As the late Margaret Thatcher put it, "Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy."
Our national identity as Americans is wrapped up no so much in who we are, but in what we believe. That is why when some Americans adopt beliefs too far from the mainstream, we call them "un-American."
Sometimes this sense of identity based upon beliefs is applied in unexpected ways. For example, ethnic groups in America--or at least the elites who serve as the self-appointed spokespersons for ethnic groups--will attempt to impose a set of beliefs to serve as a litmus test for assessing the "authenticity" of another's membership in that ethnic group.
This has long been true of black Americans. Elite spokespersons have established a set of beliefs to which they expect other black Americans to adhere. They ostracize group members who deviate from this set of beliefs, sometimes calling them "Uncle Tom." Based upon the main character in the famous Harriet Beecher Stowe novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, the name evokes the image of a man who is subservient to whites and exhibits no sense of pride or dignity in his own ethnic heritage.
We such more of this developing in the fastest growing ethnic minority: Hispanic Americans.
In a recent appearance on ABC's This Week, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson asserted that Texas Senator Ted Cruz should not be considered a Hispanic American. Why not? Has he made false claims about his genealogy and ethnic heritage?
No. He simply advocates unacceptable political policies and expresses in views in a manner with which Richardson disagrees.
"He's anti-immigration," Richardson said.
"Almost every Hispanic in the country wants to see immigration reform. No, I don't think he should be defined as a Hispanic. He's a politician from Texas, a conservative state. And I respect Texas' choice. But what I don't like is when you try to get things done--it's OK to be strong and state your views, your ideology, but I've seen him demean the office, but rude to other senators, not be part of, I think, the civility that is really needed in Washington."
Aside from the empty content of the passage above (who doesn't want immigration reform? We just do not agree on what those reforms should be), he essentially is calling Cruz as Hispanic "Uncle Tom, " or, if you will,