Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How American is American?

Is this guy American?

The headlines all read "The first American to win the New York Marathon in 27 years" as Californian Meb Keflezighi crossed the finish line 41 seconds before Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya. Americans applauded, newspapers lauded, and sports pundits and internet bloggers assaulted. Mebrahtom Keflezighi?!?! That doesn't sound American. He's just another African import wearing an American jersey--not a real American.

Meb Keflezighi was not born in the US, but he moved to this country 22 years ago when he was 12. He trained at US high schools and ran track at UCLA and has competed for the US in numerous international events. He has never competed for another country, and has lived the majority of his life in the US.

How American does one have to be to be American? The last American to win the New York marathon was actually born in Cuba and moved to the US when he was 2. He was never accused of not being American enough, but that was before we had the internet and the ego-inspiring, argument-inducing power of anonymity.

Our last republican candidate for president, John McCain, wasn't even born in the US, although both of his parents were. And, of course, we all know Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Our 7th president, Andrew Jackson, was born in the US, but only 2 years after his parents immigrated to America from Ireland. Neither of his siblings were born in the US either.

My wife was born in Hong Kong, but spent less than half of her life there. She is an American citizen, and if anyone asks where she is from, or what her nationality is, she replies American. She never thought much about it until we were recently invited to a Thanksgiving dinner celebration here in Lyon, and the French organizers asked her to cook some traditional American Thanksgiving food. She replied in shock "I'm not really American" and promptly asked me to cook something American for her.

How American are you?

1 comment:

Ngân Đàm said...

Many French people and I have asked myself this question plenty of times. In the beginning I was quite defensive since I was looking for work as an English teacher and I didn't/don't look "American". But I do love Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving food! That's American enough, right? :-)