Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What it Means to be an American

As an American I am one of the freest people in existence. From birth, I enjoy rights, freedoms, and liberties under the glorious constitution of the United States of America that others go through life without. As an American I enjoy the freedoms of religion, speech, press, expression; the right to bear arms, the right to a speedy trial by our peers, the right to be proven guilty, the right to due process of law just to name a few. There are so many things that we, as Americans, have available; things that we take for granted.

“You don’t really know how to appreciate the freedom you have in this country until you have lived in another country.” –Arturo Cruz

For example, as an American citizen when you are charged with a crime you are innocent until proven guilty. In Italy, however, if you are arrested you can be thrown in jail. Then, you are responsible for proving that you didn’t do whatever it is that you have been accused of. In the United States, assuming you are a citizen of course, you may be accused of a crime, at which point; you would have the right to face your accuser. Then, you could not be held for over 24 hours without cause, and if you are still thought to be guilty; you will have the right to a lawyer and a speedy trial. If you are not aware of your rights, they will be read to you. As an American citizen, you cannot be betrayed by your own ignorance and you cannot be tricked into incriminating yourself. Obviously, the system is not flawless; and I’m not trying to pretend that injustice does not find ways to seep into the cracks in our laws and exploit loopholes. Sometimes the unjust simply avoid the legal system by means of bribery, fear, or illegal use of power. For the most part though, our justice system is simply superb.

The right that Americans utilize the most, and the one they most often take for granted, is the freedom of speech. Well, maybe it’s freedom of the press, either way; expression. In the United States, Americans can speak their minds about anything! As an American, I find myself living in a country where the government recognizes that I have the right to speak out against it. It’s amazing! In what other country do citizens have that ability? Recently there was a report in the news about a group of citizens who spoke out against their government in the Middle East. Why was this in the news? Well, because the government in question didn’t like what was being said; so they sent the police to stop the protesters… violently. In America, citizens also enjoy the right of assembly. Americans can march right up to the White house gates and protest if they want to. Frequently, protests take place outside the capitol building.

What does it mean to be an American? Being an American means that you are lucky. Being an American means that you are free.