The basic objectives of this course: American Cultural Experience was to basically understand American culture better, at least that is what I am getting from it. I don’t believe that you can understand another countries culture, unless you understand your own, so this class is helping me understand my own culture. I believe that the course has addressed questions like “what does it mean to be an American” very well, and through that I feel that I am understanding my country’s culture better.
One of the concepts that interested me a lot, was the “ideology of individualism” which is basically a concept that is about how the wants, interests and dreams are important to a society, and should be protected by said society. The ideology of individualism should be important to a society, and in some ways in different cultures especially our own culture. I believe that in our culture the idea of individualism is talked about a lot, but never acted upon.
Our country, the US is always talking about how each individual is special, and how their interests or culture is welcome here, and as we saw and still see with people of color that is not always the case. I hear time and time again that people of color and from different cultures should assimilate or get out, and it is just so confusing to me, because we as a country say we value individualism, but we really don’t. Muslims are great example of we how we don’t really value the ideology of individualism, we think they are horrible people just because they practice a different religion and have a different culture than most Americans do.
In certain parts of America you hear horrible things about Muslims that are not true at all. I think that if we really valued individualism as a country we would be more accepting of people who are not like us. Another thing that interested me a lot in this course is how American culture has unintentionally or sometimes intentionally presents itself in American media. A good example of this would be The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald the novel explores a lot of very American ideals like the American Dream, which is at least in this novel to have so much that you are taken care of for the rest of your life.
Also it explores the need that some Americans have for wanting more, we are always expanding, and a good example of this would be the migration to the west. We as a country even tried to rationalize why moving to the west was a good thing. I believe we as country have a lot of the same ideas Gatsby does in this novel. American music is also an example of American ideals presenting itself in American media. A lot of American artists come from poor families, and talk about their humble beginnings in their music. The rap genre is a shining example of this.
A lot of rappers and R&B singers talk about how they came from poverty, and worked really hard to get to where they are now. I think this is one of the examples of the American dream as well. I believe the genre of pop music also does this to a degree as well. Songs like Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus celebrate American as a country that everyone should come to because not only is it like the song implies a party, but everyone is welcome to join in on said party as well. One of the other things that I believe reflects American ideals in its cultural production, is our sport Football.
While I don’t really watch sports, I know it brings in a lot consumerism which is considered to be the backbone of our country. One of other things Football is, is violent, which is also may humorously be one of our countries “ideals”. It is no secret that our country has a bloody past, and therefore I can see why we consider football to be a main focus point for our culture. Football players can also relate to the working class American, since like many of our American musicians, they too came from humble beginnings.
So through that football players embrace one of our countries philosophy’s, which is to work your way up from the bottom, in rder to be respected and have the American dream one day. While I was reflecting on my writings during my time in this class, one quote that I wrote really stuck out to me was “America is the world”. Which is true I have seen this idea come to fruition, more and more as I have spent time in this class. I believe that our country likes to believe that it is the center of attention of the world, and in some ways it is. A good example of this right now would be Syria, if we get involved in the Syrian crisis other countries will follow our lead. so in this sense America is the world when it comes to foreign exchanges.
American exceptionalism is very strong when thinking about the idea that America is the world. People from other countries come here in hopes for a better life, because this is what America advertises, however we as a country get mad when people come to our country and even exclude them from being a “real” American and even attempt to push them out of the country. One of the things that I wrote in my journal about this was during week five when we was writing about stories from immigrants, I chose a story about some Italian immigrants and their daughter Catherine talked about how they had to work the jobs that no one else wanted to do.
Another thing that Catherine talked about is how her father would become friends with the Irish police officers because Irish people were also not welcome at the time. I thought that this was interesting, because we have talked about in class about Mexican immigrants who are coming over to the United States and are not feeling welcome at all. I feel that if we see ourselves as a country, as the world we should be more accepting of people from around the world. I felt also when I was thinking about what I wrote down during the journal assignments that if America is the world, that we should not have such high racial tensions as we do now.
I thought a lot about the racial tensions between police and people of color, during the chapter about African Americans. While, as a white person I can’t really share in the struggles that people of color go through, I can however believe that it is wrong. More so when it feels that we are the one of the few countries in the world that still have high racial tensions. I believe that if we wish to view America as the world one day, we need to try to rid ourselves of such strong racial tensions between white people and people of color.
These types of discourses help no one, and does not better our country in any shape or form. As I have spent time writing this essay, one question came to mind again, and again. Does America have a national identity? I thought about this a lot when I was writing about “America is the world”. How can our country be the world if it may not have its own identity? If the United States does have its own identity what is it exactly? Is our identity that of a bully? Or is our identity that of a hero who protects the world? Or is it a combination of both?
I’m not so sure yet. Our country is countunially evolving into something new, each year, so | believe maybe that is what is so unique about our country, is that we don’t have an identity. Our identity as a country is different. As a country we do have our problems, however | believe these struggles is what is and has shaped our country, and maybe in time we will have our own identity, until then however, we should attempt to better ourselves as a country so that when we finally do have our own identity, it will be something that everyone can be proud of.