It is no secret I get hundreds of emails from a vast array of sources every day. My biggest regret is that I cannot answer all of them, especially those that are kind and boost my spirits, because it would take hours, but I try to read every one of them and am exceedingly grateful.
In my emails there are also many stories, most unattributed. Many times Snopes or Fact-Check will turn a good tale into fiction yet – I’ll admit – I’ve taken the bait several times, only to be corrected by my readers. Then again, many of my ideas for stories each day spring from emails forwarded to me and I love that.
This week there came one, “To Kill An American.” It was purportedly written by an Australian dentist and, upon checking, there are almost exact versions allegedly written by a Canadian war veteran, a Romanian journalist, and goodness knows who else.
But the true source may be the best story of all as we enjoy the holiday.
This story, properly titled, “What is an American?” was actually written on Sept. 25, 2001, by Peter Ferrara, who at the time was an associate professor of law at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. You will note the date is only 14 days after the darkest day in the history of our country – the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Because we will remember the horrors and must also forever cherish how this nation survived and overcame them, allow me to present the Mr. Ferrara’s 2001 story from the National Review on this Labor Day with a simple prayer: “Lord, never let us forget who we are.”
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What Is An American?
By Peter Ferrara, writing in the National Review on Sept. 25, 2001
You probably missed this in the rush of news, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper, an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American; any American.
So I just thought I would write to let them know what an American is, so they would know when they found one.
An American is English…or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani, or Afghan.
An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them choose.
An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.
An American is from the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God-given right of each man and woman to the pursuit of happiness.
An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need. When Afghanistan was overrun by the Soviet army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country. As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.
An American does not have to obey the mad ravings of ignorant, ungodly cruel, old men. American men will not be fooled into giving up their lives to kill innocent people, so that these foolish old men may hold on to power. American women are free to show their beautiful faces to the world, as each of them choose.
An American is free to criticize his government's officials when they are wrong, in his or her own opinion. Then he is free to replace them, by majority vote.
Americans welcome people from all lands, all cultures, all religions, because they are not afraid. They are not afraid that their history, their religion, their beliefs, will be overrun, or forgotten. That is because they know they are free to hold to their religion, their beliefs, their history, as each of them choose.
And just as Americans welcome all, they enjoy the best that everyone has to bring, from all over the world. The best science, the best technology, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best athletes.
Americans welcome the best, but they also welcome the least. The nation symbol of America welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed.
These in fact are the people who built America. Many of them were working in the twin towers on the morning of September 11, earning a better life for their families.
So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo and Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, and every bloodthirsty tyrant in the history of the world.
But in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.
So look around you. You may find more Americans in your land than you thought were there. One day they will rise up and overthrow the old, ignorant, tired tyrants that trouble too many lands. Then those lands too will join the community of free and prosperous nations.
And America will welcome them.
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As we celebrate Labor Day, a reminder can’t hurt.