Lets look to Canadians, French, and Aussies for some help.
The Power Behind Closed Doors staff would like to ask its readers to help solve a riddle. Ready? What is the single most popular unasked question in the US? Here’s a hint: The Australians are asking it and the French are asking the exact same question. Last hint: it is weirdly connected at the Copenhagen conference.
Here is the wave that is hitting many shores and political scientists are tracking it with their mouths glued tight. In the halls of congress we find fewer and fewer so called political leaders who will address the riddle, which is crossing America from sea to shinning sea. So we now present it to our readers. Are we citizens of a single country with only a single national identity, based on geographical boundaries or are we instead only part of a larger human body that overrides all? The existence of national identity comes with the currently very unpopular sidekick, national sovereignty. How do people define themselves? Can there even be a common national identity anymore? What is "An American?”
This debate is at the heart one of the hottest questions being asked right now around the world and yet, it is taboo in the US.
If you tried to ask any of your friends or colleagues this question at your last holiday party you could have watched as you become the last one standing in the room. Power Behind Closed Doors feels that it should be added to the list of unspoken rules of polite society; never talk religion or politics AND NOW national identity.
To give us some perspective, let’s look around. Certainly this past year has seen the identity crisis brewing in Australia. The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has suggested that there be a test given to measure whether new immigrants can be granted Australian citizenship. Grasp of the English language, as well knowledge of the country’s history are in large part most of what would be on the test, if a test were to be given. In addition, Australia has recently been grappling with the concept of what it means to be Australian, with that country’s unique past as a prison colony usurping the already present aboriginals; it does seem ironic that they pass judgment as to what makes new immigrants acceptable. Ironic or not, Australians have some of the most restrictive requirements on citizenship in the world.
But the question doesn’t just stop being posed at the Australian borders. France too has recently been asking itself what it means to be a French citizen. Is it pitting those who feel that long-forgotten values are taboo against those of liberty, equality and fraternity. In France as in Australia, the debate is framed with questions on language, history and culture. Unlike any other country currently surveyed however, the French government has gone out of its way to host a debate on the subject at the national level, using television and the internet to ask for and broadcast comments from its citizenry.
Now lets look at our closest neighbor and historic ally, Canada. We get our answer in an interview with a well known businessmen and representative of the country who also sits on several boards, Robin Elford. Well known for his business sense in Western Canada working through all manner of real estate transactions in his business career as well as appreciating and living in and around the resource rich rugged-bush country on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Robin Elford has developed a depth of business acumen and logic, as well as an extreme appreciation of the Canadian bush and the natural resources that abound throughout the western and northern hinterland that can only come by living and working closely with the land as many Canadians do. Thus he is in a unique position to understand the Canadian Psyche from a business and personal point of view.
When asked "What does it mean to be Canadian?" Robin explained:
"To be Canadian is to explain one of the most accommodating national identities the world has known. It is a country that began as both an English colony and a French settlement." Robin contends that "Canada’s identity is the view of embracing, negotiating and collaborating with the peoples of this Earth and they are proud to be in the global "leading roll" of human rights and equality. The history of Canadian prosperity extends nowadays to protecting the right for our planet. Humanity is a single word to describe us all. The rights of one of us extends to all. Our position to collaborate includes the earth, to which we are all bound and accountable to."
It is a necessity that we are all are forced to dig for answers on these questions, because of international pressures. The government has to define its national identity, but its people have to be able to talk about this. Otherwise, how can the country much less the government find the pathway through international agreements?
This is what is being debated generally any time there is a call for international cooperation. The Copenhagen Summit could be seen as an example. The Summit was an amazing event in the world of Political Science. Each country’s economic progress requires energy and energy production required to sustain an economy’s health produces pollution. Regulating global pollution levels requires regulating individual country’s economy. Global regulation requires that the individual country to give up some of its sovereignty. This question has been framed in the mainstream news cycle as a battle between money-mongrels-production-at-all-cost versus liberal, apologizing, one-world governmentalists.
Now, that we have seen what other countries say, what about us? It seems that most Americans know better than to even answer the question much less ask it, for fear that they will be sued. We must remember that a free society has laws, which can be beneficial to all or can be twisted against its citizens.
Is that an answer by itself? If it is, it might explain some of our country’s problems?
The United States traditionally seen as being a "melting pot." How do you define an identity without stepping on someone’s toes? Is it the fear of being sued? Or what about the idea of the "American Dream?" Some people feel that this is a key part of our definition. A country founded by people coming to this land to seek a better life through hard work in order to provide for their family. Is this still a common belief for newly or one-time immigrants. Is that dream still possible anymore? The current economic turmoil has left many people without jobs, without homes, without hope in our government. Do we still have faith in the American Dream?
Look at our current employment rates. Anyone looking for a job knows it is a tough place out there right now. Anyone looking for a career knows it is a necessity to have a college education. But public school prices are soaring. How do we have the American Dream when you leave school with tens of thousands of dollars in debt? And don’t even think about buying a house.
Right now our faith in the government is faltering. Most people point to the most recent MA election of a republican to a recent democratic senate seat. Does our faltering faith in our government create a national identity crisis? Or does it bring us together to create solutions? To making changes and not support things we don’t believe in?
We are at a point now where it is more important than ever to define what it means to be "an American," when we enter into international talks such as Copenhagen Conference and especially with legislation such as healthcare for all Americans. How can we enter into the debates, when we don’t know who we are as a people and our goals for our society?
Are we are people afraid of asking tough questions because we don’t want to be sued? Are we a people of hope? And no matter what we are, how do you turn those theories into action?