“America.” A word tossed around in many different contexts as either a noun, being the place and if altered, an adjective of being an “American”. I was intrigued to be reading about the history of such a keyword as it has a multitude of meanings and understandings throughout cultures and societies. But what does it truly mean to be an “American?” In Gruesz “America,” he states how the term American at times can just simply relate to U.S. Citizens but in reality, it has a much greater meaning and relation to people tying in their values. Looking from the outside he states, how our food can even define us as an American, such as the ballpark peanuts we eat, hotdogs and apple pie.
For Laura Ingalls and her family, American meant moving into the new land they assumed to be theirs. While growing up, Laura challenged the idea of what being an American meant which at the time, essentially revolved around the idea of “manifest destiny.” To manifest destiny, American pioneers believed they were entitled to destroy wilderness, overhunt and most importantly take over native land. Laura Ingalls’s innocence and curiosity, I believe is a key aspect shown into American girlhood and learning from mistakes. As a country, we still today tend to be critical of other countries and their behaviors even though looking back towards our youth as a country, we were not always perfect, but we have and are learning from our mistakes.
There can be negative connotations associated with being an “American” to some people as well. Take the angry stereotype of New Yorker on the subway, or even a Russian crowd booing a USA hockey team as they enter the rink. But being an American means embracing who you are and making the best of the life you’re given. Budweiser has never fallen short on their end of Superbowl commercials but this year, their commercial really made me think about what it truly means to be an “American.” The commercial entitled “Typical American” depicts different clips of moments shared by fellow Americans. One that stood out to me was aligned with the phrase “typical Americans, showing up uninvited.” A negative phrase but with a different meaning this time. The video following shows a deployed army soldier surprising his father at work. “Showing up announced,” a typically negative phrase turned into a beautiful moment never to be forgotten. I believe that being a true “American” is something that cannot be defined in a textbook nor described in a universal way. It is all in the viewpoint of a person and their “values” as Gruesz said. Just as Laura Ingalls viewed the world with a sense of innocence. To her, being an “American” meant looking at the greater picture and speaking forth about her values.