Date Added: Feb. 3, 2003
In the days following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans were deeply touched by what appeared to be a global outpouring of support. Unfortunately, many of these essays, rants and commentaries have proven not to be the icons of international support they are purported to be, as is the case with this one.
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 an Australian dentist wrote the following to let everyone 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 Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan. An American may also be a Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole 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 chooses. 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 person 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.
Americans welcome the best, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes. But they also welcome the least.
The national symbol of America, The Statue of Liberty, 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 the morning of September 11, 2002 earning a better life for their families. I've been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 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.
Pass this around the World.
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., the e-mailing American public was bolstered by several chain letters that appeared to be rousingly supportive entreaties from international authors. Under scrutiny, however, most of these proved to be misunderstandings (as in a 30-year old Canadian Editorial), under-attributed (as in a Romanian "Ode to America"), or cases of mistaken identity, as in this one.
This essay was not written by "an Australian dentist," but by an associate law professor at Virginia's George Mason University. Titled "What is an American: A Primer," it was published in the National Review on September 25, 2001. The e-mail version differs from the original not only in attribution, but also contains several edits and editorial comments and omits the author's closing paragraphs.
We can't be sure where the "Australian Dentist" attribution came from, but can safely assume it is another case of "False Attribution Syndrome." Most likely, such an individual received the essay and forwarded it, inadvertently adding his identity to it. This is just one of the many hazards of forwarding chain letters. Before you forward this or any other "rent-an-opinion" chain letter, consider what would happen if you were mistake for its author. Break this chain.
References: National Review Online, Snopes.com