What then is an American Now

*Note: This paper was done as a parallel to Jean de Crevecour\'s "Letters from an American Farmer," published in London in 1782.

What, then, is an American now?

An American today controls the world. She lives for herself, and is successful. She has a job, not on the farm or with the family, but in the office. She is a college graduate, and is paying on a new car, house, and computer. She also pays for her own washer and dryer, heat and air, even bottled water. The weekends are spent at the gym, where she pays to do work, and at charities, where she goes to luncheons, and donates to the liberation of lab animals. She lives in a suburb, in a house like many others. She is an individual, and pays for the title.
Her family is different than the one she grew up in. There are children, splitting their time between the father and mother. They don’t really know what their parents do, just the name of the place and how to reach someone in an emergency. They don’t help out with the livelihood, just take advantage of it. They attend various schools, beginning at the age of three or four, and continuing for fifteen to twenty years. They wear designer jeans, like their parents do on the weekends, and one of their pastimes is going out simply to find some stuff to spend money on.
There is another American, who lives in the inner city, in a cramped apartment. He is working two jobs, and paying off debts. He’s looking for work that will justify all the acting classes he’s taken, but so far, no luck. His mother gave him dark, curly hair, while his father gave him a lighter complexion. He writes poetry and reads. He is the culture of America, and looking to become the pop culture.
Our next group of Americans live not in a suburb or city, but along a two-land blacktop highway, in an aluminum-sided mobile home. There is a young mother, with four children. She gave birth to the first when her peers were at a formal school dance. She does not work, because the only place that will hire is one where she would have to ask the question, “Would you like to try a value meal today?” Her husband is slightly overweight, and has always had trouble with reading. He has a temper and problems with authority. Which are not good things, when trying to hold down a job.
This family has children, who attend the same school with those who wear designer jeans. They are not expected to do well, and the other children find their own to buddy with. As they get older, the differences become more apparent. Social status is repeatedly shunned into place.
They are given fewer opportunities to succeed, but in America they still can. These children from poor families can climb up, and gain respect, and work. They can go to become a respected college, or boss, or even business owner. These kids can go on to become the wealthy ones, if they try. Anyone can make it. That, now, is what it means to be an American.


Jean de Creavecour
"Letters from an American Farmer"