“What does it mean to be an American?”
For my July 4 assignment with the Post Independent (my summer newspaper internship, yo), I had to go around to random people on the street — what newspapers (and others, I’d imagine) call a “man-on-the-street” assignment — and ask this question.
Aaaaand I have never in my life been rejected so much so repeatedly in such hot weather. I probably walked ten miles on July 2 and only managed to get three solid interviews with pictures.
Here’s how it goes almost verbatim:
“Hi/Hello, I’m Brett Milam/I’m a reporter with the Post Independent and for July 4th, I’m going around asking people what they think it means to be an American. Would you mind if I asked you guy(s) that?”
Not exactly intimidating, is it? Add in a photo-op and it takes two minutes, tops. Obviously, nobody has an obligation to talk to a reporter, but I would think normally it’d be exciting to partake in a newspaper interview, especially to show off your “patriotism.”
I was met with a lot of, “No, I’d rather not.” One Asian woman pretended to not speak English, a woman with her kid on a bench said they were busy (even though they were literally just sitting there), and one woman said she wasn’t really political. You have to be politically-minded to answer, “What does it mean to be an American?”
Ugh. Rejection sucks. It was a bit demoralizing to keep running into a “no.” Oh well.
So, what do I think it means to be an American?
Let me show you.
I’m genuinely not posting that to be “edgy” or contrarian. I genuinely believe there is no more epitomizing image of “what it means to be an American” than the freedom, if one so desires, to burn the very symbol of America: its flag.
Now, I wouldn’t personally do it merely because I know it would tick people off (which is a whole other discussion), but that I have the freedom to do it? I think that’s the closet I can get to understanding what it means to be an “American.” I’m just not the rah-rah patriotic type or think there’s some checklist people have to meet.
But I’d say the freedom to burn America’s essence is quite the litmus test. Most, I don’t think, would say we ought to have the freedom to do it. But that’s, again, why it’s so American because we fucking do.