Estadounidenses: A word that I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d never heard before.
Americans: A word I’d be surprised if someone hadn’t heard before.
Whether you’ve realized it or not, those two sentences say a lot about our country and the people who live in it. And I’m not even talking about our change in the president and the effects that has on how the world views us.
These statements apply and have always applied to the people who live in the United States, and they reflect a lot of the things we’ve been raised to believe.
The hard truth of it is, yes, you’re an American, but so is everyone else on this continent. Congratulations. You might be an American, but that certainly isn’t your nationality. And it certainly isn’t an adjective for bald eagles, a wind whipped flag with red stripes and white stars, and men and women who wear camo.
It’s honestly an easy mistake to make. Many might call a Finnish person “European” if they’re not really sure that he/she is from Finland. Generalizations make things easier when you want to be sure what you’re saying. But knowing the difference between a correct generalization and an incorrect generalization is important for “Americans” to understand because the Finn can call herself/himself a Finn, but when you realize that “American” is too ridiculously general to be used as an adjective for U.S. citizens, you blanch because there is no other replacement in our language.
“Estadounidense,” a noun in the Spanish language for a U.S. citizen, is unfortunately one of those words that can’t literally translate. The unfortunate thing about the United States of America is that we tend to think we’re the only country that makes up America, instead of being one country that makes up a part of it. People forget that Canada is American, Mexico is American and Ecuador is American.
When you say “Made in America,” that shouldn’t necessarily mean it was made in the United States. But many people believe that because it’s what we’ve been taught to believe.
Having an imperialist mindset is unhealthy and dangerous for many reasons, but being ignorant to the harmful things you might say and believe is even more dangerous. Believing that the U.S. deserves the title of an entire continent more than other countries we share it with is nearly just as imperialistic.