US fun fact: The Declaration of Independence was actually signed on July 1, but was formerly adopted and read aloud on July 4.
We Americans have had to put up with a lot of crap lately. And yeah, it's our own fault, since we elected that baboon of a President who has basically tarnished our reputation with everyone in the international community. And our economy is in the toilet. And our citizens stupidly bought McMansions they knew they couldn't afford and are now being foreclosed every which way but loose.
But that is neither here nor there.
I think it's up to every person to determine what being an American means. To me, it means bearing the responsibility of living in one of the freest countries in the world. You can become complacent, choose not to vote, sit on your ass with your playstation and bitch about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket....or, you can do SOMETHING.
It doesn't need to be a big something. You can read the paper and stay informed. Volunteer your time occasionally. Donate money occasionally. Talk to your friends, engage them in discourse, learn about differing points of view. Talk to people who have different experiences than you. You know, easy stuff.
But most of all, to me being an American is about the responsibility to learn. To not just accept the world at your doorstep. You don't need to become a world traveler. Books can teach us a lot of stuff. So can other people. And magazines, and newspapers, and tv shows (what up, NOVA?). By learning, you better yourself, and by bettering yourself, you better what is around you.
Freedom = the right to have your ideas heard.
To me, one of the best quotes about what America is comes from the movie The American President. Yeah, yeah, bear with me. Aaron Sorkin may be a coke-head, but he is a brilliant writer. So check out this speech from President Andrew Shepherd:
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free".So, yeah. I'm proud to be an American. It's better than being Canadian, right? Just kidding!