What does American mean to you?

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What does "American" mean to you?

Recent events have made me more humble about being an American. I acknowledge, though, that when the vast majority of the world criticizes Americans, they are actually referring to American leaders and U.S. policy, not individual Americans or their democracy.

I am ashamed and troubled, however, when our political system bestows extreme destructive power into the hands of reckless bullies. I am more proud, however, that I am given the right to dissent, live free and wage peace with humankind (and the universe in general) in what has proved to be the country I love.
 

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Astronuc
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How about baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet? :biggrin:
 
radou
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I acknowledge, though, that when the vast majority of the world criticizes Americans, they are actually referring to American leaders and U.S. policy, not individual Americans or their democracy.
Of course they're not referring to individual Americans, since that would be pretty stupid.
 
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" . . . of the people, by the people, for the people . . . "
 
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A big ogre that recently poked in the eye is on a blind rampage against the agressor, when more circumspect dealings with the little guys might have been sound preventative medicine.

A country who once was the planet's shining hope, now tarnished, with ever diminishing credibility

A great place to live

Home of the free and land of the ignorant

Once the bastion of scientific excellence, non pareil, has Hollywood and the music biz as its chief icons

A bully incapable of moderation w/o the existence of a rival superpower

A degenerate economic system that pumps wealth into the hands of a few while reducing the wealth of the majority

A country that overwhelmingly prefers creationism and conspiracy theories to anything sound

One of the more violent places on the civilized planet that has made this into a new economic frontier via an ever growing system of incarceration/slave labor.


My home, and a place that can be still be improved thru the process of democracy, and progressive politics.
 
Astronuc
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" . . . of the people, by the people, for the people . . . "
Lincoln got that from Theodore Parker - a Liberal clergyman and colleague of Thoreau and Emerson.
 
Gokul43201
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A degenerate economic system that pumps wealth into the hands of a few while reducing the wealth of the majority.
Do you hold that this particular meaning is based in fact?
 
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Good: When something goes wrong people dont riot and have coups.

Bad: We are myopic.
 
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Ivan Seeking
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I tried to answer this about five different ways, but in the end, I don't know what "American" means anymore.

I know how I see it: The Constitution is "America", but this doesn't seem very important to 40-60% of "Americans". It appears that partisan politics now supersedes Constitutional concerns. I also see this as a greater threat to our way of life than any terrorist could be.

I also think Americans are being sold out by corporations and their direct or indirect influence in trade agreements. When industry in Mexico or China has the same OSHA and EPA requirements, not to mention being subject to a respectable minimum wage, as we are here in the US, which they should be, then we can talk about unregulated free trade. At the moment we are being played as fools for the sake of stock dividends.

While on a job in Peru, which is an up-and-coming country for industry, I oversaw the installation of a new system for the food industry. Their [Peru electricians] idea of wiring was to string 460VAC [up to a couple hundred amps] on wires of whatever size was handy, like clothes lines. I mean this stuff was hanging from the rafters like spaghetti, all around the installation!!! If an electrical inspector in this country saw an installation like that, the place would be shut down on the spot. But this is what US industry has to compete with in Peru. I have heard that in some places in Mexico, the workers just go outside and squat in the dirt when then need to relieve themselves - they don't even have restrooms. Here we provide special facilites for the handicapped.

And even at Toyota in Japan, a freind told me of open batteries filled with sulfuric acid that were lying all around a work area with high current cables strung all about. How are we supposed to compete with this? Industry world-wide must be subject to the same standards as we for free trade to mean anything other than unfair competition. As it stands now, free trade perpetutates abuse of the working class and the evironment in other countries, and it promotes the widening separation of the classes and consolidation of wealth in this country.
 
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Inept government, playground diplomacy and bully boy tactics, corruption, lies, scandal, breach of personal freedoms and rights. Advocation of torture by signing law provided it's not on American soil; there are some good things but considering the last 6 years it's sometimes hard to remember what they were? It reminds me of the grip of facism really, they started edging so far right and using the idea of terror as a sort of scapegoat to restrict personal liberties and people bought into it, I just hope it's once bitten twice shy.

Oh alright movies, Coca Cola,Dr peppers, Pepsi, Peanut Butter, the 4th of July, and an obsession with automobiles that defies logic.:smile:
 
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Do you hold that this particular meaning is based in fact?
Which part? I believe there are a wealth of sound data from a variety of sources suggesting that the stratification of wealth has increased steadily over the past 50 years and at a faster rate, more recently. Whether that's degenerate or the way it was meant to be, I suppose depends on one's perspective.

What some studies (and being knew to this forum, I haven't bookmarked a backlog to draw upon) suggest is a strong negative correlation with the level of polarization and public physical/mental health. Notice I said, correlation; causality is trickier to prove because of so many coincident factors.
 
http://www.economist.com/surveys/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_QTQRRRV

Anyway, what Americans seem to mind about most is equality of opportunity—and people do not feel there is any less of it now than there used to be. Some 80% (a higher proportion than in the 1980s) think it is possible to start out poor, work hard and become rich. A poll for the New York Times found that twice as many Americans reckon that their chances of moving up a notch have improved over the past 30 years than think their chances have gone down. Most Americans say their standard of living is higher than that of their parents, and that their children will do better than they are doing.

So, on the face of it, rising inequality is not affecting the optimism and ambition of average Americans, and these are what matter to the country's entrepreneurial spirit and social cohesion. But there are three big problems with this rosy view. The first is that America has never been as socially mobile as Americans like to believe. According to a long-term research project carried out at the University of Michigan, led by Gary Solon, America's score on social mobility is not particularly high or low, but middling.

That does not sound too bad. But it means that, if you are among the poorest 5% of the population, your chances of achieving an average income are only one in six. If you are among the poorest 1%, they become very dim indeed. Moreover—and this was the most surprising thing about the study—despite America's more flexible labour markets, social mobility there is no longer greater than in supposedly class-ridden Europe, and if anything it seems to be declining.

A study by Katharine Bradbury and Jane Katz for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that in the 1970s, 65% of people changed their social position (that is, moved out of the income bracket in which they had started the decade). In the 1990s, only 60% did. Not a huge change, but consistent with Mr Solon's study showing that the correlation between parents' and children's income is even closer now than it was in the 1980s. The authors also found decreasing amounts of social mobility at the top and the bottom. This is squeezing the middle class. Americans may be sorting themselves into two more stable groups, haves and have-nots. This is the same trend that geographical mobility has been encouraging. Decreasing mobility may one day come to erode Americans' faith in the fairness of their economy.
That do you? :smile:

http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_GVVJJR

http://www.economist.com/surveys/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_SJGTJTG

The second factor that links talent and inequality is that members of the talent elite are good at hogging “human capital”. They marry people like themselves. In the heyday of “company man”, bankers married their secretaries; now they marry other bankers. They work in jobs that add to their intellectual capital. They live in “talent enclaves”, away from ordinary middle-class suburbs, let alone inner-city ghettos. Above all, they pass on their advantages to their children. Students from the top income quartile increased their share of places in elite American universities from 39% in 1976 to 50% in 1995.

None of this is peculiar to America or other rich countries; the same thing is happening in the developing world in even starker form. Members of the talent elite there live in gated communities, some of them with American names such as Palm Springs, Napa Valley or Park Avenue, that boast international schools, world-class hospitals, luxury housing and splendid gyms. And they try hard to give their children every possible advantage. One recent bestseller in China, “Harvard Girl”, tells the story of two parents who trained their daughter for Harvard from birth, barraging her with verbal stimuli, subjecting her to a strenuous regime of home study and making her swim long distances. One of the most successful schools at getting students into American Ivy League universities is Raffles Junior College in Singapore.

The talent war is producing a global meritocracy—a group of people nicknamed “Davos men” or “cosmocrats” who are reaping handsome rewards from globalisation. These people inhabit a socio-cultural bubble full of other super-achievers like themselves. They attend world-class universities and business schools, work for global organisations and speak the global language of business.

Countries that still insist on clinging to egalitarianism are paying a heavy price. Sweden, for instance, finds it hard to attract foreign talent. And across Europe, egalitarian universities are losing out to their more elitist American rivals.
Isn't elite meritocracy fun, well unless your poor of course.
 
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Q: What does America mean to me?

A: Not what it once did.
 
854
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America is the land of opportunity. People come here from the lowest levels of society in other countries. It is not the comfortable that come here. Those stay home and watch as their wretched and hopeless compatriots give up on a system that has failed them and come to America for a second roll of the dice. And look what happens. If you are an American, compare your life to that of your last ancestor that didn't come here. Compare it to that of those who stayed behind. No wonder they hate us. We escaped the fate they thought they had condemned us to and surpassed them in the process. If you are not an American, are you planning to become one? Are you comfortable where you are?

My ancestors were Jews from Belarus. I need not remind you of what happened to their neighbors as Germany came and solved the Jewish problem for the Belarusians followed by Russia who solved the Belarusian problem for the Germans. There is no comparison to my life here and what it would have been there, because it wouldn't have been there. What's your story?
 
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Astronuc
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Anyway, what Americans seem to mind about most is equality of opportunity—and people do not feel there is any less of it now than there used to be. Some 80% (a higher proportion than in the 1980s) think it is possible to start out poor, work hard and become rich.
Equality of opportunity is a myth - it has never existed.

Starting out poor and becoming rich is the exception, with much the same probability of becoming a star athlete in the NBA or NFL or NHL.
 
America is the land of opportunity. People come here from the lowest levels of society in other countries. It is not the comfortable that come here. Those stay home and watch as their wretched and hopeless compatriots give up on a system that has failed them and come to America for a second roll of the dice. And look what happens. If you are an American, compare your life to that of your last ancestor that didn't come here. Compare it to that of those who stayed behind. No wonder they hate us. We escaped the fate they thought they had condemned us to and surpassed them in the process. If you are not an American, are you planning to become one? Are you comfortable where you are?

My ancestors were Jews from Belarus. I need not remind you of what happened to their neighbors as Germany came and solved the Jewish problem for the Belarusians followed by Russia who solved the Belarusian problem for the Germans. There is no comparison to my life here and what it would have been there, because it wouldn't have been there.

We know we have the same thing in most of Europe, it's not a big deal OK, that's why the western world is seen as so successful, whoop de friggin do, it may of been something to boast about 200 years ago but now it's just mediocre at best. Change the record already.
 
Astronuc
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People come here from the lowest levels of society in other countries. It is not the comfortable that come here.
Funny - I know plenty of professionals from Europe and Asia, coming from moderately wealthy families, who came to the US for opportunities, but who engage in the international commerce, and spend time going back and forth between the US and Europe or Asia.

On the other hand, I can find hundreds, thousands - even millions of immigrants from Mexico, Central and South American who work below minimum wage, have no health insurance, pay no taxes, and will never be rich, and are essentially segregated from mainstream America.
 
957
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No wonder they hate us. We escaped the fate they thought they had condemned us to and surpassed them in the process. If you are not an American, are you planning to become one? Are you comfortable where you are?

Jimmy, who hates us? Its my experience americans (except in maybe France) are generally pretty well thought of around the world. They don't always like our foreign policy, but my guess, is that most people are able to separate the two. Here in the US, it seems different, ie we have more difficulty separating policy from the people, so growing up it seemed hatred of the soviets, Red Chinese, was encouraged to some extent. And still is, only the names have changed, but evil this, evil that. Maybe I'm imagining it. But still curious as to who you think hates us and why?
 
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I would ask is your problem with being an American or being a Stereotypical American?

In my travels I have noticed that an American is not like Americans. There is a distinct difference between the views and actions of any individual American I have personally met and Americans I observe in Bath and American organisations.
Americans singular vary and have many views some I agree with some I don't.
Americans Plural give out this perception of being right because God said they were right.
I have dozens of examples from when I travelled into the US the month after 911, it was not a pleasant time to be foreign in the US, and I have never bothered going back.

I observed exactly the same attitude in Israel, Individually very nice people, In authority or on mass beligerent pains in the ass.

Australia in some ways is the opposite. On mass they are a carefree fun loving bunch of guys, Individually they whine a lot and are really bad loosers, but not as bad as when they are winners.

Most of Europe seems to split in social and ethnic groups that you can pick out once you have been in the country for a few months.
The Welsh, Scots and Irish seem to change dependent on which country they are in, but are generally

What concerns me is that occasionally when I see groups of English, especially from certain regions, they exude a stereotype of my Country that is no longer the amiable explorer but the obnoxious brat who runs down everything foreign without ever trying it.

The question is what sets this national personality if it is not present in individual personalities.
 
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But still curious as to who you think hates us and why?
As to why, my previous post gave the reason. As to who, I must admit, I don't know their names. However, paraphrasing Heller: If they don't hate us, then why are they trying to kill us?
 
957
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I would ask is your problem with being an American or being a Stereotypical American?
...

The question is what sets this national personality if it is not present in individual personalities.
You know Panda that's a damn good question. I haven't spent much time outside the US, but they may change here soon....

Americans have much to be proud of, but at times it takes on a collective arrogance thats offputting to say the least. We are the best..., God's on our side, bumperstickers and songs promoting God Bless America. Why not God Bless the World? Much of this by people who have never been outside this country in spite of greater than average means, and whose knowledge of the greater world and its history, generally abysmal.

As the recently circulating joke went, if you want to teach americans where some other country is, bomb the hell out of it. Whats most appalling to me, is the return to the "my country right or wrong"..."America, love it or leave it" mentality. You cannot critique anything these days. Even if its constructive, or meant to be. Wear the wrong tee-shirt, get arrested.

Instead we see the rising tides of xenophobia in an ugly manipulation of the age old fears. Building fences now along our borders? Its a bad idea in the ME, no better here.

But most problematic in the end is the lack of access to quality reporting that covers a true spectrum of views, and not the usual sliver. It is an insulating force, and whenever the range widens, we hear about the liberal press.

So from your perspective, what is most objectionable about the stereotypical american?
 
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I can find hundreds, thousands - even millions of immigrants from Mexico, Central and South American who work below minimum wage, have no health insurance, pay no taxes, and will never be rich, and are essentially segregated from mainstream America.
And who steadfastly refuse to go back despite the simplicity of doing so.

Edit: I hope this doesn't leave the wrong impression. I welcome immigrants and propose a more liberal legal immigration policy. I understand the reasons that they don't want to go back and admire them for not doing so.
 
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EL
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As to who, I must admit, I don't know their names.
This is part of the stereotype: The "famous" american paranoia!
I think many people are seeing the american stereotype as someone screaming out how brave they are, although most of their actions are based on fear.
(Myself I hate stereotypes.)
 
957
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As to why, my previous post gave the reason. As to who, I must admit, I don't know their names. However, paraphrasing Heller: If they don't hate us, then why are they trying to kill us?
Jimmy, I think you're wrong on the first account. Maybe envious? But that doesn't always translate to hatred, usually you need another term in the eqn. Often its lack of self esteem. If you're talking about Islamic terrorists, that is a really complicated question, some of its likely zealotry, some of it is distaste for the way in which western culture has taken roots and destroyed a certain way of life, a lot of it probably stems from a very lopsided foreign policy that disproportionately favors Israel. Theres a lot more to it than this simple analysis, undoubtedly. But I don't think its because we "are free" or even relatively rich. Again that's more about envy. As to who is trying to kill us, I guess you're talking about the above. I don't see a lot of Mexicans or Chinese or VietNamese on the rampage, which should be the case if your hypothesis is true.
 
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And who steadfastly refuse to go back despite the simplicity of doing so.
Because they can make 20 or 50 times as much, and send most of the money back home to support their relatives living in squalid conditions is one wild guess. Hey whatever happened to the "give us your homeless and downtrodden?
 

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