hy·phen: \ˈhī-fən\ a punctuation mark – used especially to divide or to compound words, word elements, or numbers
Hyphens by definition are divisive. They can turn one word into a new and completely different word. We use hyphens to take what was once an adjective to describe one’s heritage and have turned them into something that now divides Americans into groups. We are no longer just Americans, we are now hyphenated-Americans. I fail to see what useful purpose this new 20th century trend has, other than to foster separatism and identity based politics instead of principle based politics.
There used to be a time when we were proud to just be Americans, united in a common language and national pride. Because of this unity, it was possible to embrace and celebrate each other’s heritage and traditions without offense or division. We had the best of both worlds: we were all the same, but we were all different. We had the luxury of both national pride and the ability to embrace all the variety that different nationalities have brought to our culture. Unlike any other nation in the world, all nationalities and religions were able to live together without fear, because we were united in one thing: freedom.
Now we hear about American students of one heritage being offended that other American students wore the American flag on their T-shirts during Cinco de Mayo (a national holiday in Mexico). We have students with one skin color (white) being denied the right to go on a field trip because the field trip catered to the heritage of another group of students with a different skin color (black). In both these instances, the schools have both encouraged and supported such behavior, either out of fear of violence or out of fear of offending somebody. What kind of craziness is this? Why are adults tolerating or even encouraging such nonsense? Why would we want to teach our children that such attitudes are acceptable? It is one thing to be proud of one’s heritage, it is quite another to be proud to the point where a school either fears violence or a lawsuit. What does that say about us or them?
And that is the problem: it should never be about “us” or “them” when associating with our fellow Americans. We must not become like every other country, where centuries of wars and internal strife occur because of different nationalities and religions attempting to live together. We have a good thing going here and we must not sacrifice our unity on the altar of political correctness. We are Americans first, before any nationality or heritage. We are the only nation in the world where it does not matter what color, tribe, nation or religion you are, we are all equal under one flag. Hyphenating ourselves undermines our sense of unity by separating ourselves into different national-pride groups. If we allow this, division will occur (as it has already) and then we are no better than Europe, Asia, Africa or the Middle East.
Do I have a different heritage in my bloodline? Absolutely, just like every other American. But my bloodline or skin color does not make me who I am. America makes me who I am, my mama and daddy make me who I am, and my God guides me to make sure that who I am is a blessing to others. I see no reason to subdivide my loyalty or pride to any other country or race by hyphenating myself.
United we stand, divided we fall.
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism… A hyphenated American is not an American at all… Americanism is a matter of the spirit, and of the soul… The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality… The men who do not become Americans and nothing else are hyphenated Americans… There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), 26th President of the United States