I applaud that. However, I am also an American and nobody will deny me that. --ШΔLÐSΣИ 03:17, 22 September 2006 (UTC)
You guessed it. It's a way to show anger at mean old Americans for daring to be a superpower. It's really pathetic. I don't see a "What is a European?" or "What is an Asian?" article here, even though there is perhaps more question about the geographical issues raised by those questions. So this clearly is all about envy, fear, and jealousy, as well as misplaced rage. - Nhprman 16:50, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

What is an American?[edit source]

If you were to ask any random "american citizen" where this quote comes from, do you think they would know?

"all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

What is this crap about America being founded on a covenant with God?

"Quite a few Christians sincerely believe that America was founded on a covenant with God and for no other purpose but to promote Christianity to the poor, godless, heathen people of the world. America's laws are based upon God's laws and from this stems every right and proper action that the American government should take." - http://atheism.about.com/b/a/019202.htm

I do believe America was founded by former British citizens because "..when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

If you were not already aware, these quotes are from the Declaration of Independence.

So what is an American? An American is fiercly independent, yet loyal to his cause and country. His country being the United States of America. Americans want peace, but know when to go to war. Americans are generous and open hearted, but know that sometimes we must be shrewd and cunning, cold and selfish. Americans are inherently compassionate and caring. We were once called "the sleeping giant" by our most stout and fiercest foe during the beginning hours of WWII. It is intrinsic with our nature to give the benefit of the doubt.

What has happened to the 13 original colonies? If John Hancock, Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and the rest of the original signers of the DOI were alive today, what would they think? I think they would wonder not what happened to their government, but what happened to their people? What has happened to our people?

America was founded by immigrants. America was proliferated by immigrants. Immigrants teaching immigrants how to be American. Americans teaching immigrants how to be Americans. No longer do we teach each other what it means to be AMERICAN. American culture, American beliefs, and more importantly Americans, are fast becoming extinct. The soul of the U.S of A is becoming hollow and empty. Replaced with selfishness, greed, corruption, and people who could not care less about being American.

Education on the lowest level HAS FAILED. Parents no longer infuse America or responsibility into their children. Teenagers and adults alike do not want to take responsibility for their action. American history is falls on deaf ears. Illegal immigrants overrun our borders by the millions, destroying the local supporting economy, remaining Americans helpless to stop them. Lobbyists throw money at the governement, the government no longer makes decisions based on the decent, honest, good of the people, but rather how much money they can leech off giant corporations. Freedom is no longer embraced as a dream by citizens. The ideology of American youth appears to be to make money, and make it fast. Freedom is scorned by the rest of the world and the transients of America feel guilty for the freedoms they never earned. "Please! Control my life!" the people cry out to the government.

Cash really has corrupted our government, and worse, our people. The majority cries out against the government while simultaneously begging the government to control them. Like children rebelling against parents secretly wishing to be noticed and coddled.

The free press claims that good journalism is at risk because the youth of America don't care about the news. Journalism would survive if only journalists would report the truth, and not hyped up ridiculous stories about Michael Jackson. The industry claims they cannot appeal to the future generations of America, and that older generations are no longer reading or watching news. They cannot survive without the revenue generated from both audiences. I say FREE press will always survive so long as journalists want to report truth, all truths both GOOD and bad. Journalism has turned into media. Media has turned into a maniacal beast desperately searching for the next horrific tragedy with which to grab headlines.

But the problems are well-documented and well-known (albeit perhaps not well-acknowledged.) The real issue here and now is that of solutions, of answers. I have solutions, but I am convinced they cannot be heard.

I believe in popular education, and formal education. I truly believe that education is the key to American future. Parents must impress upon their children true American beliefs (ie: ALL men/women are created equal, truly), That freedom is a gift not to be taken for granted. That with freedom comes responsibility. Education starts when a child is born and continues until that child dies from old age. Schools need to concentrate less on banning "offensive" tshirts and focus more on critical material such as TRUE American history. Not the politically correct bullsh|t that is being spooned out like pig fodder. Education needs to encompass world history as well. Our children must learn from the successes and mistakes of others, as well as ourselves. Schools should a haven of free speech (of all kinds). Parents must work closely with the schools in order to let their kids face responsibilities for the actions, good and bad.

Additionally, something must be done about our porous borders. Immigration is a wonderful thing. Illegal immigration is one of the best ways to destroy an economy, and eventually, a country. Illegal immigrants are not educated, they are not interested in American ideals, and they are most certainly not interested in the good of the American people or the greater good of the country. This is a constantly proven REALITY in Southern California, and increasingly in the surrounding western states. Known illegal immigrants must be deported at first recognition. We should employ a zero tolerance tactic and possiblity embargo the offending country's government.

America needs change now. If we do not begin now, it will be too late.

Loyalty is a vice. Ferguson 00:27, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
America is digging its own grave of decadence, just as Rome did centuries ago. People are surrendering their rights without complaint to an increasingly powerful central government. Huxley was right, Orwell was wrong. The government will not go for a massive takeover resisted by the masses. Instead, it will gradually assume the powers that the populace permits it to gain from them. Soon, there will be little distinction between the United States and Stalinist Russia. Except, of course, that Americans wouldn't complain. Jfingers88 01:40, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
If "America is digging its own grave of decadence," let it die. Go live in a country whose sociopolitical values match your own and/or some mythical Master Standard you've established for yourself, and if there is none, start your own. Above all, THAT is the essence of America, and you may even take it with you if you so desire. Compaqdrew 21:15, 20 August 2006 (UTC)


What is it about myself that I consider American? Being born and residing in one of the united States under federal overview by Washington D.C. (not a State) was enough at one time. Now I see something far more important to the whole planet. This culture has educated me in the discipline of Freedom. Put in context, few cultures, if any, have documents such as our Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights that define its character with respect to world history. The nation dreamed of by the Founders of these united States, who applied their wisdom about political history, seems a nation for the planet, an ideal for all current governments to study. The Founders were not naive, they knew the enemies of freedom (who were the inspiration) and of the likelihood that the populace would not grasp how precarious upholding what had been written would actually be. Today, it appears those enemies have gained so much ground as to be now dismantling those founding documentations. As Ferguson writes above...we are certainly in deep s--t, and I think its far deeper than he posits. However, history proves that the most devastating of tyrannies as governments cannot kill an idea. America, for better or worse, is still the living kernel of the collective idea dreamed into existence by generations of tyrannies' survivors. People still flock here from all parts of the globe to manifest some small portion of the legend we have become across the polically beleaguered planet. We are choking on the influx, yet, I feel, freedom is still the general pursuit. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of spirit. What is encountered is certainly not as I wish for them. My 30 years of voting has not altered the damned direction we are heading thanks to Washington D.C. Thousands of colorful laws have only complicated the reality of freedom into something barely discernable, that is marginalizing humans at an alarming rate. The America of an International Bank President is certainly not the same as a Native American, homeless mother of three. What I feel empowered by, when referring to being American, is that I carry a concept generations in the making. A concept that has been purified by trial and error, that is revealing itself with a clarity my father would swallow hard to look upon. It's not about geography or even politics...it's about Soul. Because at the heart of Freedom the language is Soul. All humans know of what I speak, even if they act contrarily, and so this concept is global and universal. Soul takes knowledge and transforms it into wisdom that is universally applied in its simplest form. That's why when God gave man laws, only 10 were needed. Soul is Godlike, it is our connection with how Nature grows obeying simple laws. To be an American means to have the power to correct what is wrong because I have known freedom and can see it slipping away. To be an American means being responsibly free enough to govern ourselves fairly for all our neighbors and relations seven generations down the line.--Bluemoon 02:17, 29 August 2006 (UTC)

I don't believe that US Americans are what they think they are. There is an American perception of the world as containing 'good guys' and 'bad guys' (or winners and losers) and that Americans are the good guys because we are free and maybe also because we are rich. Unfortunately the very idea of good countries (led by the US) and bad countries (anyplace poorer and less free than the US) is flawed. At one point in history we led the world in the adoption of new freedoms, and that was a really amazing thing that I certainly take pride in even though my ancestors were in Europe at the time. We aren't leaders in freedom anymore, in my opinon. We're in the middle of many like minded nations and I think there is a valid possibility that we are slipping behind in terms of how free we are relative to other countries. Although we do apparently lead the world in waste and consumerism I'm not sure that is anything to be proud of. We certainly have produced a lot of innovators and business leaders and whether the world likes it or not our economy is a monster that impacts every other nation profoundly. I'm afraid that the most defining characteristic I can find of an American is someone who shares in American popular culture, lives in the states, and who purchases things and consumes in order to prove their worth and happiness to themselves and others. I consider this definition a practical one and one that I easily fall under myself.--Vive42 01:14, 4 September 2006 (UTC)

First of all, I appreciate the use of the term US American, if only once. Now, I agree with you completely that, although once the USA was the "land of the free", that aspect has waned more than somewhat. International opinion of US foreign policy has declined steadily. The world sees the USA as a power bent on imposing their views on the world, and whether that is a "good" view or not, it has crossed the line, taking away precisely the idea they used to defend: freedom. The hatred spawned in muslim countries and others is not a whim, it must have a reason, and maybe it's time for Americans to cease this modern evangelization and put themselves under the microscope. --ШΔLÐSΣИ 01:40, 4 September 2006 (UTC)
I definitely understand the frustration with US Americans calling themselves Americans as if there were no other countries in the Americas... Unfortunately I also don't know of any good alternative term (statesers? but then, everyone else is a state, too). There is a huuge difference, however, between individual US Americans and "American" foreign policy. I think considering the Bush administration to be representative of our attitudes makes as much sense of thinking that the communist elite are a good representation of the Chinese people.--Vive42 02:36, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

I AM ERE I CAN BE FREE. Not because representatives from chaotic Washington DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (the queen of England)grant me that right, rather because it is an endowment of the Greatness that created me. I look no further than the complexity of my body to know that politicians, even under advisement from our most astute scientific minds, do NOT fathom how reality exists or functions and therefore are not qualified to make life-threatening decisions for me. My Creator has simply stated THOU SHALT NOT KILL and no amount of man's legal manipulation can force my hand to do so. LOVE MY NEIGHBOR means all neighbors, not just the ones approved by bureaucrats with profit agendas. War is our wealthy world's oldest and darkest profit-maker. I am free to be free of it. They are free to choose killing and in so doing show me their belief in something ignorant and ungodly. My goal as a human being is to steward PEACE and GOOD WILL to all, even, or especially, amongst my enemies. I don't need funding for weaponry to do this. Only thus can all our innocent children who are gifted us by metaphysical power beyond human comprehension walk the Earth pursuing and creating happiness. Washington has created a society of privilege bestowing liberty only on those they deem deserving, in obvious prejudice. Ask Native Americans what Washingtonian liberty feels like. Being Muslim is yet another undeserving reality D.C. attacks with extreme prejudice...if the Second Coming were in America the method of operation would have him SWATed off to Guantanamo for teaching against war (and appearing Arab). signed Bluemoon--70.135.88.169 04:17, 4 September 2006 (UTC)--~~

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