What It Means To Be American Essay

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What does it mean to be American? Through understanding America’s past and present domestic and foreign policies and actions, it would be too easy to analyze the ways in which Americans tend to be too aggressive, selfish, hypocritical, or uncaring. However, Americans also seem to tend to be hopeful and idealistic demonstrated in the rights listed in The Declaration of Independence, and I am an American. While I do not want to encourage any nationalistic or egocentric dispositions, I also want to hold the American people, myself included, to the high ideals set by our founding government. Americans have the responsibility to uphold the human rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness through historical understanding and empathy as described in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow as well as self-reflection that inspires personal change in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist to challenge the American society to achieve its values of social equality. While this argument specifically focuses on American values and policy issues, the responsibility to self-reflect and practice empathy is not limited to Americans, but what I believe to be an essential part of what makes us human and how we should live our lives in our society and towards others.
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Our American values are meaningless unless we act on the responsibility to change society to achieve our ideal of equal rights. This challenge to American society is not solely what it means to be American, as we see with Changez’s self-reflection, but also a model for how all humans should live their lives—with understanding, empathy, and

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