Who are we as Americans?
Defining the Americans is an issue that has attracted a massive attention of various scholars across the globe. People have been trying to define whom the Americans are, and what makes them special among the rest. According to McKay (2013), the American nation has been given various definitions by scholars based on their understanding of who Americans are and what they stand for in the world.
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Some have defined America as the only superpower in the current world. Others have defined America as the leading democracy while others consider America as the world’s economic power.
All these definition may fit in different circumstances. However, Huntington (2004) says, “We as Americans cannot be defined by what we are, but who we are in the world.” Just as this questions poses, the only way of understanding America is by understanding that the Americans are.
Americans have been defined for what they stand for, and how the fight to protect this belief. In defining who the Americans are, Pérez (2009) says, “In reality, we are an unassuming people. Our history is of optimism, courage, strength, and hope. Independent, in difficult times we unite. We relish the “common man” and champion the underdog.”
This scholar says that Americans are people united by a common goal of the American dream. It is important to understand that the American dream defines our culture, social life and the way we view others in the global society.
This dream is the very fabric that defines who the Americans is and what they stand for and are willing to protect. We value freedom and rights of every person irrespective age, gender, race, religion, social status or any other demographical factors.
Fundamental values with regard to human dignity as expressed in the Founding Documents
The founding documents of this country define fundamental values and principles with regard to human dignity. One of the most important documents that have defined the culture and path taken by the people of this country to reach its current position is the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln 1st January 1863.
This proclamation, according to McKay (2013) “declares that all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states are, and henceforward shall be free.” This is considered as one of the very first documents that recognize the need to respect fundamental rights of all people irrespective of their color or any other demographics. This declaration is closely related to the Bill of Rights that governs most of the laws of this land.
One of the most fundamental rights that every American has is right to life. The government has the responsibility to protect this right and other fundamental rights. Another founding document was an Act, which was enacted on 16th January 1786 established religious freedom in this country.
This act recognized the varying religious beliefs in this country and as such, gave express authority for every American to follow religious beliefs and practices that he or she believes in as long as they do not affect freedom of others. Res Publica talks extensively about democracy. Democracy is another fundamental value that respects human dignity.
It appreciates that leadership should come from people other than being imposed on them. For this reason, democracy hands over the power of choosing a leader to the people as a sign that they own that leadership. The people will give the mandate of leadership to a person they desire.
The responsibility of citizens in a democratic society to one another
These founding documents define the fundamental rights and freedoms of every member of the society. However, Williamson (2008) says that these rights come with responsibility. These founding principles define the responsibilities that every citizen of this country has towards fellow citizens.
Based on these documents, one of the most important responsibilities that a citizen in a democratic country has towards other citizens is the responsibility to uphold dignity and respect rights of others. For instance, it is the responsibility of a citizen to respect life of other citizens.
These documents also say that it is the responsibility of citizens of the United States to participate in a democratic election of leaders that are entrusted with leadership of this country. As Jannie (2007) says, the American Civil War was very tragic and many lost their lives in order to gain freedom.
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When this war ended, the America came out a strongly united state and a well-established democracy. It is therefore, the responsibility of every American to participate in electing leaders of this country. It is through this leadership that America can live its dream. It is also the responsibility of citizens in this democratic society to hold leaders accountable for their actions while in office.
It is important to realize that interests of other citizens in this society can only be protected when there is appropriate accountability. Pérez (2009) says that people in other parts of the world are suffering because of such vices as corruption amongst leaders.
It is the responsibility of every American citizen to protect other citizens. This can be done by fighting corrupt leadership or any other act that may affect other members of this society negatively.
The view of government’s role in protecting the common good
As defined in the founding documents of this country, the government has a big role to play in protecting the common good for all. It is a fact that America is a leading democracy and the people of this country gives leaders the mandate to govern them. It means that the source of power is the people who go to the ballot to elect their desired leaders.
For this reason, the government has a role to play in order to protect the rights of people. This is done through the three arms of the government, which include the legislature, judiciary, and the executive. The legislature has a responsibility of enacting laws that protect the common interest of the Americans. The executive has the responsibility of implementing policies enacted by the legislature.
The executive arm of the government is expected to protect all the rights and freedom of the Americans as stated in various documents of this country. The judiciary acts as the interpreting arm of the government in various cases where there is a misunderstanding in interpreting the law.
This means that when a citizen of this country feels that his or her right has been violated, then it is the responsibility of the judiciary to offer interpretation of the law and give directive in case anyone’s rights or freedom has been infringed. The three arms of the government must work together in ensuing that they protect the common good for all.
The relationship of citizens to their government and their democracy
Political scientists and public administrators have defined the relationship that exists between citizens and their government in relation to their democracy. The term democracy has been defined in different ways. However, these definition points out to the fact that democracy entails a leadership by the people. This means that in a democratic country, the government will always be given its mandate by the people.
This is always done through a free and fair electoral process. This relationship defines the leadership of this country. The government depends on people for it to be in place. When set up, and then it becomes the responsibility of this government to offer leadership to the people who participated in its creation.
According to Huntington (2004), it is important to realize the fact that those who voted it to power and those who voted against it will hold a government in a democratic country responsible. This means that the government is not only responsible for those who voted for it. When electioneering period ends, the chosen leader is given the mandate to govern everyone.
On the other hand, the citizens also have a responsibility to the government other than electing it to power. In any country, a government can only run when it has finance. This must come from the citizens in form of tax. It is their responsibility to pay this tax. It is also their responsibility to monitor how this government spends their finances for the common good of all Americans.
Huntington, S. P. (2004). Who are we? The challenges to America’s national identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Jannie, H. (2007). The American. Auckland: Floating Press.
McKay, D. H. (2013). American politics and society. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Pérez, W. (2009). We are Americans: Undocumented students pursuing the American dream. Sterling: Stylus.
Williamson, A. (2008). Res publica. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.