I realize that the notion of American-identity may be as varied as Americans are, but my idea of what it means to be "American" is:
Being just a bit childlike. Blundering out in the world with confidence and certainty, though beneath it all just wanting to weakly hand over the gun when the guy in charge walks in.
It means feeling still a bit like an outsider who doesn't quite know how larger world traditions really feel deep inside a culture's soul.
It means feeling incredibly talented and powerful -- able to do great and amazing things if people would please just stop questioning my motives.
It means crying when I hear the national anthem.
. . . and being embarrassed that my education glossed over the War of 1812 to the point that I had no idea what this song was about until I was a grown woman.
It means owning what I do. Even if everyone is staring at me.
I means knowing with gratitude that, though I may not like everything about my country (including its television, pop culture and fast food), my powerful sense of self and my endless personal freedoms are a gift.
It means I listen to Lyle Lovett and Michelle Shocked and through their music realize that I really can abide Texas quite well.
It means I can reach out my hands and spin and spin as far as my arms will reach and I will touch nothing under the great blazing sky. And if the great blazing sky above me ever starts to feel like it's not quite enough, I can move to Montana.
It means I recall how 20 years ago I moved to the desert and heard Nirvana for the first time. And though others revolutionized music before them and others will do so again, at that time and in that moment we were all American youth.
And it means I now recall a date ten years ago when I was woken up in a terror that has truly not since vanished.
Country is like your family. You may seek out lovers or friends who will like you for who you are, but your family is yours regardless of who you are. And they don't have to like you. (Though mine do thank God). I may go knocking at other doors and ask for admittance or indulgence or even acceptance, but I never have to ask America for that.