No one seems to be able to agree on what exactly is a good American. Most days, Americans complain: Congress does too little or Congress interferes too much. No government agency gets it right, and they are wrong from both sides of the liberal/conservative spectrum. The constant disagreement makes it clear that a political, national identity is nondescript. One quality runs strong throughout most Americans: discontent.
Recently, I began reading the Federalist papers written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay in defense of our Constitution and the creation of a strong federal government. As political theory, these men were brilliant. Studying the past through a critical lens and analyzing the present through a capitalistic understanding, Hamilton et al defend the necessity for a Union, rather than a loose affiliation of several states.
Yet, I can’t help but believe that the Americans they are writing to were inherently different than the Americans of today. These people were invigorated with the notion of universal human rights. Morality was hardly relative in the sense it is today. The ideal of Justice rang true. Americas were comrades, not enemies. What has happened?
How can I be a good citizen, a good American, and a good human in light of the world in which I inhabit? And as I wonder these questions, I challenge the notion that to be a good American is simply to be discontent. There is a far more defining characteristic to which we must all aspire. Hamilton understood this. So did many of the Founding Fathers. What is it that we all forgot?