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Home --> Rumors of War --> What Is An American?

What Is An American?

Claim:   A piece defining "What is an American?" was penned by an Australian dentist.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2001]

The following was said to be written by a dentist in Australia.



An American

You probably missed it in the rush of news last week, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American. So I just thought I would write to let them know what an American is, so they would know when they found one.

An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan. An American may also be a Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, or one of the many other tribes known as native Americans.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them choose.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American is from the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God given right of each man and woman to the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need. When Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country. As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan. The best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes.

Americans welcome the best, but they also welcome the least. The national symbol of America welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed.

These in fact are the people who built America. Some of them were working in the Twin Towers in the morning of September 11, earning a better life for their families. [I've been told that the people in the Towers were from at least 30, and maybe many more, other countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.]

So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and every bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.

So look around you. You may find more Americans in your land than you thought were there. One day they will rise up and overthrow the old, ignorant, tired tyrants that trouble too many lands. Then those lands, too, will join the community of free and prosperous nations.

And America will welcome them.

Origins:   As the reaction to pieces from a Canadian broadcaster and a Romanian journalist demonstrate, Americans take great delight in encomiums to America and Americans authored by citizens of other nations.

This piece isn't such a case. The "What is an American?" article quoted above was not penned by an Australian (or a dentist), but by Peter Ferrara, an associate professor of law at the George Mason University School of Law in Northern Virginia. Mr. Ferrara's commentary was originally published in the National Review on 25 September 2001.

(Text enclosed in brackets was not part of Mr. Ferrara's piece as published, but was added by someone else.)

Last updated:   7 March 2008

Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2014 by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson.
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  Sources Sources:
    Ferrara, Peter.   "What Is An American?"
    National Review   25 September 2001.