Baumgartner Vaughan: It’s cool to be an American

Jun. 28, 2014 @ 06:14 PM

As sure as the stars and stripes, our nation’s Independence Day approaches and so it’s time for my annual column about being an American.

We are a nation of immigrants unless you are Native American. That’s not any sort of opinion, it’s reality. In the same breath, it’s important to remember that so many Americans’ ancestors came to this country not by choice, but under slavery. Regardless of how we got here, we’re all here now and we’re all part of the fabric of America, for better or worse. We all have similarities and we all have differences and that’s how life should be. I don’t know about you, but a vanilla life is a dull one. Unless you like the flavor of vanilla itself, of course. My mom tells the story of my parents on one of their first dates, and how they went to an ice cream shop with dozens of flavors. My dad chose vanilla. He just likes vanilla. But you know what I was getting at about life being vanilla.
So back to immigrating to America. My own Baumgartners showed up in the U.S. after leaving the German part of Switzerland and getting on a boat and coming to New York, where they got on another boat, this time in a river, and made their way to the Midwest in the mid-1800s. Other ancestors showed up from England and made their way to Boston pre-Revolutionary War. My mother came to the U.S. on a ship as a baby with her British mother, a war bride. Others came from who knows where, but I know they ended up here. From the Czech Republic, from France, from Ireland, from Scotland and some more from Germany, they came, for whatever reason, to seek a new life in the United States of America.
Americans are mutts. We just are. I’m cool with that. I like it. Or to put it in a fancier way: Americans are a delightful mixture of global ancestry that comprises a beautiful quilt of diversity. And that’s why, my friends, I love America and I love being an American. Nothing against the countries my ancestors hailed from, and nothing against every other country in the world, but I like it here. It’s home.
It’s surprising to me when Americans look at each other as “the other,” when we have all been “the other” at some point, either personally or historically. There is no “true” American. One American’s definition of a patriot is different than another American’s definition of a patriot. And again, I’m cool with that. That’s why America is cool. That, and because we celebrate our Independence Day with fireworks. Happy Fourth of July everyone! Have a fun and safe holiday.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at or 919-419-6563. Follow on Twitter: @dawnbvaughan.