America One Enduring Aspect of Term Paper
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Although Friedman claims that the use of religion as a common bond among early Americans is no longer relevant, there are scores of Americans who still believe that the nation is essentially a Christian one. The identity of Tea Party people is inextricably tied into an identity that may seem outmoded to many Americans. Yet to the Tea Party, their identity is more American than any apple pie.
Most Americans throughout most of American history considered it perfectly fine to deny half the (white) population the right to vote on the basis of gender. Being female was considered a handicap, which systematically denied women the right to be Americans even if they identified with the culture of the United States. Asian men who worked on the railroads in nineteenth century America were not even permitted to start families because their Otherness was too much for the WASP majority. Now, Asians proudly proclaim their American-ness through a hyphenated designation. The identity of Americans changes according to social norms. Now that women are considered human beings, women can enjoy the full rights and privileges of citizenship. Now that Asians are considered worthy of American citizenship, both men and women can be citizens of the United States.
Americans have claimed to be comfortable with diversity when in reality it makes many people squirm. Segura and Friedman both point out the conflict in the American consciousness over immigration and assimilation. The "melting pot" symbol is one that purposefully constructs ethnicity as something to be cooked and boiled down: the principle of assimilation prevails in the American consciousness. Huntington notes that during the1960s, and 1970s, "the primacy of national identity came under challenge" as "dual loyalties, dual nationalities, and often dual citizenship" became common (108). This permitted for a more natural multiculturalism in
the United States. "Subnational racial, ethnic, gender, and cultural identities took on new importance for many Americans," who recognized the limitations of a blanket "American" identity. The cultural norms shifted to reflect the decline of the nation-state and the rise of a culture of globalization and trans-nationalism. This theme was played out in a dark way on September 11, when it become apparent that war was also no longer tied to nation-states. The trans-nationalism of terrorism called into question once again what it meant to be an American.
Americans are divided on their own identities. Rorty points out the trend of "self-mockery" and "self-disgust" as common themes in post-modern American identity (4). "The only version of national pride encouraged by American popular culture is a simpleminded militaristic chauvinism," (Rorty 4). Given the chauvinism that has characterized the American experience and the identity of many of its self-defined citizens, this may be true.
The irony is that in spite of the conflicts, bigotry, and paradoxes inherent in the American identity, a culture identity does remain. That identity is characterized essentially by change, and a willingness to grow. The construction of an American identity reflects the interplay of complex themes including race, class, gender, and power. Gender, ethnicity, race, religion, and politics all contribute to one's private and public identity in the United States. Huntington claims also that, a nation exists only when the people say it does; "only when a group of people think of themselves as a nation," (107). Thus, the history of American identity is riddled with contradictions related to prevailing social norms.
Alba, Richard. Ethnic Identity. Yale University Press, 1992.
Friedman, Michael J. "American Identity: Ideas, Not Ethnicity." 2008. Retrieved online: http://www.america.gov/st/peopleplace-english/2008/February/20080307154033ebyessedo0.5349237.html
Huntington, Samuel P. Who Are We: The Challenges of America's National Identity.
Rorty, Richard. Achieving Our Country. Harvard, 1998.
Segura, Gary M. "Symposium Introduction: Immigration and National Identity." Perspectives on…
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