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Define American?
Nikki Noce, M.D.

There is a tendency to think that all words mean the same thing to each and every person… but they don’t. There is the dictionary definition, there are the emotions a word evokes based on a person’s priming, and then there is the actual meaning of the word in the context of a situation. No wonder things get lost in translation. There are many nuances to the labels and titles we use to define people. So, how would you define an American?

So what defines being American? I’m sure the Native Americans would have quite the response to this question. And I’m sure the WASPs of the North East who are descendants of the first settlers would have quite a different response, as would all of my immigrant grandparents who came with nothing and created a life here.  A European would give you a completely different answer too. And to be honest I have mixed feelings as to what an American is and sometimes I’m not even sure if I resonate with the word given some of the happenings in this country. 

So is being an American belonging to the melting pot of multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-everything, land of the free, home of the brave? Does being an American mean you pay taxes? Does being an American mean you are a “citizen” with a piece of paper to prove it? You could have been born in this country while your parents were on vacation and never have lived here a day in your life, and yet you would be considered an American citizen. Hmmm. And what about those people living in America, working their bums off, paying taxes, loving this country, choosing to live here, but don’t have paper— are they not allowed to be considered American? Everyday 1000 undocumented Americans are deported— losing their security and everything they've worked so hard for. And so Jose has started the movement DefineAmerican.com to raise awareness.

We are very fortunate to live in a safe country. That’s not the case around the world. People’s lives are threatened every day. It’s estimated that 70,000 children will cross the border without their parents due to violence and drug wars happening in Central and South America. We don’t have the resources or time to review the millions of applications for refuge. Yet, life happens and desperate measures may arise and if a person in need happens into America hoping for the chance at a better life do we say, “No, sorry, you must to leave.” There is plenty of space in this country, maybe not in NYC or other major cities, but I’m sure Wyoming could spare some.

And guess what? No one is even talking about this issue affecting 11 million people. The news would rather report Kim Kardashian’s whereabouts. Jose was on the cover of TIME magazine with other undocumented Americans and still nothing has been done.

Copyright 2014.  Nikki Noce, M.D.  All rights reserved.

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