Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering junior and Mustang News conservative columnist. | Ian Billings/Mustang News

Eric Stubben

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Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering junior and Mustang News conservative columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.

For one week, I want to depart from the monotonous ebb and flow of the political scene. My goal is to get away from the partisanship and tension that gridlocks our government, just for one week.

In my columns, I often allude to the patriotism, the American Spirit or the American Dream. I’ve written countless Americana articles in my attempt to spur some sort of patriotism, hoping to intrigue but one reader. Yet after all of that writing, one question best to be asked and answered:

What is an American?

Over the past weeks in my philosophy class, we’ve discussed ancient Greek culture and how it sculpted Greek citizens, namely its philosophers. We talked about their religious beliefs, their traditions and their government. For the most part, the society was fairly similar across the empire.

Through these discussions, my mind began to drift, trying to decide how I would define an American if anybody were to ask me on the spot. The truth is, the answer is likely much more broad than it was 100 or even 50 years ago.

Today’s American doesn’t have a certain look, a certain dream or a certain culture. We all look different, we dress different and we eat different: We are different. We are rural and we are urban. We have dark skin and light skin, brown hair and blonde hair. We are rich and we are poor, we love food from the Mediterranean to Mexico.

Yet no matter what we prefer or what we are, we are all Americans.

While posing this question to friends and discussing answers, I realized that at some point in every conversation the word “freedom” became a focal point. It’s no surprise that “freedom” became a focus. A generic picture of America is littered with red, white, blue and our troops.

Freedom in America runs deeper than the standard stars, stripes and camouflage, and it’s an essential part of what makes up an American. We have the freedom to be individuals. I am myself and I have my own dreams, goals and ideas for my future. The beauty of this individualistic freedom is that every American can have his or her own dream and goals.

Having dreams and goals is nothing uniquely American, of course; every individual around the world has some type of dreams and goals. However, to understand why I believe the individualistic freedom we have as Americans is unique, let me take you back to my roots.

I was born and raised 45 miles south of the Canadian border. Between trips to Canada and the Canadian infestation of the local Costco on Boxing Day, I’ve noticed that it’s actually rather easy to identify Americans compared to Canadians, though we may seem similar from afar.

For the longest time, I could never put a finger on what exactly set the two cultures apart. It seemed odd to me that an arbitrary international line could do so much to separate two cultures.

Over time, I began to realize that Canadians seemed to be generally more relaxed than Americans and have a more laid-back outlook on things. This past week, I stumbled upon a quote from New York Times foreign correspondent Damien Cave that I believe perfectly sums up the perception of Americans:

“I’ve learned to identify Americans by sight and sound: They tend to talk and laugh louder, tell their stories more freely, and to walk with purpose – even when heading in the wrong direction.”

What strikes me most about this passage is the way it supports the fact that we have an individualistic freedom. We have a drive or will about us that is bold and at times even arrogant. Maybe it comes from our past. As a country and a people, we’ve always fought for what we believe. The colonists fought for our country and for centuries we’ve continued to battle the evils of communism, anti-Semitism and terrorism. Engrained within Americans is the will to push ahead on the battlefield, at home and in the boardroom.

As Americans, we are loved as much as we are despised around the world. We brought the world Microsoft, Apple, Nike, and so much more. We’ve protected countries from evil and given aid to those in need. Yet at times, our edge gets perceived negatively, in a cocky sense.

In my life alone, I’ve experienced a Frenchman on a subway in Paris raging about American antics, only to be approached by appreciative (albeit heavily intoxicated) Swiss the next day.

Perhaps the simplest, most accurate definition of an American came from a 12-year-old Mexican-American in the same New York Times article I mentioned earlier. He said, “Being American is red, white and blue and being free. It doesn’t matter what language you speak; if you’re born in America, you’re still American. No matter what you look like, no matter what.”

It’s true that “American” has no definition. It’s not Uncle Sam or a flag flying high above a white picket fence.

Americans aren’t formally defined by a passage in a dictionary, but we are globally bounded by the ties of individual freedom and a drive to be bold, to have purpose, to be overall the best culture and people the world has ever seen.

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