Born in the U.S.A.

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I enjoy hearing English spoken with an accent, and have this habit of asking people who sound like foreigners where they come from. There's a bit of a risk involved, as I know it's really none of my business. Fortunately, almost everyone cheerfully answers the question. But I don't stop there. Since I'm an amateur radio operator and used to collect stamps, I've been studying maps for decades. More often than not, in talking to foreigners, I'm able to follow up by naming a principal city or region in their country, and then their faces really light up, especially if it's an obscure part of the world. They are surprised to find an American who knows any details about their homeland.

These people all have one thing in common. They had to make some kind of a commitment to get here, whether it's for a short visit, a university education or a new life. Many go on to become American citizens.

Most of us haven't had to make that kind of commitment to this country. It seems there are a fair number of folks these days who think that just because they were born American, they're in some kind of superior class of human being. If you happened to have been born here, you had very little to do with it, so you really can't take credit for it. You just had a silver flag in your mouth at the time.

If you were raised in a home where English was spoken and that's your native language, you can't take much more credit for that. English isn't a better language than others. It's simply the tool of communication that's most useful here. It's sad that hearing a foreign language spoken is offensive to some of us.

I'm very proud to be an American, but very lucky in two respects: first, that I happened to be born in this country, and second, that I happen to find differences among people more interesting than threatening. I can't take credit for either, but I'm grateful for both.


With a Perspective, I'm Mike Meenan.