What does it mean to be American?

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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#16  Postby Fan of Science » July 14th, 2017, 11:20 am

Humans naturally divide into groups, "us/them" distinctions are simply part of our evolutionary history since we are evolved social primates. Most humans are nationalistic. I haven't noticed Americans being more or less nationalistic than Russians, or British, or Canadians, etc. Americans are certainly less likely to be concerned over ethnicity than many others, because there is no such thing as an American ethnicity. We are literally all people from all over the globe.

America started off on contradictory principles. On the one hand, America was supposed to be a nation where it was evidence that all men were created equal. On the other hand, blacks were slaves, women could not vote, religious minorities were discriminated against, and the right to vote was limited to wealthy white men. So, America was founded on a principle of universal inclusion and equality, as well as other principles that discriminated against most Americans, whether they were poor, female, or colored. Over time, each minority group has argued for inclusion based on the founding principle that if everyone is created equally, then they also must be equal to everyone else. So, what we have had in the USA, in general, is a greater and greater inclusion of minorities into the mainstream body politic. This wasn't always easy and often the result of violent protests. Nevertheless, given the founding principle of equality, it has made it easier for our discriminated minorities to argue for inclusion than what has occurred in many other nations.

What it means to be an American depends on how one identifies with our past. Most Americans that I know believe that all people are equal when it comes to political rights, and that everyone deserves a chance to make something of themselves. The problem is that some Americans believe that certain minority groups should be excluded.

We are by no means perfect, but, in general, our history shows us accepting more and more minorities as equal to everyone else. This is the part of America I identify with.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?



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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#17  Postby Fooloso4 » July 14th, 2017, 12:38 pm

Steve3007:

I guess the clearest definition of what it traditionally means to be American comes from immigration -


Only that traditional concept is being shredded by Trump’s immigration policies.

Greta:

I expect there are psychological challenges to living in a falling empire (or the modern equivalent).


There are many signs that it is a falling empire, but no need to worry, Trump is making America great again. And this may be the equivalent of a giant flashing neon sign seen from outer space.

In some ways I think the fall of the empire is a positive development. The planet has become too small to think and act in terms of political/economic/technological domination. On the other hand, given its enormous resources, there is no reason except income inequality why the United States should rank as low as it does in terms of education and healthcare. In this latter respect I think we have not been psychologically challenged enough.

This seems to be related to the American ideal of individualism which has been used as a rhetorical tool to resist any form of social program - from social security to medicare to programs designed to help the poor.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#18  Postby Woodart » July 14th, 2017, 12:48 pm

Greta wrote:
Whatever, as far as I'm concerned, the part of the planet from which we hail is less important than simply being part of this adventure of life on Earth.


I think this is the superior point of view.

However, being American is a privilege – in my mind. The reason being is mostly freedom of speech. Freedom of speech, relatively, on a mass scale – in an entire country – is relatively new. 500 years ago in England – you could not say anything you wanted in public. You could, but it may not be good for your health. In much of the world today, particularly Muslim countries, the same is true. America invented the internet, just a few years ago, and we say what we want – here and elsewhere. People everywhere respect us for this achievement. There are people on this forum in Islamic countries who are talking against Islam. They cannot do it in public, but they can somewhat anonymously in this forum. This is a great achievement. If there is any hope for the future of mankind it will be realized through freedom of speech. We must give credit to America and the internet.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#19  Postby A Poster He or I » July 14th, 2017, 2:41 pm

I'm not going to involve myself in the polemical direction this thread took. I'm simply going to answer the OP's question from a philosophical, personal view. (Note: I'm American, living all my life in California, and I'm a minority, namely, Hispanic).

To be American means
    -- to believe it is perfectly acceptable for the poorest, backwoods Appalachian to become President of the country, or anything else he wants to be.
    -- to participate in a social order that is free of overt class distinctions (emphasis on the word "overt" here; class distinctions certainly do exist here).
    -- to have a self-conscious respect for the history that yielded the reasons for why this country was created in the first place (many Americans fail this one).

When I reflect on being American, I feel a spontaneous pride and a spontaneous shame. I'm proud of being a citizen of a nation that was founded on overt ideals that I (mostly) admire, and that most of the people I know also admire and try to uphold, albeit in a slipshod manner. But I am ashamed at my country's attitudes toward primary education, healthcare, and its ludicrous arrogance vis-à-vis the rest of the word, especially because these attitudes are based in short-sighted objectives and/or a deplorable ignorance.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#20  Postby -1- » July 14th, 2017, 9:11 pm

Steve3007 wrote:

-1-:
Steve, go to a site where the average American writes on forum posts. They're[sic] grammar their[sic] is what there[sic] grammar is...


(I love that word "sic". It makes the person using it look very clever because it's Latin and knowing Latin means you're clever.)


I would appreciate if people did not alter my text and then attribute the altered text to me as an original quote.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#21  Postby Greta » July 15th, 2017, 4:48 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
Greta wrote:I expect there are psychological challenges to living in a falling empire (or the modern equivalent).


... the American ideal of individualism which has been used as a rhetorical tool to resist any form of social program - from social security to medicare to programs designed to help the poor.

Also, as populations grow everywhere, not just in the US, there is growing tension between individuals and institutions needing to implement more regulations to retain relative order. If those regulations cannot be made due to ideology (or whatever) then that will promote relative chaos. I see the future belonging to societies that value pragmatic responses over ideology, perhaps with input from AI allowing for more informed decision making in complex policy areas.

-- Updated 15 Jul 2017, 03:57 to add the following --

Woodart wrote:However, being American is a privilege – in my mind. The reason being is mostly freedom of speech.

This is the case in the west generally. It certainly is a privilege; things could have been so much worse.

Woodart wrote:We must give credit to America and the internet.

America developed the internet but it was actually invented by English computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee while working with CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland near the French border (and they speak French there). So we can actually thank the Brits, Swiss and the French for the internet.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#22  Postby Fan of Science » July 15th, 2017, 4:41 pm

I'm not exactly sure who "invented" the internet, but I'm fairly certain it was not Al Gore, despite his claims to the contrary.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#23  Postby -1- » July 16th, 2017, 7:03 am

Fan of Science wrote:I'm not exactly sure who "invented" the internet, but I'm fairly certain it was not Al Gore, despite his claims to the contrary.


Al Gore only invented the cursor.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#24  Postby Steve3007 » July 16th, 2017, 7:02 pm

-1-:

I would appreciate if people did not alter my text and then attribute the altered text to me as an original quote.


I didn't attribute it to you. It is standard practice to add the term "sic" into a quote to indicate that it has been rendered complete with errors intact. I realized that your errors were deliberate, for comic effect (at least I assume they were for comic effect) as was my mock arrogance. But I think the entire exercise fell flat, so I won't try it again and will stick to factual non-attempted-humorous, non-ironic posts. I think that's probably for the best.

-- Updated Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:25 am to add the following --

On the subject of the internet:

Standard wisdom here in Britain is that Greta is right and that Sir Tim Berners-Lee did indeed invent the internet. It doesn't matter whether the concept of "inventing the internet" makes sense. It just matters that he's British. To extend subject of the OP slightly: Part of what it means to be British is to be convinced that we invented everything and gave lots of great stuff to the world and that means that colonialism was ok really.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#25  Postby Fan of Science » July 17th, 2017, 4:29 pm

I like the Brits. Colonialism was bad, but this should not take away from the great things that the Brits have given us. Sir Isaac Newton alone should place the Brits on anyone's top-ten list. Not to mention the industrial revolution, capitalism, the Royal Academy, and a strong back-bone that stood up against fascism.
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#26  Postby Woodart » July 17th, 2017, 5:05 pm

Not to quibble or diminish anyone's contribution - please note:

The first workable prototype of the Internet came in the late 1960s with the creation of ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. Originally funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, ARPANET used packet switching to allow multiple computers to communicate on a single network. The technology continued to grow in the 1970s after scientists Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf developed Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP, a communications model that set standards for how data could be transmitted between multiple networks. ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on January 1, 1983, and from there researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet. The online world then took on a more recognizable form in 1990, when computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. While it’s often confused with the Internet itself, the web is actually just the most common means of accessing data online in the form of websites and hyperlinks.


history.com/news/ask-history/who-invent ... e-internet

October 29, 1969

UCLA student Charley Kline attempts to transmit the text “login” to a computer at the Stanford Research Institute over the first link on the ARPANET, which was the precursor to the modern Internet. After the letters “l” and “o” are sent the system crashed, making the first message ever sent on the Internet “lo”. About an hour later, after recovering from the crash, the full text of “login” is successfully sent.


thisdayintechhistory.com/10/29/first-me ... -internet/
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Re: What does it mean to be American?

Post Number:#27  Postby Steve3007 » July 18th, 2017, 4:15 am

So, joking aside, I think we can probably agree that the thing we call "the internet" is, by its nature, a global collaborative effort. Tim Berners-Lee gave us the www part.

Back on the OP: One thing that it means to be American, which is definitely distinct from being British, is to be part of a deliberately manufactured country with explicitly stated aims. Not part of a country that gradually emerged over thousands of years. I presume it's the same for Australia. But Australia, despite having similar post-colonial roots, didn't have a revolutionary war so doesn't seem to have the same sense of being "born".

-- Updated Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:30 pm to add the following --

In the case of Australia: Interestingly, I've read that although the Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 it wasn't until 1986, with the passing of the Australia act, that the UK government finally lost its power to pass legislation in Australia.

I guess the fact that countries like Australia and Canada are part of the Commonwealth and only relatively recently became fully self-governing makes them fundamentally different from the USA, which asserted its right to self-governance by force long before that, and long before the idea of the Commonwealth of Nations consisting of former colonies was dreamt up.
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