What Is America? 
Who Is an American?

What is America? Who is an American? How do you become an American? 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) has said that Congress should grant citizenship to every illegal alien (there may be 20 million of them!)—people who started their lives in America by breaking the law. But will they make good citizens? Do they have any understanding of what makes America America

If your answer is no, you’d better whisper it because if you work for a major corporation you’re likely to lose your job for being so unwoke—or really anti-woke. 

America started out as a shining city on a hill. In 1630, as his ship the Arbella sailed toward North America, John Winthrop delivered a sermon called “A Modell of Christian Charity” asserting that the new land they were headed for “shall be as a city upon a hill.” The phrase, often quoted by President Ronald Reagan, is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. If you don’t know what that is, then you’re part of the problem: the problem being the disintegration of the ethos that made America great. 

George Washington said, “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.” John Adams famously said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” 

That has seemed so obvious over the years that it went largely unremarked. In 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. That must sting for the wokies, even today, 68 years later. 

So, it’s perfectly obvious that America was founded as a nation “under God,” but that doesn’t tell us anything about the structure of government. You have to look to the founding documents for that information. 

What do the founding documents tell us about our structure? Essentially, and of prime importance, it is that people were to be treated equally, and that the government (the power of government) was to be limited.

How has that turned out? Well, the first part took some working out: a civil war and a civil rights movement. But today those gains are in peril. Affirmative action, so loved by Democrats, and now known as “diversity” (because the public saw through the scam that was “affirmative action”) threatens that commitment to equal treatment. In San Francisco, the contract of the city’s director of elections (widely acknowledged as a success in his position) has not been renewed because he was the wrong color. Civil rights is dead, killed by the same Democratic Party that for so long supported slavery—and we might ask, where is the black community when we need it? An astounding 90 percent of blacks voted for Biden in 2020.

The second part of the U.S. structure, that the power and scope of government were to be limited, worked out initially but has since been completely ignored, and now seems a quaint concept to politicians (egged on by their left-wing media allies) ever willing to tax, spend . . . and bankrupt the government for their own electoral satisfaction. 

It is fair to say that the Democratic Party has worked overtime to ruin America, with—we must be honest—far too little (any?) resistance by Republicans. 

So here’s the question: Do we want immigrants to sign onto the current political zeitgeist? Only a fool—or a Democrat—would say yes. 

Have you seen the pictures of the illegals (approximately 5.5 million since Biden took office) swarming across our southern border? Probably only if you’ve been watching Fox News. Biden Administration officials, when asked point blank if the border is secure, answer yes. Does that qualify as an opinion or a lie? If they were under oath, it would be perjury.

In order to be granted citizenship, immigrants are supposed to answer questions (but only 12 out of 20 correctly) to show they have some understanding of what this country is all about. But most of the questions are not designed to elicit that information. They are just miscellaneous fact questions, including: 

  • What is the name of the national anthem? 
  • When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?
  • What is the capital of the United States?
  • In what month do we vote for president?
  • What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?

One could be a communist or a fascist, or indeed a serial slayer (professional fentanyl importer), and supply the correct answers in good conscience.

There are a few questions (eight out of a 120) that might make an immigrant think and therefore be useful, like:

  • What is one reason colonists came to America?
  • What is the economic system in the United States?
  • What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?
  • What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?
  • What is freedom of religion?
  • What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
  • What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?

But we really can’t expect most immigrants to understand the genius of the American system, which is one good reason not to let too many of them in at any one time. Let them come in in small enough numbers so they get a chance to develop an understanding of what America is, or at least was meant to be, all about. That is exactly what Democrats don’t want them to understand. They want them to be good little wokies, who will vote for wokeism and socialism. 

America is in trouble. Who will save her? If John Winthrop were giving his sermon today, he might conclude—perhaps remembering a hymn written five years before the Arbella sailed—by asking God to cease the wicked from oppressing and distressing us, in the certain knowledge that He forgets not his own.

About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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