‘No Nation Can Exist Without a Culture to Hold It Together’

When people come to our great country, they need to become Americans — 'this binds us, pushes us to excel together'

by Matthew Wadler | Updated 05 Jul 2017 at 12:49 PM

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I just finished one of the most amazing trips of my life. I rode with my wife from our home state of Indiana all the way to the coast of California. When I say rode, I mean that we took my Harley-Davidson.

It was a truly eye-opening experience, almost religious in its context, and a trip I would suggest to anyone capable of taking a couple of weeks for himself. We were on a fairly rigid timeline for both the trip out and the return trip, which meant more than one day of riding for 10 hours. During our week-long trek out to California, we stopped at the Grand Canyon and then Monterey, California, to explore.

We decided we would take the southern route for the first leg of the journey. Once we hit California, my wife had to fly back for business, and I made the return trip by myself. This time I took Route 80, which carried me through the Sierra Nevada mountains and then into the great farmlands of our nation.

One of the most amazing things about riding a motorcycle across country is how much more you notice. In a car it is easy to get into a groove and simply let the scenery roll by you. You have your radio, your air conditioning, your drinks, etc. Heck, half of the drivers out there are watching their phones more than the road. On a motorcycle, you don’t have those distractions. You are exposed to the elements and therefore more responsive to the world around you. The sights, smells, sounds: It all leaves you with more of a feeling of connection than driving any car could.

As we rode, my wife made a very astute statement to me — twice, as I couldn’t hear her the first time she yelled it to me. She said that the amazing thing about the states we rode through was that it was in the heartlands that our country truly exists. It is in the central portion of our country where people still believe in helping each other. It is in those small communities, where neighbor knows neighbor, that we still create the American Dream. It is where you still have honest people trying to make an honest living. All of this is bound together with devotion to a higher power and a belief that good deeds will be rewarded.

As we stopped in those towns, you could feel the sense of community and identity. My wife was correct: This is where America resides. As we hit California, and then spent the next week in New York, the difference was palpable, especially in the cities. Whether at a restaurant or simply interacting with people on the street, there was no sense of community or culture. That was one of the things, in fact, that was most noticeable. As we explored the Bay area, it became very apparent there was no American culture in this environment. Everyone walked around with their own culture, separate and distinct from every other group. There were no hostilities from this separation, only a clear and distinct division.

Related: 'My Parents Merged Love of Country with Love for Each Other'

This all made me think of the great American melting pot. It would appear that the cook is no longer in the kitchen. The whole ordeal explains, in my view, one of the greatest issues with our country. We no longer have a sense of Americanism. I do believe that this loss of identity will be one of our downfalls. In our nation, we no longer group ourselves by our citizenry, but instead by those things that divide us. In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt said:

In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American … There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag … We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language … and we have room for but one sole loyalty, and that is a loyalty to the American people.

One can look at the last election and see where the two belief systems diverge. Those states where there is a solid belief in the American way were red. Where the citizenry has turned away from our history they show blue.

I am not saying we should all be, look, or think the same. What I am saying, however, is that when one cannot even identify oneself first and foremost as an American, the only path is toward anarchy and chaos. (go to page 2 to continue reading)

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