America is, like every other, a nation constantly in flux. Around the world, nations try to make their way as a “people,” the collective noun. A nation is, however, not only many people living under the governance of other mere people but, very importantly, different individuals living together, whether they share a common heritage or not.
Of course, most nations around the world do have a citizenry of similar people. America is the nation in which the most mixed population resides together. With the exception of our indigenous tribes, our specific population is of no single heritage. Ironically, in that way, America actually is constantly developing a very specific population. As our people, hailing from countries all over the world, mix, mingle, and marry. Ergo, we are creating a whole other and unique nationality which can only be called “American.”
To understand America’s greatest attribute, we should remember the nature of any émigré. To leave one’s birthplace, to aspire, to dare to embrace something foreign as one’s own and start again, takes strength, optimism, fortitude, and intellect above the ordinary, but it also takes courage and a willingness to struggle.
Americans came from everywhere, under so many different conditions. We embraced what we found even when we weren’t received as kindly as we could have been. Our last test of fortitude was in remaining here. Many who came went home again, meaning only the hardiest of the hardy remained.
These are the kind of people who make America. This is our fiber and it’s why we’re so sturdy. In our own time, we persevered, melded, and helped America become a world force. More importantly, we continued to demonstrate that we are a single, united people. Now, more than ever, we must continue to demonstrate that, not just on the world stage but to each other, as Americans, every day.
When I was about 13, my father was driving me to school as he did every morning. He stopped at an intersection with no traffic light, and allowed an old lady to cross. She took a long time as she wobbled with her cane from one curb to the other, and the traffic collected behind us.
I said I wished she would hurry up. I was about to learn a life lesson. My father asked me how I would want people to feel if that woman had been my grandmother. It changed my perspective, and it changed it forever. This was a down home version of “The Golden Rule.”
The iconic Golden Rule is so ubiquitous throughout recorded history that its origin can’t be accurately traced. Despite being quoted so often, written so often and its clear written presence even in the Bible, the Golden Rule is still misquoted too much and understood too little. It doesn’t say we should do unto others and run, or that we should do unto others as they do unto us. It says we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That means that slow-moving old lady was due all the respect any of us would want for our own grandmother, or ourselves – a simple summation of lessons well-taught and well-learned.
In a country so unique as America, while we hold our collective breath every day and wait for the other shoe to drop, it is imperative that we never lose sight of that Golden Rule, of every old lady crossing every street, of each of us being the summation of all the actions, history and people who have come before us, and of each of us putting ourselves in that old lady’s shoes, or those of any other American.
With all it took to create this nation, all the sacrifices and mistakes, all the daring and the doing of all our ancestors through conflict and suffering – whether home-grown or international – the bottom line is we are, now, all Americans. We are the steel knitted together to create the cabling that holds up this nation. If we unravel it, it loses its integrity and strength.
Every person who dared to take on the challenge of migration has left a footprint here. It’s our diversity that gives us unprecedented potential to become and remain great, if we keep the faith, remember the rules, and honor the heritage … every heritage.