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What Does it Mean to be American?

 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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23 December 2019 07:44
 

From your personal perspective what does that mean?  As a citizen and as a country. 

There’s no trick I just want to know.  Coz I’m not one.  And have only a personal perspective of the society in which I live.  The United States appears to be extremely divided but I don’t think that is an accurate depiction of what is really happening.  I recognize the divisiveness I just think it’s amplified and projected out into the world to make it seem much worse than it actually is.  So is it?  When you’re interacting day to day.  I doubt it.  I think those who are thinking divisively are going out of their way to do it.  And I am wondering if those of you who aren’t are willing to corral those of you who are in order to right the ship.  Are you the type of citizen to stand up for someone else or kick them when they’re down?  Where do you draw the line?

Is there a way to get past all the shouting and turn the corner the nation needs to round?

 
 
Celal
 
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Celal
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23 December 2019 09:56
 

For me as immigrant, it means living in the the freest country on Earth. Whilst the said freedom can sometimes bring out the worst in people, it can also bring out the best. I, as an immigrant, have experienced the best. Being an American means to me living in a country where Americans are socially more equal than any other people. America is where we call the waiters “Sir”.  America is the only country I know where you can come as an immigrant and become “American”. To appreciate that one would have to understand that you can never go and become citizens of other countries like Turkey, Iran, Russia, Afghanistan, etc AND become Turk, Persian, Russian and Afghan respectively.  I’m an anti anti-American for this and other reasons.

Freedom, by definition, includes the freedom to do good or bad, exploiting opportunities or taking a dump in the streets, to act nobly or basely. Whilst we see many examples of the worst, we also see examples of the best. 

The divisiveness, from my perspective, amplified by pursuant of Identity politics and political correctness.

 
MARTIN_UK
 
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MARTIN_UK
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23 December 2019 12:16
 

I’m not American either… some may have noticed!?

So I too am interested in this question and all your answers.

I wonder if the UK appears divided too?

 
burt
 
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burt
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23 December 2019 14:42
 

As an American who has lived in Canada since 1973 I have a semi-outside view. Whenever I’m in the US I see less division than when at home. I’m basically reacting to Celal, however, whose post gives me a certain insight into his political rants here. I was raised with the emphasis on the relation of freedom and responsibility: being free to own a gun carries the responsibility of knowing how to use it safely; freedom to vote implies the responsibility to inform oneself on the issues and vote accordingly; freedom of speech implies the responsibility of being truthful and speaking responsibly, equality implies the responsibility of treating others as equals, and so on. In general, freedom of action implies being willing to take responsibility for the consequences of that action. Take a dump in the street and get arrested. Too many people focus only on the freedom side of the coin and get offended when they believe that their “freedoms” are being denied. Something that I noticed when a student in Berkeley in the late 60s was that Persian students were notorious for being off the wall wild and crazy. Later, working in Iran, I mentioned this to a friend who said that it was a response to having gone from a highly restrictive society to one where there was so much freedom and they hadn’t been trained to handle it. Perhaps Celal comes under that heading, too.

 
Skipshot
 
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Skipshot
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23 December 2019 17:24
 

There is no clear definition of “American” except what is self-proclaimed, and Celal is right that being an American is a matter of declaring it.  Sort of like being Christian or Muslim, you agree to follow the ways of American society as it is locally defined.  In the election of 2008, Sarah Palin claimed to represent “real Americans” and got a massive backlash for that crack and never brought it up again. 

The United States does not have an officially declared official language, but de facto is English.  There are elementary schools in my city which teach primarily in Spanish or Cantonese because of the local populace, and as far as I know, no one considers those children less than American.  The OP’s title recently came up in an impromptu discussions I have had with foreign born friends who felt they belonged to neither America nor their native-born countries, mainly because they don’t look like the classic, white American, and my response has been that I consider them American.  California was taken from Mexico, and the Chinese have been in this state since before it was a state, and those cultures have contributed to the definition of American, or at least Californian.

But I am speaking only as a metropolitan American, and certainly not for the rest of the country, since I have been strongly influenced by the people in my surroundings who are of all kinds.  The local news runs stories of the latest batch of naturalized Americans when they take the oath of citizenship en masse at a local 3,500-seat theater, and few, if any, are white.

The differences I see in Americans today are cultural.  America’s culture is changing quickly from being dominated by straight/white/Christians to having to accept gay/brown/you-name-it-religion, and many of the dominant class don’t like it, but to express racism openly is taboo now, so racist sentiments are dog-whistled via politics, and Fox News is deftly taking advantage of it.  It will be a while before we get through this storm because people like to make their first-impression decisions about others based on what can be seen in five seconds.

 
GAD
 
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GAD
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23 December 2019 17:36
 

It means whatever you want it to mean, or, can sell it as.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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23 December 2019 18:19
 

It means that I am a citizen of the United States of America, and that the place I call “home” (whether I’m currently residing there or not) is located within the borders of same.

 
 
MARTIN_UK
 
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MARTIN_UK
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23 December 2019 23:49
 
Skipshot - 23 December 2019 05:24 PM

...to express racism openly is taboo now, so racist sentiments are dog-whistled via politics, and Fox News is deftly taking advantage of it.  It will be a while before we get through this storm because people like to make their first-impression decisions about others based on what can be seen in five seconds.

Interesting Skip, I see similar too in Europe, so I don’t think this is a problem only in the US.

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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24 December 2019 07:29
 

Over-simplification alert:

The GOP has become the party of fear-mongers. That coupled with extraordinary income and wealth inequalities has left millions of middle-America, religious, rural Americans with cognitive dissonance. America is supposed to be awesome, but their lives suck and they are afraid. The GOP feeds their fear and sows divides.

Inevitable Oligarchy alert:

The oligarch have infected and poisoned most every aspect of American life. Our education system has been seriously weakened. Our environmental protections have been weakened. Millions of Americans whose legacy was that of comfortable middle class-ness have been reduced to two-income families whose ends still aren’t really meeting. Many tremendously successful corporations have become “parasite corporations” - bolstering their success by (legally) cheating the system.

 
 
PermieMan
 
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PermieMan
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24 December 2019 08:48
 

‘In God We Trust’ is archaic because it references ‘union of the nation’ from what has been rather than what is to be in an era of A.I. and Climate Change.  Therefore in god we trust is what it isn’t to be American.  I am the 7th generation of General George B. McClellan of the Civil War.  And although he was of the Union Army he was hotly controversial in his day.  Our family ended up taking the moniker of him as a Confederate post WWII.  However, McClellan was also an engineer you designed the McClellan saddle used by the U.S. Army as their Calvary saddle for over 60 years.  He was also President of the Union Pacific Railroad for many years in the 1860’s and elected as the Governor of New Jersey in the 1870’s.  His son George became the Mayor of New York City.  The name George was handed down in the McClellan family but ended with my Grandmothers brother George who was the one who died in WWII.
What it means to be American is something like the rising of the Phoenix.  And not until Americans are willing to become accountable to the global consequences / repercussions of our actions.  If we fail in doing this, what it means to be American is what is was to be McClellan in being relegated to half-heartedness through the dependency in solidified relationships. 
BTW-it is well know that McClellan used his connections with the railroad to offer resources to the U.S. Army post Mexican America war as a soldier which was the proprietary he reason for his expedited promotions to a Union General. 

[ Edited: 01 February 2020 06:25 by PermieMan]
 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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25 December 2019 08:10
 

That I was born in the western hemisphere or else adopted it as my legal residence.

 
unsmoked
 
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unsmoked
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25 December 2019 11:34
 
icehorse - 24 December 2019 07:29 AM

Over-simplification alert:

The GOP has become the party of fear-mongers. That coupled with extraordinary income and wealth inequalities has left millions of middle-America, religious, rural Americans with cognitive dissonance. America is supposed to be awesome, but their lives suck and they are afraid. The GOP feeds their fear and sows divides.

Inevitable Oligarchy alert:

The oligarch have infected and poisoned most every aspect of American life. Our education system has been seriously weakened. Our environmental protections have been weakened. Millions of Americans whose legacy was that of comfortable middle class-ness have been reduced to two-income families whose ends still aren’t really meeting. Many tremendously successful corporations have become “parasite corporations” - bolstering their success by (legally) cheating the system.

It being Christmas, let’s not forget Trump’s tremendous Christmas gift to America - splitting the U.S. into two irreconcilable camps.  ‘The Democrats hate me and (thus) hate America.  The majority that didn’t vote for me are enemies of the people.’

And the greatest gift to the world that the world has ever seen . . . retrograde environmental policies speeding up the destruction of the planet’s ecosystems - hastening the extinction of millions of species and bringing disaster to countless people.

What does it mean to be an American?  It means you live next to people who think science is a hoax and, given 4 more years, Trump is going to make the country great again.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/05/ipbes-un-biodiversity-report-warns-one-million-species-at-risk/
 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-energy-202/2019/10/10/the-energy-202-trump-attacks-energy-efficient-lightbulbs-says-you-look-better-with-incandescent/5d9e2c2f602ff16116ea48a3/

[ Edited: 25 December 2019 11:37 by unsmoked]
 
 
Cheshire Cat
 
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Cheshire Cat
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26 December 2019 11:20
 

America was founded by religious zealots and people trying to make a fast buck. God and Greed. This has stayed a major theme of the American psyche.

This country was fortunate in one main aspect: the founding fathers were of the Enlightenment era who believed in rationalism. They tried to make a government immune to either the will of the wealthy elite few or the whims of the mob. The history of America has been a roller coaster ride between these competing factions.

I was born in the 50s when there was still an optimism toward the future and a sense of unity that was the residual of Americans having come together to fight World War II. This has shifted gradually towards an “Everyman For Himself” attitude and the divided nation we have today.

To many, the essence of America is a military for protection, and the ability to make money unimpeded. Everything else about government is seen as the enemy.

Others see America as an exclusive culture based on race (white), and religion (Protestant). Making sure their religious values are imposed on the majority and that the white race is dominant are their main concerns.

I would imagine that to most Americans, native-born ones at least, the country is familiar “home,” the place they were born. They think it will not change in fundamental ways and that it will exist more or less in the same way it always has. If the country drifts too far in one extreme, it will shift towards the center and right itself once again.

I’m not so sure this.

The wealthy and corporations have gained the upper hand in this land. Lobbyists write legislation on behalf of their benefactors, and the paid-for politicians pass them into law. I’m wondering if this time, the deck is simply too stacked against the common citizen to ever shift again.

Paradoxically, I think those on both the left and the right realize how rigged the game is against them. Trump was a Hail Mary attempt to bring about change. He’s only solidified the problem even more. I suppose, if both political poles put aside their cultural differences and joined together, change might actually happen. This most likely won’t happen: there’s too much tribalism, and too many interests who make money promoting the “culture wars” which divide us.

[ Edited: 26 December 2019 13:06 by Cheshire Cat]
 
 
unsmoked
 
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unsmoked
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26 December 2019 12:19
 
Cheshire Cat - 26 December 2019 11:20 AM

America was founded by religious zealots and people trying to make a fast buck. God and Greed. This has stayed a major theme of the American psyche.

This country was fortunate in one main aspect: the founding fathers were of the Enlightenment era who believed in rationalism. They tried to make a government immune to either the will of the wealthy elite few or the whims of the mob. The history of America has been a roller coaster ride between these competing factions.

I born in the 50s when there was still an optimism toward the future and a sense of unity that was the residual of Americans having come together to fight World War II. This has shifted gradually towards an “Everyman For Himself” attitude and the divided nation we have today.

To many, the essence of America is a military for protection, and the ability to make money unimpeded. Everything else about government is seen as the enemy.

Others see America as an exclusive culture based on race (white), and religion (Protestant). Making sure their religious values are imposed on the majority and that the white race is dominant are their main concerns.

I would imagine that to most Americans, native-born ones at least, the country is familiar “home,” the place they were born. They think it will not change in fundamental ways and that it will exist more or less in the same way it always has. If the country drifts too far in one extreme, it will shift towards the center and right itself once again.

I’m not so sure this.

The wealthy and corporations have gained the upper hand in this land. Lobbyists write legislation on behave of their benefactors, and the paid-for politicians pass them into law. I’m wondering if this time, the deck is simply too stacked against the common citizen to ever shift again.

Paradoxically, I think those on both the left and the right realize how rigged the game is against them. Trump was a Hail Mary attempt to bring about change. He’s only solidified the problem even more. I suppose, if both political poles put aside their cultural differences and joined together, change might actually happen. This most likely won’t happen: there’s too much tribalism, and too many interests who make money promoting the “culture wars” which divide us.

https://skywaterearth.com/2018/05/23/why-do-republicans-hate-renewable-energy-and-the-environment/

This article elaborates on what you are saying:

“There is an attack against renewable energy and the environment in this country. It is being conducted by large utilities, coal, and oil companies. The impact will affect our energy policies, manufacturing, economy, and environment for decades. It is abetted by Republican state and federal legislators that are being duped and lobbied with misinformation on renewables. It is catalyzed by contributions for reelection campaigns by these same special interests. It is coordinated by a network of conservative think tanks. Unfortunately, the public is largely unaware of this, and we will all pay an extreme price. America is for sale.

Bold statements? Perhaps. This article focuses on renewable energy but it applies to the environment as well because they are so closely connected. While renewable energy is making positive strides in this country because of clear economics, it is easy to miss the incremental creep of the fossil fuel industries on our environment and renewable energy. Yet when taken as a whole, a pattern emerges, and it is overwhelming. All one has to do is look at the sixty-seven recent environmental regulations that the Trump administration is rolling back. Or the fossil fuel appointees of the current administration. All it takes is a look at the actions by special interests and the results in states around the country.

The Simple Case for Renewable Energy

Let’s start with a question, “Why would anyone want to kill clean free renewable energy?” While the costs of oil, coal and nuclear keep going up, renewable energy is essentially free after an initial capital investment. The amount of sunshine striking the earth for one hour has the potential to power the earth for a year. The costs of solar and wind have dropped dramatically over the last ten years. Wind is now cheaper than coal in $ per kilowatt hour and solar is reaching parity with natural gas.

More than that, it is clean. “Who want’s the alternative, dirty polluting fossil fuel?” We have come to a point when the era of fossil fuels is coming to an end. Our proverbial car is in the garage with the motor running and the door closed. We have reached the limits of our atmosphere and water, and can no longer use them as garbage dumps for carbon without huge and catastrophic consequences. For example, The Guardian reports, “Artic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level.” Or The Independent reports, “Great Barrier Reef can no longer be saved.” Or climate change will decrease crop yields up to 50% and affect food security.

Lastly, renewable energy is now creating more jobs than fossil fuels. Solar energy jobs are growing 12 times as fast as the US economy. Let’s ask, “Who doesn’t want more jobs?” “Right now, clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America, and that growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day,” Sierra Club executive director, Michael Brune, said in a statement. “These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.”

Read more in article.

 

 
 
Cheshire Cat
 
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Cheshire Cat
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26 December 2019 13:26
 

Yeah, same old, same old.

Make renewable energy and the cutting of greenhouse gases into a divisive culture war topic to distract and confuse, while maintaining the status quo and profits of the oil companies.

I wish it wasn’t all so predictable.

 
 
unsmoked
 
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unsmoked
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27 December 2019 12:20
 

What does it mean to be American?  For 63 million Americans, it means supporting and voting for a racially divisive president.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/17/politics/donald-trump-race-america-democrats/index.html

Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by 3 million votes.  What do 3 million people look like?  50 sports stadiums each filled with 60,000 voters.

https://www.shutterstock.com/search/football+stadium+crowd

 
 
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