With all the hoopla behind President Obama’s birth certificate and the questions about his citizenship, in addition to the ideals and comments made or alluded to by certain members of the ‘tea party’ and others on the right, I got to thinking…WHAT exactly constitutes the ideals of a ‘real’ American? I also got to thinking, why do so many cling to ideals that have NEVER in our nations history actually been practiced? Further to these thoughts, were why are SO many so inclined to BELIEVE, no matter what evidence is submitted to the contrary, that ‘things aren’t as they seem’?
While thinking about this question, I delved into many facets of American culture. I looked at Native Americans, African Americans, and the various sects of Europeans who came here during the years of colonization and during other periods to make this geographical region, now KNOWN as the United States of America, their home. I looked at various periods in the last few hundred years of history, from the days when explorer’s ‘discovered’ this land to the many struggles, challenges and upheavals the nation has faced over the generations. I, looked at the situations encountered by many immigrants in their home lands that LED to their decision to come to America when they did. I also researched accounts of HOW those who came here from other lands were treated after their arrival.
(Disclosure: it helped that while this debate was raging, I was taking courses in Native American history and Cultural Anthropology through Ethnology, and Economics, in addition to having taken ( other relevant courses last semester) :)} As such, my information IS current and based on the latest trends and concepts being taught in an academic setting.)
This nation is NOT without bad times or unsavory conditions, no NATION escapes these problems or issues. WE have not had a perfect or ideal past, nor has any other country. Our nation has many periods of less than ‘nice’ or benevolent times, and AGAIN, this is not an usual situation ANYWHERE on Earth. No nation is perfect or a Utopia. No nation has a perfect or exemplary past, that is without negatives or the subjugation of others. Contrary to popular mythology, America is NOT really that unique. Not really, while we have some unique situations, but our reactions and actions have NOT been that unique IF compared to other cultures throughout history.
What IS unique is the location of this nation from other ‘advanced’ societies. What IS unique is that the nation was able TO distance itself from the monarchies and rulers who were VERY powerful in their HOME lands. What IS unique is that the Natives of this land, did their best to welcome the newcomers and help them adjust to the conditions of which the newcomers found themselves.
The America’s were VERY lucky and had many externalities working in their favor. Sadly many of the original colonists did NOT recognize or appreciate the REAL reasons WHY they had this good fortune, and actually believed it was through their own fortitude that THEY were able to ‘conquer’ the ‘New World”.
As a whole, they did not give credit to the Indigenous people who HELPED them survive…rather they looked at ‘those’ people as savages, and as their ‘lessors’ and wrote stories to those back in the ‘old world’ portraying their benefactors as a backward, unsophisticated, people, WHO THEY, themselves were helping to civilize. Those early settlers, were ashamed of themselves and their lack of ability to SURVIVE in such an uncultured, raw land that they actually didn’t appreciate the HELP they received from those WHO were experts in that environment. As such THEY ‘spun’ the story to make THEMSELVES look good and to make the natives look bad, to those back home. (Where have I heard this before???)
The people of their homelands bought their stories, hook, line and sinker. OF course they did. THESE were people THEY knew and understood, their countrymen, their brethren. From that perspective, the stories read or heard, made sense, and of course were factual…’Why would they lie?” The people back home, in ‘civilization’ had no reason to question the accounts and perspectives of their fellow countryman….’Why would they?” The people at home in Europe, have NEVER met these ‘savages’. They have NO idea what these ‘people’ are actually like…they only know WHAT they have been told about ‘these people’. They have NO understanding of their culture, it is utterly ALIEN to them. “How absurd” they think, when hearing of what type of housing the Native American’s live within. “HOW uncivilized” they think, when they learn how the people are dressed. “OH MY… ” they say or think, when they read or hear how the natives live.
Unfortunately, this trend of telling stories’ of success to those ‘left behind’ in the ‘Old World’ that romanticized and portrayed the “New World’ of the America’s as something ‘AMAZING’ and with untold fortune continued for many decades. Often times throughout America’s history, new arrivals provided ‘stories’ to their family back home, that created an illusion of success and well being. Most of the stories of ‘gilded street’s and ‘people living like kings’ were false, of course but those who took the risk and made the trip, did NOT want to tell their families back home that they had NOT achieved a better life in the “NEW WORLD”. Remember too, that most who actually TOOK the risk of moving to the ‘New World” were young….those who made the pilgrimage or took the chance to move across the world, were not those in their middle or senior years.
Now, in the mind of the relatively youthful, European, especially those who are highly ranked in society, such as the Royals, Nobles or the aristocrats, what they are hearing from the America’s about the natives is utterly barbaric. For those of lessor standing, such as Serfs, the America’s sound like an opportunity to escape their own unsavory lot. To the peons, the America’s appear to be something better than what they are currently living. To those of higher standing, unless they were of the aristocracy, the new world, provided an opportunity to INCREASE their own standing and become land owners WHO in turn could BECOME aristocrats in their own right.
In the minds of the less fortunate of European SOCIETY at the time, the ‘savages’ of the Americas don’t appear very difficult to manage. They, the Europeans (The French, The English, The Dutch, The Germans) of the time BELIEVED, regardless of their stature in society that THEY are more sophisticated and have more ability than the natives of the land. As to those of higher social ranking, such as merchants or minor lords,, the opportunities to build a new life for themselves in the new world was an OPPORTUNITY to advance from their CURRENT ranking. Religion, too, played a factor, for some, as they believed it was their ‘destiny’ and was a ‘sign from God’ that they should ‘civilize the savages’ while having an opportunity to practice their own beliefs as they so wished.
Now, in addition to those of various SECTS of European dissent and socioeconomic, theological backgrounds,including but NOT limited to English, Dutch, French, German,Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran and Jewish and various combinations thereof, there were also Indigenous people, (you know THOSE who lived here BEFORE the ‘New world” was ‘discovered’) who ALSO inhabited the region.
After quite some time, there were also people who were born in Africa and ‘other uncivilized places’ that were BROUGHT AND BOUGHT, against their own WILL to the Americas. Some of these unfortunate souls were actually SOLD by their own tribes, to the people who threatened their ability to survive or appealed to their own sense of SELF preservation, to actually SELL their own clans people into servitude. Others were CONQUERED and forced into slavery. Still others WERE coerced into making such deals’ while others were convinced by unsavory, ‘more’ sophisticated (i.e manipulative) Europeans to make such deals FOR the ‘benefit of their tribes’. Their were many REASONS why African’s were sold into servitude…however to HEAR some people tell the stories of this time period, one would believe, without explanation…’That their OWN people SOLD them into slavery”.
Now in addition, to the various groups of Europeans who came to the NEW WORLD, for VARIOUS reasons, and aside from the VARIOUS groups of Indigenous people WHO were ALREADY inhabiting this continent, as well as those who were brought here AGAINST their will, as time went on, other peoples from OTHER areas of the world, ALSO got wind of the ‘New World’ and ventured over through the years AFTER its ‘discovery’. During various times people from OTHER regions of Europe, Asia, Australia, etc. decided to make the pilgrimage to the Americas.
Throughout the KNOWN and recorded history of the America’s, various peoples from various places and cultures have considered the America’ s their home, AFTER having immigrated from other lands. As stated, the reasons that THEY came here are vast, and the regions from which they originated are ALSO very different…HOWEVER, the various reasons WHY they came here and the various places THEY originated FROM OR WHEN they came, are NOT really relevant. Truly, they are NOT. Because if the truth be known, no matter when, how or why your ancestors found themselves in the ‘New World’ or the ‘Americas’, none of US who came hear from other lands are TRULY ‘Native Americans’.
The only REAL ‘Native Americans’ are those who were ‘conquered’ by the Europeans who ‘founded’ this land, in the name of the ‘civilized’ cultures of the time.
AS always, contrary to the stories we are told from our youth, there is MORE than ONE reason why people ” did what they did”. The stories we are often told as children attempt to portray a VERY simplified version of what REALLY happened. Sadly, this simplified concept still exists today, in many of our ‘national’ stories. From history to economics and everything in between we are led to believe everything is ‘simple’ and that ALL concepts can be easily explained in a few short sound bytes or cute adages. WE are led to believe that medians are normal and outliers are not to be considered. We are taught to accept what our ‘betters’ have told us and ‘not question authority’. We are expected to conform and NOT question what we were told. Now, of course, there are some of the ‘unwashed’ massed who actually have the opportunity to learn the truth. These are the people, who are plucked from the masses to achieve access to the knowledge that TRULY is out there…these are those who are accepted to Universities of prestige or have the internal fortitude to ‘learn’ these concepts on their own.
These people ARE NOT the norm, nor are they an accurate representation of our society. The people who are either CHOSEN to LEARN the REALITIES of our world, or who have the acumen to discover it on their own, are NOT the ‘average’ American. Sadly, these people are the minority. Some of this elite minority, will use their knowledge for the greater good, and others in this category will use their abilities and acquired knowledge for their own gain, but make no mistake regardless of HOW these people chose to use their abilities and knowledge, whether that learning is acquired by gaining acceptance into specialized Universities of from their own innate curiousity, they are NOT the majority of Americans. These people are outliers and probably compose less than 25 % of the populace.
It is hard to get an accurate account, because of those who have chosen and are able to learn on their own without the aid of a University, are not counted. Even though the statistics say, that 27% of Americans obtain a Bachelors or higher, I’m not sure that the stats accurately measure the true ability of those who attain that piece of paper. I suspect, that a good portion, maybe 10-15% of those who attain the credentials are NOT really understanding their studies, or maybe legacy admissions, or are ‘good test takers’. So even if of the 17% of the 27% of those with Bachelor’s degrees ARE truly deserving of that credential and 10% aren’t, and 10 % of those without a ‘formal education’ have the ability and have taken the initiative to learn on their own…the stat barely changes. WE are still dealing with less than a 1/4 of the populace who is able to actually SEE and understand the bullshit!
Sadly, there are many in our society, who have not been taught about the truth of our national history, NOR have they taken the time to learn, on their own, about ALL of what has happened in our nation’s past. Too many of our fellow citizens have been subjected to indoctrination of various myths and quaint stories that paint a less than accurate picture of our nations founding, beginnings, trials and tribulations. Equally, as disturbing is that MOST, I would estimate 3/4 of our American society, IS NOT able or UNWILLING to actually LEARN about our history OR our political, economic, social or cultural issues. MOST of our society, simply does not CARE enough to out in the effort and ARE willing to blindly accept whatever is provided to them.
Now, remember, the various types of people who make up the American culture. From those of various socioeconomic, religious and national backgrounds, as well as those who are ‘indigenous to the land’. With all these various cultural identities in mind, not to even mention, those that have been fostered regionally by our 235 years of existence; from the concepts of the North, South, East and West, to those fostered by 50 different “Nation States” and ALL the different nations, religions and economic strata that make up our nation, HOW can ANY SANE, RATIONAL person conclude their is only ONE national AMERICAN identity??
So back to my original question….WHAT is a ‘REAL” American???
My off the cuff, quippy answer: A mixed race person; of Native, African, Asian, European heritage, whose forefathers, believed in Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindcu, Buddist religions; whose relatives have lived in the South, North, East and Western parts of the US; who likes Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey and Golf;, AND AT the same time, can shoot a gun, LOVE their neighbor, contribute to charity, run a successful international corporation, MAKE ridiculous amounts of money; while paying NO taxes, while starring in a reality TV show, wearing the latest fashions Designed in Europe (made in China) ; and looks like they are 25 (although REALLY 45) and married to someone 20 years their junior. This hypothetical person has a masters degree in international business, has an IQ of 100 and IS a woman with 2.5 kids. SHE is beautiful, vapid, intelligent and multicultal, fashionable, and FIT all at the SAME time!!!
Amazing…isn’t??? Somewhere along the lines, an old and wise saying has been lost…you can satisfy SOME people SOME of the time, but you CAN’T make EVERYONE happy ALL of the TIME.
Perhaps we need to remember where WE ALL came from and REMEMBER we aren’t always going to agree on everything. IT would also help if we REMEMBER that WE ALL aren’t always RIGHT and ALL come from different perspectives. NONE of US are omniscient or omnipotent, WE all HAVE baggage AND we ALL have histories.
No American is ‘pure’ and seriously….would we want to be?
I feel like an American.
Even though I’m a liberal, I’m still a real American.
As I once described myself to someone: I am a woman that is part Scottish, Irish, French, German and Native American. When you put that all together you get:
A person who is tight with their money,
Enjoys a good drink,
Loves to love,
Has a temper
and is entitled to go on the war path atleast once a month.
You only have to read Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to see how they felt about the Natives they found here:
“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
Another thing that has always amazed me is that we feel we are the only ones that can call ourselves Americans. There are many other countries and people in North America and South America. So, aren’t Mexicans American? Canadians, Brazilians, Cubians, etc, etc, etc? No, we are the “only Americans”. I really think it has a lot to due with not being able to say United Statians. 🙂
As always, enjoyed your article, Abby!
Hi Sally! SO you truly ARE a real American!!! 🙂
Excellent point about all the different types of Americans….I couldn’t agree more.
Excellent post! There are alot of people who fail to notice that the United States is part of a bigger picture and should act accordingly.
Being an American is a state of mind.
I’m part Assiniboine, part Cree and part French.
All you Europeans … get off MY lawn.
Especially you right-wingers obsessed with “illegals.”
You liberals can stay. Most of you get it.
Being American is a state of mind.
My favorite part about the states that are so obsessed with Mexicans wanting to live there, is that those states used to be part of Mexico. Until Sam Houston and US Grant stole it from them, that is.
I don’t usually think in terms of nationalism, but I think what made America different, was our constitution and our great land mass and variation of natural scenery. Deserts, mountains, plains, the great lakes, the warmer more humid areas in the south and the Everglades in Florida.
I certainly don’t view Americans in terms of superiority. What is it that makes us American? Citizenship. America is such a conglomerate of cultures and races, citizenship is the only determining factor in what makes up an American.
Thank you Kilgore, your last comment summed up my rather lengthy article, quite well!
As always abby, my pleasure.
Really nice, wise, passionately expressed essay, Abby! I enjoyed it a lot and fully jibe with its POV.
Thank you WTS! 🙂
Do you value other’s opinions but always consider yours to be the superior one? Well, you’re an American.
Do you feel like a comfortable life is entitled to you despite never having contributed to the well being of the republic? Well, you’re an American.
Do you feel that foreign cultures and customs are not just strange but possibly evil? Well, you’re an American.
Do you fawn over useless “royals” while tax money is frittered away to suspend them in constant luxury? Well, you’re probably British in this case, but you could just be watching CNN at 3 in the morning.
Does your racism sometimes interfere with your bigotry? Well, you’re an American.
Do you throw away entire plates of uneaten food simply because the seasoning was “a tad much”? Well, you’re an American.
Do you try your best everyday to deal with the constant give and take, knowing you won’t always succeed, and leave a better country than you found? Well, you’re an American.
Is this a good example of being an American?
Watching a Royal Wedding in England at 3 in the morning?
No is it an American thing to ridicule another culture than their own. If the Brits liked it, let them. It’s their day not Americans, so lets poke fun, like a true American, next we can make fun of Cinco de Mayo, eh?
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) is a holiday held on May 5 that commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. It is celebrated primarily in the state of Puebla and in the United States. While Cinco de Mayo sees limited significance in Mexico itself, the date is observed nationwide mostly in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. “Cinco de Mayo is not a Mexican holiday—it is an American Civil War holiday, created spontaneously by Mexicans and Latinos living in California who supported the fragile cause of defending freedom and democracy during the first years of that bloody war between the states.” Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.
It’s funny bito, I used to live in Southern California, and everybody would celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but nobody really knew why. I didn’t, and every time I asked someone, they didn’t know either. So we used to make fun of it because it had no apparent significance. We just thought it was a reason to have celebrations.
Killgore, I grew up in the west and Cinco de Mayo has always meant a celebration of Mexican-American culture. It is true though, Mexicans will have a celebration over just about anything! I love that about them.
e’cat, that’s one of the things about Mexicans that I really like. They have a large sense of life and love to celebrate it. They remind me of the Greeks in that way.
Exactly, Kilgore. I’m really not like that myself but I admire it in others. I vividly remember a 4th of July with my mother and bro out on my back deck. We’re quietly eating food from the grill while the Mexican family next door had this huge crowd there and music and firecrackers and beer and food and shouting … man, they were having a good time. We had to laugh at ourselves, the difference was so obvious.
When I was in Southern California, I was only about 30 miles north of the border. I didn’t like TJ, but I loved to go south of there. TJ was just a tourist trap, but just a little further south and you got into the real Mexico. The people are very warm and welcoming. (provided people showed a little respect)
KT, Living in SoAZ, I think I and many others do know the meaning of the holiday. Just like “president’s day” is a “White Sale” and so many other holidays have long forgotten their whys so has Cinco de Mayo.
Let me ask you this, on May first will you wear red and honor the the workers movement or send a spring bouquet to some one? On Labor Day, do most take time to appreciate organized labor for giving them the day off, the long weekend, or fire up the grill?
Sorry, a bit preachy, but I do tire of those that preach to me their revisionist, ignorant history and “want their county back.”
My apologies to you in advance for my rant.
I’m not sure why this reply was to me. I am surely not one who thinks his country has been taken away in the first place.
Cinco de Mayo is just a celebration of Mexican heritage, that actually started in California during the American civil war. I used to love to go to Carlsbad CA to celebrate it.
bito, it’s quite funny, but it doesn’t matter what I wear on any particular date. I only leave my place to go grocery shopping. I am somewhat of a hermit, and like it that way.
Kilgore, I’ve been to Mexico many times. I really love that place. There are things about it I don’t like — the incessant noise, for one! — but there’s something about it. I call it the “oh well country.” “Oh, well, I guess the train won’t leave at 9 o’clock.” But there is a side to that same characteristic that really draws me in. I always mellow out when I’m there. I like being able to say, “Oh well!” I’m not like that normally. I’m almost pointlessly driven in my daily life. I get a lot done but I miss a lot too. I’m definitely interested in slowing down and becoming more aware of my surroundings. Anyway, I’m very sad for Mexico right now because of all these drug killings. I hope it doesn’t destroy their economy by destroying the tourist industry.
That is very unfortunate. It really saddens me that the honest, hard working citizens have to be surrounded by that horrible behavior.
I haven’t been there since the 80s, so I don’t know what it’s like any longer. But from what I see in the news, the decent Mexican citizens are being held hostage by the cartel madness.
Hey, I stayed up the whole night to watch your 08 final election results, does that make me stupid?
Caring and concerned. I have a lot of American friends, some from over 30 years ago. I care about what happens to them.
You’re a great person.
No Caru, I’m just a good and loyal friend to people I love and care about, it is reciprocated many times over, so I feel lucky.
Like I said, a great person.
That is very sweet Caru, thank you. 😳
I don’t get the cynicism of your press bito. Are they just jealous, or are they “secret” British complaining because it’s their money too?
A fact. 78% of Brits like the Royals. My suggestion to your rabid msm, stuff it, and mind your own frigging business.
Do we tell you how to run your country?
Britain and Ireland are joined at the hip, so I take pride in myself at being able to snipe at the British Government just as I do my own.
This AV referendum is hilarious, in my opinion. The talking points the “No” side are putting out could be flipped, dismissed and destroyed in two sentences, but the “Yes” campaign is about as effective as a wilted cabbage.
And Ed Miliband just looks so hilariously out of place in it all.
Good times. 🙂
Caru it is sometimes hilarious, they are acting like a bunch of school boys, I’m enjoying it immensely too.
As you say,”Good times”. 🙂
The Queen brings in boatloads of tourist dollars (if we’re going to look at it through the monetary lens) while costing each citizen a relatively trivial amount.
I realize she may cost slightly more now, since this article is 3 years old, but she’s still a pretty good investment. 😆
Thanks kes. I’d like your petty media detractors to ask a Brit what they can buy for 66p these days, they would laugh until they choked.
That’s a really good point, Kes. When I was younger I used to scoff at the Royal Family, but the whole thing is probably the #1 tourist attraction in England!!
e’cat, this wedding alone surely must have provided a needed boost to the British economy. And it’s really harmless fun, too.
Of course, I wouldn’t be a fan of royalty that actually did claim to rule over the “peasants” and all that, but clearly that’s not the case here.
Kalima, Just a joke. Really. I meant no offense to it.
I was watching the Daily Show last night and they had John Oliver over in England for the wedding.
Making fun of it the whole time. And John Oliver is British. They reported that a recent poll showed that an overwhelming 80% didn’t think the wedding was such a great idea. They did a few in the street interviews and the people didn’t sound too excited.
So I’m just poking fun. Putting myself in their shoes. In these tough times I wouldn’t want this shoved in my face either. But you have to. They closed off half of London just to have it.
Ok, I’m just a bit touchy, I saw detractors in your msm and really had to wonder what was wrong with these people. Do they feed off “hate” about everything?
As for those polls, that’s nonsense, where were they done, as I said here, 78% of Brits are for the Royal family, the crowds in London yesterday would show that. I don’t care what some petty royal hater has compliled for his show. Do you think for one moment that they would include a lot of people who were for it, of course not. I think that Americans have a lot to learn about tradition, in this respect you are still a young country. My motto, if you don’t understand it, don’t knock it. I mean come on, you have a bloody “construction” mogul/mongrel challenging your President’s place of birth in your media, what on earth could be weirder than that, certainly not our Royal family.
Kalima, They actually did interview just as many people who were for it. They got more screen time as a matter of fact.
But still, it was all in jest. But I get some Brits problem with the whole thing. It costs a little over a billion pounds(1.6 billion US dollars) to keep up the Royal Family.
Most of the costs of the wedding will eventually be recovered so they shouldn’t be seen as a detriment. I’ve seen some video and it looked like a beautiful ceremony. I’m happy for those kids.
I just posted that in a national poll, 78% of Brits were still for the Royal family, and as for wasting tax payers money, I think that Americans need to look much closer to home to check their own wasteful spending for decades, you can bet it will be much, much more than the estimate for this wedding. You know the old saying that people living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, well it would work well in this instance too don’t you think?
Kalima, you said “our,” royal family. Are you British? I’m a bit confused here.
KT, if I may intrude, Kalima has stated that many times in her MB post. We have readers from over 93 countries and members from many. Our tweets go out worldwide about our posts. We may think that we are in our little corner of the world, we aren’t. This is not directed at you or anyone in particular but as a reminder to all members.
I’m a naturalized Brit since I was 19 KT. I was being “patriotic” because there is so much snark flying around.
Personally I don’t do America or other country bashing, I find it shallow and worthless but I will criticize governments like Iran’s who oppress their people.
Kalima, I only asked, because I thought you moved from America to Japan. Obviously I was mistaken.
I don’t like to bash other nation’s people, just their corrupt governments. Including America’s.
I like John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Imagine there’s no countries.
KT, I was born in Germany, left when I was 9 because my mother remarried a Welshman, and was in and out of both countries until I was 13 due to some serious anti-German, anti-Catholic feelings at my school. My mother, the last of 15 children of a Swedish couple who died, was adopted by my German grandparents, friends of my mother’s parent. My birth father was Estonian, and I’m in Japan because my Japanese husband brought me over from London a year after we were married there, which was nice of him I suppose, he could have left me behind. 😉
Wow, that’s a good deal of moving around. Enviable in a way. Kalima, I wasn’t trying to imply that you were lying about being British. I would never suspect you of lying. I was just under the misunderstanding of thinking you came from America. I don’t get up early enough for the morning blog, so I rarely go there. Hence my misunderstanding.
No problem at all KT, I didn’t think anything of it, and you would have to have been here longer to have know it anyway. Btw, MB is open 24/7. I don’t get here until your afternoons or early evenings anyway to reply to comments or read them.
Yes it was a lot of moving around, and I’ve been lucky to visit many different countries in my lifetime, it has helped me open my eyes to many things.
Kalima, that’s why I say your early years were enviable. What great opportunities to experience different cultures firsthand.
I can assure you KT that it wasn’t at the time, but I can appreciate it all much more since I became an adult, I could have turned out very bitter, but I didn’t, it was a part of my learning experience, and I have never held a grudge against the whole population of England, not even as a kid.
Oh Adonai…you certainly are bringing your A game today!!!
I LOVED your questions…and answers.
Abby, If I am at my best it is only because your wonderful posts are a true inspiration my friend! 🙂
Adonai, I did take your comment as being in jest and somewhat sarcastic and ironic. As such, I truly do appreciate your sense of humor…you often make me laugh!
I guess that makes me a lousy american. I do not do any of that.
Where is your national pride?
Well ADONAI, maybe just remembering that not everyone who posts here, or just comes to read here are Americans, might help.
The comment I was replying to, seems to be MIA.
Kalima, But this article is about America and Americans. I don’t know where I overstepped my bounds. It’s all just my opinion.
As I said, the royal wedding thing was just a joke. Actually, the whole thing was.
Yes and it’s a public blog read by people from 93 different countries. I didn’t say you overstepped your bounds, I believe you did, with your comment above. My comment was just that I didn’t understand the cynicism. The British public certainly don’t spend all day pondering about things happening in America.
You are entitled to your opinion, I just pointed out that I thought that you were wrong, kidding or not kidding. Also Jon Stewart is a comedian who often talks about politics and gets things right. I like him, but he is a comedian first, and not an authority on British traditions.
Kalima, I really do apologize if I offended you. Was not my intent.
As I said to AdLib above, I should be more mindful of how I present my opinion, in jest or not.
And I hope you don’t think I was calling the wedding itself a joke. if so, i can see the reason for the offense. And rightfully so. What I meant was that my off the cuff remark was a joke. Not the actual proceeding itself. I got respect for Prince William. And a big mouth.
Ok ADONAI there was really no need to apologize if you were kidding, still I’ve read a lot of negativity in your press, and it has become a bit of a sore point because I just don’t understand it, never will.
With that I must leave to start my Saturday morning ritual of cleaning the house. I will be wearing nothing but a Union Jack tied around my waist and my mother’s tiara on my head.. Have a nice night.
It is legit at The Planet to criticize America and any other country or their government or people.
Nothing is off limits from being criticized but those who take issue with a criticism have just as much right to express themselves.
As always, the main goal here is to be able to have such free expression without it becoming personalized and veering off into a conflict.
There has been delight and criticism about the Royal Wedding and it’s fair to express both. I think the key is not generalizing too broadly because when that happens, those members here who such a generalization would apply to may rightfully feel unfairly characterized.
Just as one wouldn’t refer to all people of a certain race or religion being one thing, the same would understandably apply to nationality.
I really am indifferent to the British royals. And we Americans have our own version of “royalty.” No Kings and Queens, but I would say the 1st family is a form of royalty, without the bloodlines.
We always have what FDR described as the “economic royalists…”
AdLib, Fair enough. I know my sense of humor is not universal. I shall work to dial it back a little.
No don’t. Your comment was spot on! All those different people are Americans, and more besides.
I Expect a healthy dose of sarcasm from you!
ADONAI, where does a son of Kentucky acquire such a razor-sharp sarcasm? 🙂
Very good post Abby, and if I may add this question is alive and well in Arizona.
I live in an area that was one of the last (1853) that was incorporated into the continental US, south of the Gila River http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadsden_Purchase ,a land infested with Mexicans and “Injuns.”
I’m not going to go into the history only to say that it has had a long history of unique culture with a strong Mexican influence.
Flip the page to today there is quite a row over “Ethnic Studies” program in the schools. The legislature calls is “un-American” and worse, educators call it a valuable tool in learning the history and culture in this part of the state. Listening to the students, they know they are Americans and proud of it, but they do have a heritage deeply entrenched in this corner of the US.
This is a segment from our local PBS shown last night on the controversy.
Just a note, these studies are not about immigrant cultures, these studies are on the native cultures, odd that the can be consider un American by a bunch of white-European immigrants.
Thanks for the links Bito.
It’s truly amazing isn’t it, how some people just will NOT accept that the American culture is a MIXTURE of various ethnic groups, as well as socioeconomic groups?
The lack of REAL understanding of the wide swath of cultural influences that have made up the American culture, and the desire to squash the learning of all the different ethnic influences upon our American society, is rather disturbing.
The USA is very diverse; much more diverse than most other countries. As I said elsewhere, the USA probably has people living the USA who are from, or are, descended form, most of the different groups in the world.
Whether or not people accept it is their affair. That is the reality of life in the USA.
Abby, as much as I appreciated your post I hope you liked the video. When I was younger, our family went to many ethnic cultural social clubs, some as guests and some as members (mostly for the food 😉 ). One could travel through the area and see any number of different cultural clubs/societies. Swedish, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Lithuanian (not so much German-because of the wars)……. You name it there was a club/society hall available.
When one went in to them, they not only served great food, some spoke their mother tongues.
Did anyone challenge them on whether they were “Americans”? not to my knowledge. They made a choice to come here-they were proud- they were and are my neighbors.
We are not exceptional because of what we do ( we lack in many areas), but because of who we are as a people, a country of many, the melting pot.
An irony on my part, no one has ever seen any citizenship papers from my GGFather,rumor has it he jumped ship. I’m an illegal. 😉
Again, thank you for your post.
Are we going to have to start calling you “Anchor Baby” b’ito? 😉
k’es, If you report me, I’ll deny it, except I don’t have a long form BC and I’m not sure if I have the short one handy. Just like a bloody Swede, sneaking into the country and now their socialists or were they always that?!
😆 My grandfather really WAS a Socialist, b’ito…as were my parents when they were young.
Later they mellowed into being “mere” Democrats. McCarthy would have had a field day with my family tree.
I suspect (and POV members that live in other places can and will comment on this, I expect) that the USA is viewed in other places in the world as an adolescent nation, a petulant teenager at best, and one with enough power to be dangerous and to be handled carefully. And collectively, US citizens are hardly much better. We have a lot of growing up to do, both as a nation and as individuals, and our politics shows that without a doubt.
A few points…
The ‘rugged individualist’ myth was actually generated by dime novelists back in the 19th Century, generally by British writers. Back then, Britain had a problem. There were many 2nd and 3rd sons of aristocrats that were not going to inherit, and were going to be a drag on family incomes and hanging around to cause trouble if something wasn’t done. What better than to encourage them to emigrate to the States with stars in their eyes of becoming either rich or self-sufficient in the opening West? So, dime novels romanticized cowboys and adventures. If you asked any actual cowboy about his work, he’d tell you absolutely that it was anything but romantic. It’s tough, rugged work, out in the weather for days and weeks at a time, bad food, recalcitrant horses, bad water, no company, and bugs, snakes and always the danger of getting sick or injured and dying alone out there somewhere.
The reality for the vast majority out West was very much like village life anywhere. Most people lived where they had access to infrastructure, and banded together for all kinds of things. To do otherwise was to die quickly and alone, just as it’s been since Man began. We are a social species, and groups survive where individuals perish. Why does anyone think “shunning” is so bad? That’s a death sentence in a pre-modern world.
In the US, we have culturally forgotten the 20-30 year economic swings that occurred like plagues of locusts up until the late 19th Century. Boom and bust was the norm, and only since Teddy Roosevelt’s time have things improved. Up until that time, the rich fleeced everyone with commodity booms, got out when everything collapsed, and waited until all the commoners put the economy back together again and generated enough common wealth to be raided once again by a new crop of sociopaths. The recognition of the whys and wherefores of that cycle and the idea of the commons we all have invested in, along with regulation of monopolies changed all that, and we know the rest of that story. Americans in general have NO sense of history.
Well, I could go on for days, but there’s a couple of things to chew on… or not! LOL
“I suspect that the USA is viewed in other places in the world as an adolescent nation, a petulant teenager at best, and one with enough power to be dangerous and to be handled carefully.”
I am sad to say that PW is right on this one. My dad, who works with people from across the globe from places such as France, Israel and America, has frequently told me (I’m paraphrasing here) that many of the Americans that he’s met tend to come across badly to others.
It’s really unfortunate.
I must admit, that I too, often look at the United States as the teenager of the world.
And I tend to agree, I think most people outside of the US, don’t think highly of the Americans they meet.
It is unfortunate.
In 1900, Europe was on top of the world; mighty Europe. Then came 1914; goodbye to all that. It had to be learned again: 1939.
The second time, 60 million died. Americans did not want to get involved in either war. With good reason.
1945 was zero hour for Europe; Europe had to put itself back together after trying to destroy itself twice. Perhaps, Europe has learned something. In many cases they have. But, not all.
When I was working, I had, on several occaisions, to go to Europe on business. There were a few uncultured Europeans who made fatuous remarks about Americans. Most had the good sense to be gracious. I ignored the remarks; there was no good to be done by having any response. Silence made my point.
The USA is not “exceptional”. It is, in some ways, fortunate.
So is Europe, “fortunate”. In 1945, Europe had the opprtunity to start over. It did fairly well.
I know what you mean PW…I could go on and on about all the different myths that have perpetrated within our culture to create the story of America. In addition to all the historical situations that have led to our current place.
Unfortunately, there is not the room! I appreciate the additional information you provided, some of the information you provided was the inspiration for this piece. 🙂
Am I the only person here really bugged by groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution?
HH – NOW we’re talkin’ ELITIST!!!!
I’m part Moari, Irish, Scottish AND Aboriginal … my ancestors have been in North America a LOT longer than the dang DAR!
And if your part Irish/Scottish you have 90% chance you have Viking genes also.
Maybe, though from what I’ve heard a large portion of my ancestors came from France.
Caru, and those nasty Wikings had many settlements there too. 😉
Sorry for the synchronicity, PW.
fox – nothing else to call ’em, really!
I wouldn’t imagine you are, HH.
It’s just status and an extended family for members of the elite. (IMO)
No, I don’t think you are alone in that sentiment HH!
A very thoughtful and well expressed article, Abbyrose.
From my vantage point, those who voluntarily came to these shores and made the most of their given situation, facing the discrimination that those of no better standing bestowed upon them (excluding this continent’s original population who attempted to defend themselves)…these are the “real Americans”.
Transplants and mongrels alike.
For the rest of us who are offspring, we are but (fortunate) accidents by birth
To some this can present itself as a blessing while to others, as a curse.
But as far as curses go, even those — in America, ain’t too shabby. And if it appears to be, America provides quite a few more options to change that (to at least some degree) than the vast majority of other counties presently populated.
Am I a “real American”? Are you? Are “they”?
As things stand, America is stuck with us as much as we are stuck with America…and each other.
It’s nigh time we made the best of it together.
There are a multitude of far worse places to be stuck on this world.
I say that there is no such thing as a “real american”.
I say that question come from the fact that the USA is very diverse. I expect that nearly every ethnic/language group in the world has people of that ancestry living here. Plus, religions.
This distingushes the USA from most of the rest of the world.
This makes some people pretty uncomfortable.
The USA is unique in other ways: the two oceans give us a physical separation from the rest of the world.
The diversity and sectionalism of the USA also led to the constitution; the differing interests of the regions and states had to be negotiated at the convention.
We are not a country with one nationality; or one ethnic group; or one religious group.
That is not going to change, and the people who are uncomfortable with that fact of life – will have to live with it as best they can.
The natives – who were living here when the Europeans got here – got a raw deal.
I couldn’t agree more Agrippa on all counts.
That was a fantastic post, Abby. You can lay the tracks for your train of thought much better than I can. Forgive me, if I go off on a tangent here.
I’ve often wondered what makes a species native to a geographic location. Is it that the species evolved there? Is it simply a matter of the length of time that the species has dwelt there and if so how long must a species live in a land to be considered native.
If I take the first definition, then human beings are only native to a small section of the African continent. If we take the second definition, then humans may be more native to the deserts of Arabia than to some metropolitan cities.
It’s a very interesting question, I think.
Again, fantastic post, Abby, especially the Native American parts. One of your points reminds me of a thought I had while reading the “US Declaration of Independence” recently (I had been reading the “Irish Declaration of independence” and wanted to see if there was any crossover). This example listed in the grievances against the King struck me as I read it:
“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
I mean, why did they includes this as a grievance? Perhaps I’m missing something, but it just seems out of place in comparison to the others.
Caru – I agree with you. It always struck me as very odd given the unity on the frontiers of the time of Indians and the Brits which most colonists certainly considered themselves, against the French and those Indians who allied, wisely or not, with them.
The very brief moment of accord, 1620-1630, waxed and waned from the arrival of the Puritans on. That was true everywhere. The people arriving – surely NOT natives to the land – simply could not follow the Pilgrim lead of respect for indigenous nations. That the discord was laid at the feet of the King was beyond absurd since it was the colonists themselves who waged war against Indian nations and people off and on.
That always seemed to me to be an accusation that simply carried emotive weight rather than truth. The battles between English settlers along the Mohawk, in Deerfield, etc. were terrifying to colonists since they LOST most of those encounters. These battles occurred away from the highly settled cities among people who were not much concerned with the issues of independence from the government. But they had received little to no help from the British army in defending themselves against Indian revenge actions. Inclusion of fearmongering about Indians then was a good way to argue for the western parts of the colonies to join the independence movement by laying their OWN actions at the feet of the King.
That is a terrific question Caru, and I too, have wondered the same. In my studies that question has arisen as well, and with many definitions.
That is an interesting comment in the grievances, I didn’t realize such a statement was contained within the document. Perhaps I had read it once and didn’t truly think of the significance of that comment. I think I need to think about that one.
Wow Abbey – I think you’ve nailed the single biggest problem in defining “what is a real American” by showing that there is no one such person. When I, like you, lived in Buffalo, we called ourselves the city of good neighbors. That was as often NOT true as true, but it was sufficiently accurate to hold us all in thrall about our essential kindness to one another. I think most Americans believe that is our key superiority: we cooperate in small things such as bringing food to sick neighbors as in big such as helping one another after 9/11.
Of course it comes smack up against our other belief that we are all rugged individualists, self sufficient and standing on our own two feet. I like to remind people that taking responsibility for oneself requires that you have that opportunity, and the opportunity is narrowing for us all. We grow daily more dependent upon the whims of corporations and their control over our incomes and ability to thrive economically. It’s not the government that does us in but corporate control that can hire and fire, pay less or more, dole out or withhold benefits, raze our neighborhoods to build their casinos, and separate our families to fight their wars. Who among us really is self sufficient living by our own lights and sustaining ourselves in solitude?
Even those who settled the nation depended on cooperation more than rugged individualism. We have forgotten we crossed the Plains in wagon trains not alone. We may have had individual shareholds to farm, but we relied on our towns and its division of labor for the things we needed that we could not produce ourselves. Farmers did not make plows. They did not spin and weave all their cloth. They did not make their rifles and hoes and nails – those were things they obtained from others by cash or barter. All economic self sufficiency still involves cooperation.
Mythology – the John Wayne image – informs us in ways genuine history does not. We know so little about non-market frontier economics we believe that magically we could come to the frontier, pick out a piece of land apparently for free, and set up a nice house, have farm stock and horses with shoes, guns and whale oil lamps all on our own, no one else involved. Our rugged manly men would keep the womenfolk safe with steadfast courage and a quick gun. Yeah. Right.
The issue of cooperation has given way to hyper-individualism. When Reagan picked up the late 19th-century mantra that government was not the solution but the problem, he also implicity gave reign to the idea that none of us owed the rest of us anything. Me for me and me alone. Period. It was the belief of the Robber Barons steeped in Social Darwinism – the survival of the fittest in practice if not in biology – that justified preying on others for one’s own reward. Well that’s back and standing tall as a principle.
The Puritans and other settlers did indeed prey on those who helped them. The Pilgrims began all this well (Pilgrims being distinct from Puritans, BTW) in a remarkable care and concern for the land trades they made with the indigenous people. That did not last long, but it was a sincere respect for what they took – they detailed in the most minute manner that they would claim this parcel and no more. It was written out carefully and given, in translation, to the Narragansett and Wampanoag people. They did not see them as savages but as the prime claimants on the land. Land ownership was critical to the Pilgrims since dispossession in England was their lot as dissenters. But they were not rapacious – that came later from other sources. So briefly we did the right thing. But only briefly, and to justify taking land without that care for those here first required our de-humanizing of the original occupants. And so it goes until this day. Me for me and me alone, and you don’t even count.
There is a balance, and we’ve often struck it. The Progressive movement restated that balance between self and others, between wealth for the few and equity for the majority. We don’t seem very good at keeping that promise on our own, but the New Deal ratified it, it worked well for most, and then along came the hyperindividualists once again, and BAM! We’re back to exploitation. This time we are all the victims of the few.
We cannot seem to make up our minds whether it’s better to share in a sustainable way or to permit exploitation of our work, natural wealth, and laws to permit the few to flourish even at our own expense. Thanks to magical thinking – streets paved with gold, land of milk and honey – too many of us believe we will all be rich so we let the rich be unfettered in the fervent hope we will get there, too.
Once the image of America was Louis Hine’s workman with a wrench, was Grant Woods’ “American Gothic”, was Rosie the Riveter. We once celebrated the blue collar guys and gals, the lunchbucket folks who built our capital and consumer goods. We once honored the fireman, police officer, postal worker, teacher, small town doctor, George Bailey. We fought a Civil War to overturn the kinds of rich and powerful who traded in human bodies and lives. We built a union movement to equal in power another kind of ruling class that did the same without enslavement. We developed the Grange to assure that farmers were not driven into tenancy. We fought for equality and freedom for all – and then we voluntarily gave it all up.
We have allowed ourselves to be seduced by magical thinking and bright shiny objects to the point where we’ve sold our own future to make secure the future for the rich and powerful we migrated here to escape. We are rebuilding a new feudalism and don’t even see what we’re doing.
The only hope, as in all times past, is the uprising of those same people we once honored, who we once were. The voices from WI, IA, OH, IN, etc. are the revitalization of a free and equitable society. So maybe, once again, we will turn things around. But we have to stop being seduced by false promises made by false prophets and remember why we are Americans: One nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you Choice Lady for adding all that to the article!
That was fabulous!
My point in writing this was to bring about a dialogue about the myths that permeate our culture as well as the truths about our nations history and all the different cultures that encompass this nation.
WE are not only a Christian Protestant nation of WHITE European heritage. WE are a very diverse culture with many components and it’s high time we started to ACCEPT and acknowledge our differences in a positive way, rather than denigrate others who are not just like ourselves. I think IF we manage to do that and REALLY come together, we might actually be able to save ourselves.
Abby, thanks so much for raising these ideas up for discussion.
Don’t you wish we could go beyond acceptance of other cultures to actual celebration of them?
My little rustbelt city here in Ohio does manage to transcend the bickering throughout the summer months. Every single weekend we have at least one festival going on. There’s the Polish Festival, the Hungarian Festival, the German one, the Irish one, the Mexican one, “Juneteenth,” (an African-American celebration), the Muslim International Festival, the Hindu Festival, and I’m sure I’m forgotten some of the other ones.
People in this town may be fat from all that festival food. But they get along pretty well.
There’s something to be said for being too fat and happy to fight… 😉
AND, you’ve got the largest mosque in North America!
Well, pretty close, WTS! I think Dearborn has us beat, but ours is very impressive:
Really? Dearborn Michigan? Was it built more recently perhaps? Because I always remember hearing about how Toledo’s was the biggest in N.A.
Anyway, it makes quite an impression as one passes it on the highway.
The Dearborn structure was built in 1963, WTS, which makes it older than our current one, and it describes itself as the largest in North America. But I think the Toledo congregation may have been around longer — about 75 years. You’re right. The sight of the one near Toledo from the expressway is really amazing. “The mosque in the corn fields.”
Here’s the Dearborn one:
They’re both quite impressive. I gotta say I go for the Dearborn minarets though.
Dearborn has mastered the minaret, WTS.
k’es, you beat me to it. Yes, growing up in the industrial belt it was hard to not find an ethnic cultural group not represented. Two of our family friends were a Croat and a Serb and to have them over for coffee and cake was to invite an fun argument not unlike the Swedes and “those” Norwegians, but did anyone dare to question their allegiance to the US and their citizenship, hardly,and I only saw it once, and that was by the FBI and their McCarthyism.
b’ito, the midwestern motto should be “Unity Through Food.”
The immigrant voters/citizens in our community were so proud of their citizenship and they never took it for granted. They stayed informed on the candidates and issues and they VOTED!
No kidding…THAT food thing can REALLY unite people! 🙂
kes, I love the Greek festival every year in Columbus. And the Italian festival as well. I am often critical of Columbus, but there are some really nice things about the city. Especially, as you say, in the summer. I even enjoy Octoberfest, in German Village.
Oh, I forgot the Greek Festival! We have one of those, too!
We don’t have an Italian one that I’m aware of. (Might have to travel to Columbus for the Italian one.)
And our German one goes on for 3 days. It’s a real blowout, with music, dancing, rides, food and even a stone tossing contest (big, huge, heavy things) in which even some of the women compete!
When I was in high school, I had a friend who was Greek, and he would invite me to Greek festivals every year. I just loved them. The dancing, the music, the roasted lamb, done over a big spit. And the ouzo, which I can’t partake in now, but sure did have fun with it in the past.
Kesmarn, where I am from, we too have all those festivals…the FOOD at all of them is awesome!!!
I truly enjoy the various ethnic fests and learning about different cultures. I think it is a good thing.