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Time to redefine what it means to be an American

I think we need to redefine what it means to be an American. For example, I think we need to stop defining ourselves as ‘exceptional.’ Some Americans are exceptional; many aren’t. And, of course, the word exceptional has little meaning unless it’s attached to another word. There is a big difference between exceptionally boorish and exceptionally intelligent. I do not like the word because it’s used to describe us as better than anyone else. That idea runs counter to one of the founding principles of our democracy. We are created equal and no matter how much we focus on the differences between us, we have far more in common. I think this world would be a far better place, if we focused on what we have in common.

I also believe we must be honest in describing who we are. That means owning the bad as well as the good. For example, our ancestors committed acts of genocide against Native American people and enslaved black people on plantations in the South. Monstrous evil has been committed in our names.

We also need to acknowledge that we are a melting pot of people. We are composed of different races, speak different languages and practice different religions (or no religion) and we come from everywhere on the planet. I believe our diversity stimulates and exposes us to new ideas.

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be an American and I would like to know what y’all think.

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.