Working for logical immigation reform based on a stable population, a recognition of the finite nature of our natural resources and the adverse impact of continued growth on our quality of life, standard of living, national interest, character, language, sovereignty and the rule of law. Pushing back and countering the disloyal elements in American society and the anti-American rhetoric of the leftwing illegal alien lobbies. In a debate, when your opponents turn to name calling, it's a good sign you've already won.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What Does It Mean to be an American?

Ask almost anyone, except Lupita, what it means to be an American and you will be met either by silence or by catchphrases such as "diverse" or "multicultural", if not hollow references to being "nonjudgmental" and allowing others to "do their own thing". How can a society that is increasingly ignorant of its own past offer instruction to immigrants about the nature of the culture they must embrace as an alternative to clinging to the old culture and old civilization that did not serve them well?

This is a perfect opportunity for Dee and Lupita to post what they think it means to be an American. Of course, they have different perspectives. Dee is a citizen and Lupita is a "wannabe" whether she admits it or not. At least Lupita can summon up from past criticisms of America, Americans and gringos what she thinks we are and what to be an American should mean to us. Then she can, of course, add what an American would be in an ideal world.

12 comments:

Lupita said...

This is a perfect opportunity for Dee and Lupita to post what they think it means to be an American.

Why don't you? I read on Dee's blog something you wrote about the "western paradigm". Whatever could that be?

How can a society that is increasingly ignorant of its own past offer instruction to immigrants about the nature of the culture they must embrace as an alternative to clinging to the old culture

Just like any other society does: just be yourself and people will notice differences and similarities. Some differences, they will consider superior and worth embracing, others they will shun.

A Gringo living abroad would do the same, dislike some customs, embrace others.

I think Americans should discard their exceptionalism, competitive nationalism, and quasi-religious notions of embracing the constitution and venerating its founding fathers as prophets as its definition of Americanism. Americans view their nation as some kind of self-evidence truth that only idiots would reject. Most fail to see it as just one more peculiar nation that is finalizing its five minutes of fame.

ultima said...

"How can a society that is increasingly ignorant of its own past ..."

So we should just ignore the checkered history of our country and just let what it means to be an American seep into the immigrants by osmosis.

"Some differences, they will consider superior and worth embracing, others they will shun."

That makes sense to me and so it has always been. Let's hope their choices are positive ones rather than those differences which left them in need of immigrating.

ultima said...

paradigm: any pattern or example

western: of or pertaining to Western Europe, its culture, ideas and ideals, civilization, achievements (Nobel Prizes won), regard for personal freedoms, literature, science, etc.

There are those among the Mexicans who say, "We don't need to study the West," but when asked what "the West" is or was, they were speechless could not even provide a wrong answer. We have experienced enough of the assorted isms to know that all such ideology is antithetical to the notion of civic education, which historically has been national, realistic and in some way tragic rather than therapeutic. The old idea,at least in the West, was that we were humans, not gods, ans so we did not regard history as an exercise in deconstruction the past by retroactively apportioning blame and praise according to present standards of morality.

School children in California, when I lived there, were asked to memorize the names of all the Catholic missions. Protestants and Catholics alike learned that Father Junipero Serra was a civlizing, if flawed figure, who tried to introduce agriculture, transportation, and some refinements to a barren California landscape. In contrast, later generations have been told that the friar was a martinet who whipped Indians and forced to convert to Catholicism. Surely, the truth lies somewhere in between the romanticism of those school days and the cynicism of the current indoctrination. But what is missing in the new dispensation is any sense that the world in which we now live--the cosmos of universities, the rule of law, antibiotics, surgery and eyeglasses--for good or for evil evolved from the world of Father Serra, not from the indigenous peoples of California whom he may or may not have oppressed.

ultima said...

So what do you teach your students about the Western paradigm? Do you teach them any civics?

Lupita said...

western: of or pertaining to Western Europe

So the US is not Western.

There are those among the Mexicans who say, "We don't need to study the West," but when asked what "the West" is or was, they were speechless could not even provide a wrong answer

Source?

But what is missing in the new dispensation is any sense that the world in which we now live--the cosmos of universities, the rule of law, antibiotics, surgery and eyeglasses--for good or for evil evolved from the world of Father Serra, not from the indigenous peoples of California whom he may or may not have oppressed.

More competitive nationalism, yours is better than theirs, therefore the truth. By the way, the first law, and the first almost everything, emerged from Mesopotamia, from a civilization now defunct, not from the "West", which did not even exist then.

Why do you want to prove that your culture is the best? It is not, you just happen to be at the top in this precise historical moment, that is all. Why do you need to believe that there is something special about you? Aha! That is the essence of 21st century Gringo culture - you all believe you are special - your kindergarten teachers told you so.

So what do you teach your students about the Western paradigm?

I never mention it. I teach them that the world is very big, that the US is just one country among 200, that there are many languages, religions, cultures. I teach them that they are not special.

Teaching them 19th century nationalism will do them no good. I teach them to be 21st century global citizens.

ultima said...

"Why do you want to prove that your culture is the best?"

I offer no proof. I just believe it. Other than the Scandinavian countries which you adore because of their socialism, what culture would you prefer and why aren't you an illegal alien in the land the has that culture?

With its many flaws, the U.S. still seems best to me, having observed in a perfunctory way the way people live in Denmark, Cyprus, Turkey, Germany, France, England, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Portuguese Azores, Libya, Morocco, Korea and Japan. It is not so much a matter of culture as it is what quality of life that culture produces and whether that quality of life is sufficient to cause people to want to stay there rather than emigrate. Historically, sometimes it has been , at other times there was a rush to emigrate.

I read something recently that indicated Iceland was the best place to live. I don't remember what factors were considered by having been there several times, I find Colorado much preferable.

Of course, when I mentioned Western Europe as exemplary of the Western paradigm, I meant, by extension, the American offshoot of that
culture as well.

In my humble judgment, to be an American means a belief in the legal, economic, religious, historical, cultural and political ideals embodied in our constitution and system of government. Note I said ideals. Like all ideals they are largely aspirations rather than actual achievements. None of them work perfectly in our society but that is the general human condition --aspiring to do or be better. Our courts are less likely to be corrupt and tend to be systematic and public, not secretive, haphazard and capricious. Our police can be corrupt, but petty bribery is the exception rather than the rule and they generally do not assassinate reformers with regularity and impunity. There is nothing like the mordida in America. Public officials caught taking money are usually shamed and retired or jailed. Our police do not escort cocaine dealers or use squad cars to provide security for heroin smugglers on a regular basis. Our religions are diverse not monolithic parishes where the people are taught that the ills and inequities of the world will be redressed in the next and that more children brought into poverty was a good thing enabling more souls to be saved.

An American is a citizen of America who supports its ideals, rule of law, and way of life. We broke away from liberal reforming British parliamentarians; Mexico much later and with difficulty separated from a more authoritative Spanish monarchy. North America was opened t mass immigration. Spain tried to keep all but the Spanish out of Latin America. American society treasures the three or more classes rather than two like Mexico. The Middle Class or bourgeoisie has always been important to an American, especially in modern times. America is not just the private property of elite hidalgos and caballeros. Ours is not so much a patriarchal society in comparison with Latin America. The rule of property law is not so sacrosanct in Mexico. Here deeds and title searches are de rigueur.

Need I go further? All of these factors go to explain what an American is and what he believes in and what he has created in terms of a country and a system of government that permits the exercise of freedom, the pursuit of happiness--all under the protection of the bill of rights.

ultima said...

"I never mention it. I teach them that the world is very big, that the US is just one country among 200, that there are many languages, religions, cultures. I teach them that they are not special."

Hmmm! That last statement seems to say that you have departed from the conventional wisdom that we must, at all costs, preserve and enhance the self-images and self-esteem of children. While noting that the U.S. is one of many countries in the world, it is strange that you do not choose to explain why you are here if the culture, government and job opportunities elsewhere are equal. Globalism is just another misbegotten ism that will do no one any good. Even you have pointed out that large corporations have taken advantage of globalism and global business opportunities to drive small farmers out of business and force peasants to migrate to earn a paltry living. Are you sure you are not oversimplifying by implying that all countries are equal and give their peoples equal opportunity to have a job and make a living? Are you suggesting that countries are merely "different" and that none is preferable over the other? Must be difficult to explain the mass migrations to the U.S. and the lack of modern reverse migrations under those circumstances.

Nations like individuals need self-esteem. Your teaching runs counter to that point of view. We may all be created equal (although even that is in doubt), but surely we all do not achieve equally. You are a perfect example.

We gringos do not need to be jingos to be proud of our country and derive some of our own self-esteem from assignation of a certain degree of superiority to the country we love and which has attracted immigrants from the world over for reasons that apparently escape some teachers. A chance to earn a paycheck is only a part of that attraction as those who have been persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and imperiled arbitrarily in their homelands would testify. I wonder how you would survive in Saudi Arabia, after all it is just one of 200 countries, not fundamentally different from the U.S..

ultima said...

"That is the essence of 21st century Gringo culture - you all believe you are special - your kindergarten teachers told you so."

Yep. And what a wonderful feeling it is and was. Love of country and a little self-esteem is a good thing. I guess you believe in incessant criticism, never granting the positive elements. Must grind a lot of people down who always see the glass as half empty and who are always under the influence of negative vibes about just about everything. Sounds like a miserable existence to me.

ultima said...

"There are those among the Mexicans who say, "We don't need to study the West," but when asked what "the West" is or was, they were speechless could not even provide a wrong answer

Source?"

This particular quote is from Victor Hansen who comes in contact with Mexicans on a daily basis in his job as Professor of Classics at Cal State Fresno. I heard something similar from a friend of mine who taught biology at a small college in the east. He decried how "dumb" the students were in his classes. I don't think he meant that literally. Rather I think he meant that there preparation for college work was totally inadequate. Some college professors, even those with liberal leanings, apparently feel a knowledge and appreciation of Western culture and the Western paradigm are important and that in some way represent the highest aspirations of mankind. It is rather sad when a teacher has no such knowledge or appreciation.

Lupita said...

what culture would you prefer and why aren't you an illegal alien in the land the has that culture?

I prefer no culture, all hold interest for me. I see no reason why I should choose one and stick to it. It seems parochial and boring to do so.

It is not so much a matter of culture as it is what quality of life that culture produces

Whereas I am more into song and dance, sculpture and architecture, food and manners, that in having the opportunity to buy imported stuff on credit while risking being massacred at the mall.

when I mentioned Western Europe as exemplary of the Western paradigm, I meant, by extension, the American offshoot of that culture as well.

By that definition, Argentina is Western.

In my humble judgment, to be an American means a belief in the legal, economic, religious, historical, cultural and political ideals embodied in our constitution and system of government.

Too bad. A Gringo is anyone who talks and walks like a Gringo because he/she was born/raised in the US. You are confusing nationality with ideology.

An American is a citizen of America who supports its ideals, rule of law, and way of life.

The guy who massacred the shoppers at the mall in Omaha was American, as are all the murderers, rapists, fascists, etc, who were born on US soil. You are equating American with good, which is silly.

All of these factors go to explain what an American is and what he believes in

You explained what US culture and society is, not what an American is. As I mentioned, in moral and ideological terms, an American can be almost anything.

Lupita said...

you have departed from the conventional wisdom that we must, at all costs, preserve and enhance the self-images and self-esteem of children.

I am an educator, not one of those superficial self-help gurus.

it is strange that you do not choose to explain why you are here if the culture, government and job opportunities elsewhere are equal.

I do not teach that all countries are equal.

Are you sure you are not oversimplifying by implying that all countries are equal and give their peoples equal opportunity to have a job and make a living?

You are having reading comprehension issues, querido. I teach that the US is one of 200 countries, not that all countries are equal. I teach that all countries are worthy of our study, respect, and admiration. I certainly do not teach that it is up to Gringos to decide whether to nuke one out of existence or not in order to give children a cheap rush, excuse me, enhance their self esteem.

Are you suggesting that countries are merely "different" and that none is preferable over the other?

Preferable to whom? Do you really think that Russians, Chinese, and Arabs think the US as a society and culture is superior to all the rest? According to world surveys, the US is considered the greatest menace to world peace.

Must be difficult to explain the mass migrations to the U.S.

Au contraire. The US, for the past four centuries, was an underpopulated area of the world that sought colonizers and cheap laborers while there were religious lunatics, famines, civil wars, invasions, neoliberalism, etc. that produced people willing to take a chance. Or do you believe that Syria is considered a land of opportunity by the millions of Iraqis who have fled?

surely we all do not achieve equally

In what respect? Being peaceful? Social equality? Nice boulevards? Cuisine? Longevity? As I said, all peoples have their achievements which they are proud of.

A chance to earn a paycheck is only a part of that attraction as those who have been persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and imperiled arbitrarily in their homelands would testify.

Or those in Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib.

I wonder how you would survive in Saudi Arabia, after all it is just one of 200 countries, not fundamentally different from the U.S..

I never wrote that Saudi Arabia and the US are fundamentally the same. You really have reading comprehension issues.

Lupita said...

It is rather sad when a teacher has no such knowledge or appreciation.

Even sadder when a teacher does not have knowledge and appreciation for the achievements of other peoples.