Americans come from all different backgrounds. With that being said, there is no one way to define what being “American” truly is. Does being an American mean you have to be “patriotic” all the time? Does it mean that you have to be willing to die for your country? What about exercising the rights given to you as an “American”? Well, according to the “American Creed” written by William Tyler Page, winner of the National Creed contest in 1918 and a clerk of the House of Representatives, he believes, “it is my duty to my Country to love it; to support its Constitution; to obey its laws; to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies” The American Creed can be thought of as “a statement of the defining element of American identity”. Of course, we know that not everybody will agree with this statement and will have their own two cents to include with it. For example, I interviewed my neighbor Ricardo Munoz, who belongs to the Mexican-American community, to see how his belonging affected his understanding about the American Creed. “I do realize that the communities I am apart of gives me a privilege where I can look at those words [the American Creed] and agree with them. However, the Mexican-American in me realizes that because of people I know that have experienced hardship because of where they’re from, I can’t fully embrace this American Creed”. People’s understanding and opinion about the American Creed can come from many different factors; family, community, traditions and rituals, culture, identity, religion, etc. I set out to discover how the community aspect affects people’s understanding of the American Creed. I found that the communities that people identify themselves to be apart of truly do affect their understanding, opinions, and feelings about the American Creed.
In my interviews, I asked “If you could create your own American Creed, what would it be? One of my interviewees, my uncle, a history teacher, said that what was missing from the American Creed was the right to dissent. “I do believe that we have the greatest country in the world, despite our flaws. For us not to admit that we have had haphazard enforcement of ‘all men are created equal’... (is wrong). I believe that true tolerance and true American values would allow the discussion of many ideas and the best ones get acted upon. Even if you disagree with someone else’s views, they still have a right to say it. To place them in a position where they are not American is wrong”. To an extent, I agree with what my uncle said. I believe that the ‘true values’ that America was built upon are great; right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness along with the idea that “All Men are Created Equal”. However, the way America has carried these values have not always been consistent. There have been many instances in America’s dark history where “all men were created equal” only applied to those who are white. If all men were supposedly created “equal”, why did we have slavery? Why did segregation occur? Why did Jim Crow Laws exist? Sure, the pyramid of values that America was built upon are great, but I think that they’re idealistic and the men that created the foundation that America was built upon were severely hypocritical in their ways.
When asked about what the American Creed was missing, my neighbor Candice Munoz stated that, “A lot of the founding documents that have shaped American culture/society are from the beginning, which makes sense because that’s when the country got started. However, I think that they lack the references from lots of different cultural groups that have truly made America what it is today.” I agree with this statement because I think about often times in history, people of color don’t usually get a say in what turns out have large impact on their lives. For example, such documents such as the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and most importantly the U.S Constitution were drafted by old white men, is kind of far fetched to think about how because of how it’s supposed to represent the interests of one nation that is very diverse.
It's clear that you can be apart of many communities. Whether it be a community of race, gender, sexuality, or even your local neighborhood, what communities you identify with affects your thinking about the American Creed and your outlook on America in general.
I made a short video about how the communities that diverse Americans belong affect how they understand the American Creed. to watch it, click here.