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Port: It's OK to be American, just don't draw a box around it

Too many people want to define "American" as meaning only people who look like them. It's a corrosive attitude. Given our nation's long history of taking in immigrants, one might also say it's un-American.

American Flag at Frontier Village.jpg
A gentle breeze sets the American Flag in motion Thursday, June 11, 2020, at the Frontier Village in Jamestown. Flag Day is Sunday. John M. Steiner / The Sun
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MINOT, N.D. — What does it mean to be American?

An important question as we watch our nation tear itself apart over cultural and political differences.

In Bismarck, Rep. Terry Jones , a member of the Bastiat Caucus, has introduced a bill requiring "American" as the first choice on any government form requesting racial information.

It's a stupid proposal. "American" is not a race. Not only would that option undermine the usefulness of the information being collected — racial data is important for everything from health to economic policy — but Americans are a very diverse group.

To be an American is to be, well, just about any race you could imagine.

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This may surprise you, given how often our country is portrayed as the home of xenophobes and bigots, no country on Earth takes in more immigrants than the United States.

It's not even close. According to a 2019 report from the United Nations , America was home to 48.2 million immigrants.

Second on the list? Russia, with 11.6 million.

Our education institutions push a curriculum that is long on America's many faults and fumbles and short on its virtues and aspirations. With its left-wing bent and desire to appeal to foreign markets, the entertainment industry treats patriotism like something distasteful. There is a political movement, centered on the historically inaccurate 1619 Project published by The New York Times , which asks you to believe that slavery was and still is America's defining characteristic.

From that perspective, I can understand what Jones was trying to do in a very clumsy and tone-deaf manner.

Being an American is a great thing.

More than any other, our nation remains a destination for millions from every corner of the world who want to find opportunity and prosperity, and freedom.

Yet many busy themselves drawing a box around Americanism so they can claim it only for themselves. This attitude is the root of much of the anti-immigration sentiment the Trump movement was built on, but it's hardly a uniquely right wing point of view.

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One of the less thoughtful responses I got after my recent interview with Fargo-based Black activist Wess Philome was from a person, apparently of Native American heritage, objecting to my use of the term "our country" in the interview.

"What do you mean 'our country' Port?" this person wrote. "Go back to Europe."

It's impossible for me to "go back" to a place I've never been to. None of us gets to choose where we are born. I was born in the United States, like most of you were.

But too many people want to define "American" as meaning only people who look like them.

It's a corrosive attitude.

Given our nation's long history of taking in immigrants, one might also say it's un-American.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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