If you ask a U.S. citizen, “what’s your nationality,” the response you’re likely to get, is “I’m an American.” It’s a true statement, but isn’t it also true for Canadian citizens? Wouldn’t that be true for a citizen of Panama, Mexico or Brazil?
We as U.S. citizens call ourselves Americans, but America is a continent. Shouldn’t there be something more specific that we might call ourselves? When we talk about keeping jobs in this country, we say “Made in America.” We sing patriotic songs bearing such titles as “God Bless America.” When we speak of lack of patriotism, we use the term, “Un-American.” We even call our flag, the “American” flag.
Don’t get this wrong, I’m not making an argument about patriotism. This isn’t about patriotism. It’s about a name, and given the discussion thus far, the question I find myself pondering, is why. Why don’t we as U.S. citizens have a proper name of which to refer to our country and ourselves?
Truth be told, our name is the United States of America, right? So am I a United Statesian,or maybe a United Statesen? Well, that doesn’t sound right! Could I use North American? Well, Canada is part of North America too. So how do we uniquely identify ourselves in this world, and how did we get to this point in the first place?
Upon further thinking, it dawns on me that we as a nation are a group of large sovereign united states. Other geographic land masses spanning as far and wide as the U.S. are usually comprised of several countries, not large sovereign states. So should we identify ourselves based on the states that we hold residency in, i.e. someone from New York being called a New Yorker, or a Florida resident identifying with the title Floridian?
Ok, we might be able to make that work, but what about the united part? We’re supposed to be united! Then it occurs to me, we weren’t always united. This country is a patchwork of what were once colonies, territories, and claims of other countries all across the globe. At one point we were a massive work in progress, possibly not ready for a proper name. Maybe it just so happened that when the dust settled, we simply hung onto what is now the seemingly somewhat generic title, United States of America, a title that allows us to be sovereign and united all in one breath.
Given everything presented so far, I have to be honest here, I’m no historian. Something I do know however is that the term American is all too inclusive; that being said, the title, United States just seems a bit more like a designation than it does a name. Usage of either, it would seem, leaves a little something to be desired. It also leaves me still pondering my initial question, what am I supposed to call myself.
After thinking about it for awhile, the best answer that I could come up with was this. I’m a statesman. I’m a United Statesman. If anyone were to ask me, I’d probably still say I’m an American, which I am, but I believe a more fitting term is probably a United Statesman. I don’t know. What do you think?