During the attacks of 9/11, the people of the United States once more shared a unified identity, a wholesome approach. This unified approach is what many call "patriotism" (Huntington 330). Since the very start of the country, "American's have been a flag-oriented people" (Huntington, 330), meaning the country prides itself on its sense of unity an identity. It is important that people identify themselves as being American, because doing anything else would suggest the person was not patriotic. It is important ethnic, racial and "gender identities" as outlined in the Bedford Reader (p.331) are acknowledged, but they must not become more important than the national identity. If they do, the United States may be at risk for internal strife. People may lose their sense of loyalty to the country, and this historically has led to civil wars and other disasters. The United States and the people living within have no reason to fight each other. They should stand in support of unified goals which include "freedom for all" as stated in the Constitution (Newman 9). Rhea notes that often it takes "heroism" or deeds one may consider heroic before people "approve of a national identity" (Rhea 10). Because this country was founded on heroism, many believe in hero's and hail individuals willing to step up to the plate and put their life at risk for a common cause (Rhea, 1997). When people fail to do this, they present opportunities for risk, for violence, for disunity and terrorism to leach into the happy world in which they once lived.
The Bedford Reader quotes Maya Angelou, who provided more than twenty seven different ethnic and cultural groups within the United States, suggesting that the rise in violence can always be associated with "cynicism of peoples living in a country" in this case the United States (Angelou, A14; Hunington, 333). This notion is echoed by many others including Spencer (1999) who notes the lack of unity prevalent during various times in American history has always lead to "violence" or dis-union among the American people (p.4). "Politics" according to Spencer, have always influenced the identity or lack thereof in the United States (p.55). Never before have so many people for example, expressed racist sentiment at the idea of an "African-American" or woman as president of this nation (Spencer, 56). This is because far too often people forget that the United States is not about identity, it is about unity. The very name of this country is founded on this concept; the American people live in the "United" states, not the "divided" ones (Spencer, 1999). Part of the problem in politics is the habit of federal agents relying on statistics that often classify people "by race and color" or by ethnicity rather than as "Americans" (Spender, 55). This feeling is shared by many including Wilson (1998) who notes it is common for politics to interfere with "national identity" because in politics people too often fail to recognize the need for a single unifying force, and far too often work in their own best interests rather than for the best interests of the people living in this country, regardless of their race or ethnicity (p. 20).
The national identity people have in the United States is far more important than any other identity they may ascribe to. The "American" is someone that values core beliefs, including unity, freedom and justice for all. The national identity is something that will save the people of this country from internal strife, civil war, and danger from terrorists or other people that might try to harm the people living in this country. Perhaps Martin (2003) said it best: the people of the United States "must see America first" not other ethnicities or cultures except that of America when they come to visit this great nation (p.36). The national identity of the United States and the American people is far more important than any other identity, and has been since the early 1880s (Martin, 2003). The American people are most protected when they are fighting together under a single cause and a unifying identity. The American people must above all else, remember they are "American" before anything else. Only then will they collaborate and cooperate with one another to help glorify this nation. Being an "American" is something to be proud of, if people remember what the meaning of "American" is and cherish it from now to eternity.
Angelou, Maya. "On the Pulse of Morning," New York Times, January 21, 1993, p. A14.
Huntington, Samuel. "The Crisis of National Identity." in, the Brief Bedford Reader, pp.330-35, by X.J. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Jane E. Aaron. 2004
Korostelina, Karina. "The Impact of National Identity on Conflict Behavior: Comparative
Analysis of Two Ethnic Minorities in Crimea." International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 45.3-4, 2003: p.213.
Martin, Scott C. "See America First: Tourism and National Identity 1880-1940." The Journal of Social History, 36.4, 2003: p.36.
Newman, Rachel, "The Day the World Changed, I Did Too," Newsweek, 1 October 2001, p.9.
Rhea, Joseph T. Race, Pride and the American Identity, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997, pp.8-9.