An insidious form of nationalism is threatening the very core of what makes this country great.
There has been an outcry of protest that Meb Keflezighi is not really the first "American" to win the New York marathon since 1982--because he was born in Africa and moved here when he was 12.
Never mind that Keflezighi is an American citizen.
Never mind that he's lived in the United States for 22 years.
Never mind that he has raced for the United States in the Olympics.
Never mind that every single person in this country who doesn't happen to be a Native American either came here from somewhere else or is descended from someone who did.
One of the most surprising advocates of this position is CNBC's Darren Rovell*:
It's a stunning headline: American Wins Men's NYC Marathon For First Time Since '82. Unfortunately, it's not as good as it sounds.
Meb Keflezighi ... is technically American by virtue of him becoming a citizen in 1998, but the fact that he's not American-born takes away from the magnitude of the achievement the headline implies. Given our disappointing results, embracing Keflezighi is understandable. But Keflezighi's country of origin is Eritrea, a small country in Africa. He is an American citizen thanks to taking a test and living in our country.
Nothing against Keflezighi, but he's like a ringer who you hire to work a couple hours at your office so that you can win the executive softball league.
Nothing against Rovell, but this is seriously disturbing. (It's also probably racist. Would Rovell be saying the same thing if Arnold Schwarzenegger had won the marathon?)
Since when did we define who is and isn't an American by their "country of origin"? (which is apparently defined as where, through no fault or glory of their own, someone happens to have been born).
The greatest strength of this country is that people can choose to become Americans. It's that act of will--the decision to take action to change your circumstances--that has made this country the most vital and successful on earth for the past 200 years. It is also what can pull us out of our current economic slump and re-light our competitive fire. It is what can save us from becoming, say, Japan.
Let us not wreck the magic of what makes America great by suddenly dismissing every American citizen who didn't happen to have been born here as only "technically" American. They're not "technically" American. They're American. And the rest of us are lucky to have them.
See also: 10 Business Lessons From The Battlefield
*Darren has since apologized.