Amid protests and a pandemic, what does it mean to be American in 2020?
Analysis: Though American pride remains high this Fourth of July, numerous polls reveal concerns, doubts and differing definitions of patriotism.
“It’s a difficult time to celebrate America.
This Fourth of July, the coronavirus pandemic rages nationwide, and the 127,000-person death toll continues to climb. The resulting health and economic crises have left more than 80% of Americans stressed about the future of the country and 75% feeling the nation is “pretty seriously” off track. Civil unrest embroils the nation after the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police. And while a majority of U.S. adults still say they are “extremely” or “very” proud to be American, both numbers are at a 20-year low, according to Gallup.
As we prepare to mark the birth of the nation, debate intensifies over what it means to be an American – who qualifies and how a good one behaves. Are protesters good Americans? The Black Lives Matter protesters or the anti-lockdown ones? Are you American if you were born here but don’t know the history? Are you American if you’ve lived here nearly your whole life but don’t have a piece of paper to prove it?
Experts say the heart of the debate is whether being American depends on who you are – such as being an English speaker – or on what you believe – such as valuing freedom or equality. This old debate is inflamed by protests over personal liberties amid the pandemic and severe racial disparities, all against the backdrop of increasingly diverse demographics. Experts say this isn’t just a fight over who belongs. It’s about one version of the United States versus another.
What is American?
Despite the political polarization of the country, there are elements of American identity people generally agree on. When it comes to being a “real American,” 90% said it meant treating people equally and 88% said it meant being personally responsible in a 2018 Grinnell College National Poll of 1,000 U.S. adults. When it comes to being a good citizen, a Pew Research Center survey that year found 74% said voting, 71% said paying taxes and 69% said always following the law.
Republicans and Democrats closely agree on several other aspects of good citizenship, including serving on juries, participating in the Census and respecting the opinions of those with whom you disagree.
Liz French, 32, of Severance, Colorado, says that while this is a volatile time for the nation, she’s confident America’s core values will see the country through. “I think of Hurricane Harvey in Houston a few years back, and how many people came from all different sides of the country to really help rebuild that community. And that’s what America means to me,” French said. “We’ve seen over and over in our country’s history, periods of strife and Americans coming back together and realizing we may not have the same ideologies, we may not live the same way, but we’re all citizens of this country and we all want to make it better. That’s why I’m so patriotic in this moment, regardless of what’s happening.”
The way George Floyd‘s death catalyzed nationwide protests and tapped into rage and frustration centuries in the making shows that the U.S. is in a different place than it was just a few years ago.
American identity is a powerful concept. It animates people’s behavior and sets norms for what’s expected. Some argue that in a culturally diverse nation, this identity is the glue that keeps people together. Without it, there’s worry the country can’t cohesively operate.
Even those that have disagreed with a given policy or administration have been able to look at the United States and see an example of a country that is not homogeneous, full of different people from different backgrounds and countries, but that collectively makes democracy work,” said Jack Petroskey, 29, of Royal Oak, Michigan. “It is such an incredible legacy, and I am personally so proud of it.”
We are continuing to deliver quality yoga throughout this time of unsureness, with new standards in place. Thank you to all who have braved the studio, supported us financially, navigated through the many delivery method changes, and offered us so much encouragement along the way! Class sizes remain small (limited to -7- per class), with no overlapping classes. Please email us if you are interested in an On Demand subscription – we are “close” to rolling this out (stay tuned)!
On this 4th of July, you can practice with Carrie at 11am for Gentle yoga – either In Studio or Virtually.
Happy 4th of July to all of you and your families!