Toward a More Perfect Union
in an Age of Diversity

What some Americans are saying ...

Visions of America:

What Ties Us Together?

"Being American" means different things to different people.

People in the two AMPU videos --
had many things to say about what defines us as "Americdan."
Here's what some of them said:

Precisely because we are not a people held together by blood, no one knows who an American is except by what they believe. It's important that we do know our history, because our history is the source of our Americanness.

-- Gordon Wood

When people wrote "All men are created equal," they really meant men; but they didn't mean any other men except white men who owned land. That's what they meant. But because the ideas are powerful, there's no way that they could get away with holding to that. It's not possible when you have an idea that's as powerful and as revolutionary as a country founded on the idea that just because you're in the world, just because you're here, you have a right to certain things that are common to all humanity. That's really what we say in those documents. The idea that we begin the Constitution with, "We, the People"... even though they didn't mean me! They had no idea I'd ever want to make a claim on that. And they'd have been horrified if they'd known that any of us would. But you can't let that powerful an idea out into the world without consequences.

-- Rosemary Bray

The American Dream has no meaning for me. What it was founded on, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, in many ways I feel are used as billy clubs against minorities and cultural minorities, whether they be gay, or different in any way from the norm in this country. I, for example, don't think I'd like to go to California because of what I look like. I could be pulled over and carded, and I would have to prove my ancestry. And look how long my family has been in northern New Mexico. Ten to twelve generations!

-- Vicente Martinez

When traveling out of the country, someone once asked me where I was from. I answered "America," and was met with a confused reply. "Yes, but where in America?" he asked, "Are you from Canada? Central America? The United States? South America? Where?" Really, he saw my presumption that America means the United States of America as quite arrogant.

-- Georganna D. Dickson

There's a wonderful story about a pioneer boy by the name of Sanford Cox who grew up in central Illinois just before the Civil War. When he would play in the grasslands he'd find arrowheads and trade beads -- the flotsam and jetsam of a former culture. And he tells of his sister running into the kitchen and telling his mother, "Ma, ain't it grand; the grass and weeds here is so rich it grows beads!"

Well, this idea, that such things came from nature, that there was no human history that preceded, was all part of the second or third generation effort to erase the prior inhabitants, to make it seem as if this were a settlement planted in the virgin wilderness.

-- John Mack Faragher

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