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April 17, 2015

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The meaning of being an American


J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The American flag.

Updated Saturday, June 29, 2013 | 8:26 p.m.

Dear reader,

With the Fourth of July just days away, I’ve thought about what it means to be an American.

Over the past few years, there has been plenty of debate about American values and principles, but an ugly strand of divisiveness runs through it. There are people who seem to think that they have the only true answer and that anyone who disagrees is un-American. (And, from what I’ve seen, that attitude runs throughout the political spectrum.)

Still, I think the discussion is good, and it’s one that should keep going. So, I’d like to ask for your thoughts. Start with this: “What does it mean to be an American? To me, it means:” and then fill in the rest. You don’t need to write a long essay. Short is good. Here’s an example in under 100 words.

What does it mean to be an American? To me, it means:

Being a citizen of a country that has freedom stamped in its DNA. Aside from boundaries (e.g., criminal behavior) and encroachments (e.g., the NSA), being an American still means having freedom. I can have an opinion, even if it’s politically incorrect, and express it without the fear of going to jail. I can live where and how I want and worship how and when I want. I can succeed or fail, be right or wrong, participate or quit. And to me, being an American is not only enjoying those freedoms but respecting your right to do the same.

I hope you’ll exercise the freedom to express your opinion and send your thoughts. We’ll print a sampling of the responses we receive. You can send us a letter to: Being American c/o Letters to the editor, Las Vegas Sun, 2360 Corporate Circle, Third Floor, Henderson, NV 89074. Fax: (702) 383-7264. Email, subject line “Being American,” [email protected]

Thanks in advance for your thoughts. I look forward to them.


Matt Hufman is the Sun’s editor of editorials and opinions.

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  1. Being an American means protecting and defending the rights and liberties of all those who are too weak and underrepresented to do so for themselves.

    Carmine D

  2. Carmine, first Americans must secure our nation against enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC. More and more, it appears many of our politicians are against the American way of life. Spend, spend, spend and tax, tax, tax working Americans to dump handouts on career indigents, illegal invaders, foreign "countries" with incompatible life styles. No RESOLUTION in sight. There is always hope but we need to right-side-up our politicians, our K-12, our higher ed, our children. Many kids have the right idea but too many flounder when it's just too easy to join the crowds of lazy. MAKE IT WORK in your home, in your home country, in your society instead of depending upon the government to do it for you. That's the basis of this nation.

  3. "What does it mean to be an American?"

    Huffman -- to me, it means being free to tell people what they do not want to hear. And messin' with the herdspeakers.

    "You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free." -- Clarence Darrow, Address to the Court, The Communist Trial (1920)

  4. Being an American who has immigrated from another country means having earned my status by following the correct and legal channels to gain acceptance into this country and to have pride in the way of life here and respecting the American flag and what it stands for.

  5. I imagine that quite a few writers passed on online comments and wrote directly to: [email protected]. This is my first chance to write on the topic. I submitted the following just now as a letter to the editor (probably too late for that deadline):

    What does it mean to be an American? To me, it means having freedom of the press. If there are enough honest, investigative media sources (without political slants and agendas) to counterbalance the hacks, only a minority of American voters will be fooled all of the time.

    A complicating factor, however, is that too many Americans forget the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules (and runs the show). Currently, media mogul Rupert Murdoch is interested in buying The Los Angeles Times. Murdoch's creation is the Fox News Channel. His political goals are in sync with the conservative billionaire industrialists Koch Brothers, who strategize to cut the government, as well as slash taxes and regulations.

    According to a recent New York Times article by Amy Chozick, "Koch Industries is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company's eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant." I won't be joining those who are jumping for joy if those purchases go through.