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General => General Discussion => Topic started by: Drummer Boy on January 04, 2014, 21:53

Title: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 04, 2014, 21:53
 :slow

I suppose what I'm getting at is, What do you think it means to be an American?

I'm curious because the term is rarely used in the complimentary sense these days from those outside the U.S. Funny thing is, I've no idea what most people even mean when they use the term. Are they referring to government officials and policy makers? Military personnel? Fat, obnoxious tourists? Skinny, obnoxious teens on YouTube? The morons who occupy cable news? Celebrities?

Having been to many different places in the U.S., it hardly seems like one place made up of one type of people. I never take it personally when Americans as a whole are insulted because I honestly don't know who the targets are supposed to be. From New Orleans, to Dallas, L.A., Chicago, Indianapolis,  Boston, New York, Atlanta and many, many points in between, the differences in attitude and disposition are often quite striking (not to mention food, music and other cultural elements, as well as extreme climate differences). So much so, that I've no idea what an "American" is even supposed to be.

So what say you?

And if you've never been here, where would you care to go (if at all), and what would you expect it to be like?

(http://www.freeworldmaps.net/download/maps/united-states/united-states-map.jpg)


I might add that there seems to be quite a bit of confusion regarding this topic within these borders as well. Nothing amuses me more than to see a political rally fire itself up with the chant of USA! USA! USA! The very act suggesting that there are opponents are from...?  :S

I might also add that I would have no problem living somewhere else for the rest of my life.  :shh

Any suggestions?  :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 04, 2014, 22:15
This is not going to end well. :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 04, 2014, 22:20
Well, there's a reason why I never started this topic on another forum.  :lol

Bring it on!

(http://wolfhirschhorn.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/1.jpg)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: L'arri on January 04, 2014, 23:04
Should we call it the United States, since doesn't the term "America" in this sense ignore Canada and everywhere else south of El Paso? ;)

I'll make a few, mostly unconnected, unfocused and probably unhelpful statements on this topic:

The lost generalisation

One evening in a bar in Oxford, I asked a girl from Reno, NV how Americans could have voted for Bush. She sighed and replied that many Americans were either happily unaware or uninterested in the rest of the world. For such people, the US territory itself was too big and too diverse to cover in a lifetime of travel.

Living almost on top of each other in cramped old Europe with its dense and tangled history and cultures, this response can seem baffling and yet even a brief visit beyond the usual big cities brings with it the sense that nothing is so neat and compact and thoroughly misapprehended as the "America" of our minds.

Ignorance is not always bliss

I was driving through Brussels late one rainy afternoon maybe three years ago in a new lease car and found that it was tuned to American Forces Radio when I turned on the radio.

I was astounded to hear the DJ describe the reaction of a friend's mother when this friend had been assigned to a navy base in Italy near a swish strip of fashionable beaches in the Cinque Terre. She ranted and raved for a time at how unjust was the decision since there were tropical diseases, no running water and no hope of adequate medical care at the destination. This lady had never left the States, how could she possibly know? She muttered that she had 'read it in all the newspapers'.

Americans abroad

As an illustration of the above diarrhoea about generalisations, I used to believe that Americans did not make good travellers. I had encountered enough of them I thought, these flustered Americans Abroad looking like beached whales or aliens from the planet Obnox, to pick them out in the anaglypta. Then as I got older, met lots more people and visited lots more places, I realised that the combination of my ignorance and the unreachable size and spread of humanity made such complacent generalisations impossible.

Put simply, one can stumble across noisy, ungracious oafs from every country in every country. A recent poll declared, for example, that the French were the world's most loathsome nationality when abroad. This poll was conducted by a French daily newspaper.

What is truly silly is to attempt to throw a lasso around the behaviour of whole nations.

Land of the Quite Free

I have said on VR before that I think the US is one of the last nations in whose territory one can still live how one wishes, where one's dialogue with the apparatus of the State can still be more or less negotiable. That is what remains of the original promise of the New World even while it probably comes at the price of inequality elsewhere in the US and the world at large.

Cultural sensitivity

Many people are curious about how foreigners see them. There's the OP here, for one example, but this sort of curiosity also explains the unfathomable popularity of a tepid pedant like Bill Bryson.

Personally, I love to read about the UK in the francophone press, although venturing into the readers' comments can be a difficult and sometimes upsetting experience. And we all reserve the right to be extra hard on our own country when we're not in it: the Americans I have met over the years were no exception.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: killswitch on January 04, 2014, 23:13
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7R5A0pg4oN8

 :D

Sorry  :-x
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 04, 2014, 23:16
Im frequently accused on twitter on hating Americans, I dont hate Americans, some Americans are lovely, and it really isnt their fault they are born were they are, and the trouble is, Americans like many many other nations, are damaged by stereotypes of American people that simply arent true, but are just what is portrayed in the media.

So with that in mind, my top five hates of America (based on media portrayals).

1. Nationalism/Patriotism
Standing to attention for the Star Spangled Banner, everyone having the stars and stripes flying from a flagpole outside their house. Do me a favour. Their support of the military, a military that makes  a habit of invading other peoples countries and commiting various atrocities, yet every tv series, be it WWE, or UFC, all the way to Amazing Race or Top Chef has to have an episode dedicated to "our brave fighting men around the world". flip off. If your soldiers want to kill people, just kill each other.  And as for the "USA USA USA" chants, you guys have no idea just how much the rest of the world despises those. (But then Britain has the BNP, National Front, and Uk Independance Party)

The Bible Belt
Yes we get it, you love god, you hate gay people, lesbians, blacks, muslims and people who have their babies terminated. You also love stinging unfortunate suckers for loads of cash to build your churches and commit a wide range of sins. Theirs religion for ya.  (But then Britain has the Jehovas)

3) Tourists
Walking into a McDonalds in Paris, fine, ordering your meal in English, not great but if its the only language you speak, ok, getting peeed at the staff because they dont speak American despite it being a McDonalds, not acceptable. (but then we send our louts to Ibiza)

4) Theft
Wether it be cowbells at cross races, Waffles, cornish pasties, just invent your own stuff instead of stealing all the best ideas from Europe. (But then britain stole its entire language)

5) GUns/Death Penalty
How any civilised country can allow their people to run around with guns, and allow the killing of people commited of crimes is beyond me.  (Ok, you win on this one)

So basically americans are gun toting, bible bashing, anti homosexual, racist, arrogant fat lumps shouting USA USA USA at the top of their voices. :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 04, 2014, 23:20
I think this kinda sums up how some Europeans feel about some Americans.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrgpZ0fUixs
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 04, 2014, 23:24
This amuses me :D
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0RH0cYs4lw
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 04, 2014, 23:25
So basically americans are gun toting, bible bashing, anti homosexual, racist, arrogant fat lumps shouting USA USA USA at the top of their voices. :D
:D

No doubt there are plenty of those. Which leaves the rest of us scratching our heads and thinking, WTF?!?!?!  :S

In addition to the diverse makeup of people far and wide, every election cycle proves that there are essentially two, separate USAs. And neither side can hardly comprehend the existence or mentality of the other.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: search on January 04, 2014, 23:26
(http://milliondollarman.com/things/uploads/2013/06/hacksaw_jim_duggan_ted_dibiase_mid_south_wrestling.jpg)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: usedtobefast on January 04, 2014, 23:37
(http://totallycoolpix.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/20131209_coolest_pics_of_2013_week49/2013week49_059.jpg) another spy satellite launch
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on January 04, 2014, 23:52
Non-metric units. That's what makes Americans American. And no, that's not a compliment.

Yards, feet, inches, miles, gallons, pounds, ounces; not to mention the ridiculous paper sizes. And don't get me started on the Fahrenheit scale ... :fp
I can think of no good reason not to have those last ~300 million switch to the measurement systems that 7+ billion people already use.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 05, 2014, 00:07
Non-metric units. That's what makes Americans American. And no, that's not a compliment.
And just to follow up this conversation from the shout box...

As I mentioned, when I was a child in the mid 1970s, there was a big push to convert to metric. It was all in the works, with night classes to educate the adults and other public service efforts. However,  the Reagan administration apparently dropped the whole thing by 1982.  :S
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 05, 2014, 00:11
(http://milliondollarman.com/things/uploads/2013/06/hacksaw_jim_duggan_ted_dibiase_mid_south_wrestling.jpg)

Aaaaooooo! HackSaw Jim Duggan is my favorite wrestler!  Flipping Awesome!  =)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 05, 2014, 00:13
I wrote a superlong entry and then I got timed out and about 1/3 had been saved as a draft :we all gonna die:
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 05, 2014, 00:26
Metricisation was dropped in America because "they couldnt afford it". Skint from all those wars.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 05, 2014, 00:26
I mean America is huge so I'll have to paint with a very broad brush. Just some random thoughts, and nothing more coherent than pros and cons.

Usually Swedes and Americans get along fine. Not only beacuse we traded signal intelligence since the end of WWII and you've recently given us the password to the X_key_score system.

I think it's because Swedes usually like straight talkers who cut the crap. However, with straight talk, and a belief in their own system and being a superpower is a double edged sword. Because it comes close to being ignorant. From my point of view this is displayed in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Afghanistan at the time was probably a different story because Al-Qaeda had bases in the country. 

It puzzles me that you are allergic to the word "socialise" but till you think that Medicare is a great idea. But not for everyone- then it's "communism".

It has been mentioned but the social injustices and the fact that you have so many Afro-Americans incarcerated that it's creating demographical problems like Afro-American women having hard to find suitable partners. This also create huge child poverty rates.

For sure I want to visit America. My dream is to go by train to American cities which have good hockey teams with many Swedish players on the roster. I would start in New York and travel through New England and turn south and go through the country clock wise.  Many Americans just shake their heads on the train part so maybe I go by train in the North Eastern partn and fly the rest.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 05, 2014, 00:29
This is actually a fascinating read on the whole process of US metrification
http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/laws/usmb.html
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 05, 2014, 00:33
Many Americans just shake their heads on the train part so maybe I go by train in the North Eastern partn and fly the rest.


What do Americans have against trains. I spoke to an american recently who had never been on a train in her life.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 05, 2014, 00:40
What do Americans have against trains. I spoke to an american recently who had never been on a train in her life.

I can understand that because their infrastructure is based on cars and planes.  The funny thing is that their equivalent to interrail system is not that expensive. The longest duration costs about 600€ and last for 45 days.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 05, 2014, 00:43
What do Americans have against trains. I spoke to an american recently who had never been on a train in her life.

dim I love trains.
my younger son is and grew up a train fanatic…we always wanted to take trips to Europe/UK because the trains were the best way to travel and see the country.
MOST people I know are peeed that our country can't get it's shiite together and build a great train system. general consensus actually.
the trucks and other private industries killed train travel here in the 50s and 60s when gas was cheap and plentiful

I remember picking up my grandma and grandpa when they would come for a visit on the old train from their hometown.  Trains need to travel huge distances here and sh*tty politics have kept many cities from voters' desires to have more and better light rail and commuter trains. 
In my city of Boulder it is a HUGE issue that we voted to use our tax $$ to build more commuter rail and now THEY keep telling us the price is increasing to astronomical proportions and that we will not be able to get our wish to get out of our fecking cars.  :angry :angry :angry
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 05, 2014, 00:50
and as far as the loud and boorish 'ugly American' stereotypes go it is generally the idiotic loudmouth type that loves to see themselves in the media and shout the loudest to attract attention that gives most of us quieter and respectful Americans a bad rap.

If you were to go visit the 'Bible Belt' (NO I am NOT religious save a bit of Buddhist leanings) you would not find screaming anti-gay folks but pretty much a group of people who ask how you are doing and are generally tolerant of others' lifestyles. They may not understand the gay or whatever is 'different' from them but I think for the most part you would find kind, friendly and helpful people who would be genuinely interested in your point of view.

for all its stereotypes and preconceived notions by some I find that as a general rule the AVERAGE American has got a big heart and are not all 'reality show' freaks and idiots
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 05, 2014, 01:06
and as far as the loud and boorish 'ugly American' stereotypes go it is generally the idiotic loudmouth type that loves to see themselves in the media and shout the loudest to attract attention that gives most of us quieter and respectful Americans a bad rap.

If you were to go visit the 'Bible Belt' (NO I am NOT religious save a bit of Buddhist leanings) you would not find screaming anti-gay folks but pretty much a group of people who ask how you are doing and are generally tolerant of others' lifestyles. They may not understand the gay or whatever is 'different' from them but I think for the most part you would find kind, friendly and helpful people who would be genuinely interested in your point of view.

for all its stereotypes and preconceived notions by some I find that as a general rule the AVERAGE American has got a big heart and are not all 'reality show' freaks and idiots

Drummer Boy set his post up to coming close to America bashing. Your country is so hard to describe because it's so huge. Like you said, American hospitality can't be found elsewere.

For quiet Swedes (we tend to keep things on the inside) Americans are a bless in social situations. I've had many American teachers during my time at university. I find their teaching style much easier to cope with compared to most Swedish teachers.

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 05, 2014, 01:27
..btw I am of part Swedish heritage  ;)

the ad I just got on this page….
(http://ds.serving-sys.com/BurstingRes//Site-6220/Type-0/03a17f10-0041-4716-9662-357f0f4dcfe1.jpg)

 :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: DB-Coop on January 05, 2014, 01:44
I can understand that because their infrastructure is based on cars and planes.  The funny thing is that their equivalent to interrail system is not that expensive. The longest duration costs about 600€ and last for 45 days.

Amtrak is massively supported by the government though if I am not mistaken. Comfort wise an Amtrak train is pretty much the best mode of transport, a European train would easily fit four times as many seats as an american one to be honest.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 05, 2014, 08:25
"What does it mean to be American?" Is a very American question to ask, in terms of the kind of inward looking self-absorbtion that seems prevalent over there.

One thing that strikes me is how often Americans in american TV news or factual programmes refer to themselves as 'Americans' rather than 'people'. I don't know why this is but I wonder if it displays a deep-seated lack of cultural cohesion.

Anyway, some of the generalisations in your Op are  a little outdated. If you want to see fat Weeble people wobbling down the road stuffing their fat stupid faces with sh*te you don't need to hop on a plane to the US. Here in the UK we are catching up quite nicely, and some of that is to do with the importation of US food culture.

As for obnoxious tourists, it has been many years since I have met an american either here in the UK or abroad that wasn't utterly charming, but I do remember meeting some right pr1cks in the 80's who seemed programmed to tell anyone they could why the US was so much better than any other country. ( I went...it wasn't).

I think that was a reflection of the US economic resurgence after the doldrums of the 70's and the aftermath of badly losing in Vietnam (went there too....no way was the US ever going to win a war against those guys, much like the folly of Afghanistan).

Anyway,  just as the sun set on the British Empire, and we were rightly pushed out of all the countries we'd ruthlessly exploited for so long, so too will we see American power pushed back to its own borders. At that point, you'll really be asking yourselves 'what does it mean to be American' in much the same way as the British have been scratching their heads and wondering who they are for the past few decades

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 05, 2014, 10:27
and as far as the loud and boorish 'ugly American' stereotypes go it is generally the idiotic loudmouth type that loves to see themselves in the media and shout the loudest to attract attention that gives most of us quieter and respectful Americans a bad rap.

If you were to go visit the 'Bible Belt' (NO I am NOT religious save a bit of Buddhist leanings) you would not find screaming anti-gay folks but pretty much a group of people who ask how you are doing and are generally tolerant of others' lifestyles. They may not understand the gay or whatever is 'different' from them but I think for the most part you would find kind, friendly and helpful people who would be genuinely interested in your point of view.

for all its stereotypes and preconceived notions by some I find that as a general rule the AVERAGE American has got a big heart and are not all 'reality show' freaks and idiots

Stereotypes are interesting.

In the absence of actually visiting a country where do foreigners get their notions of that country and its people? The answer is probably TV and film, but of course neither of these represent reality to any great degree.

When I first went to the US I was amazed at just how dull it was (wait...this isn't an insult  ;)). That I found it dull can only be a reflection of my expectations, and those expectations were set by.......TV and film. I was amazed at just how well people behaved in contrast to the UK. I'd always thought that Americans would be these wild party animals, but no.... not so. Films and tv exaggerate....they have to because they have to be more exciting than reality. The reality of the US was not at all what I had expected.

Now, as I said, that is not an insult. It was just a reflection of my expectations meeting reality (but...,god...is San Diego boring  :D )

The US is particularly vulnerable to being misunderstood because the American film industry has been so successful in marketing its products abroad. In sexually-repressed Muslim countries, where women are heavily segregated, it is not unusual to find men who believe that they would only have to smile at an American woman and she'd open her legs...a stereotype gleaned straight out of American films.

TV is a freak show. You don't need to go looking for freaks if you've a TV camera on your shoulder....they'll find you. It isn't reality. Reality tends to be far more prosaic.


Title: Re: What does it mean to be \"American\"?
Post by: LukasCPH on January 05, 2014, 10:57
This is actually a fascinating read on the whole process of US metrification
http://lamar.colostate.edu/~hillger/laws/usmb.html
"Voluntary metrication will continue through market adjustments."
Well, that worked just fine. :D

Post Merge: January 05, 2014, 11:04
Many Americans just shake their heads on the train part so maybe I go by train in the North Eastern partn and fly the rest.
It's ironic how a country that was not only connected, but basically made possible by the railway is now so uninclined to use that mode of transportation.
Railway travel is the best way to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes that the US has to offer (apart from riding a bike, but the distances are rather too big for that ;) ). You just have to sit there and look out the window. In a car, you have to drive yourself, or you're stuck in your seat; in a train, you're driven by others and can walk around. And in a plane - sure, you see the land from up high, which has its own charm, but only in good weather and if you're seated by the window.
Russians, Chinese and Indians all use trains to get around. Why don't the Stateans?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 18-Valve on January 05, 2014, 11:09
What do Americans have against trains. I spoke to an american recently who had never been on a train in her life.

Public transportation is for the underclass, basically. See also: MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) also commonly known as "Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta"

...with "Africans" meaning African-Americans.

It's not just a racial issue, though. When you can afford a "McMansion" no matter if you're white, black, Asian, or Latino, etc. you typically only travel by car, taxi and airplane. Suburban sprawl is nowhere as pronounced as it is in the United States. Even Canada and Australia don't really compare.

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Anthony Moan on January 05, 2014, 11:12
American mean Colorado get legalized weed so when krebs visit mew she just send him for grocery every couple of hours.
That is America!
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 18-Valve on January 05, 2014, 11:23
American mean Colorado get legalized weed so when krebs visit mew she just send him for grocery every couple of hours.
That is America!

It's only one of 50 states. Lots of Americans, particularly young black males are serving prison time for marijuana possession for personal use. In California you can kind of get away with tiny amounts, but even there I wouldn't want to risk it, as a foreigner. Colorado really is ahead of the curve. Good for them. Denver is booming, as well.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 05, 2014, 12:08
Wow. After a good night's sleep (7:00am here now) there's a lot of ground to cover here! All excellent responses. This will take me a bit of time.

I will say though, most of you probably have no idea how refreshing it is to even have such a conversation without the hysteria and ignorance that would likely envelope the same were it to take place amongst my own. I can safely say that the very thing I enjoy the most about cycling forums—and where I've benefitted the most personally—is the mostly European (and other) perspectives that tend to dominate the conversations. It's given me a greater perspective on so many things, to the point where I can now only look at with amusement at the domestic-based forums (cycling and non-cycling related) that I used to participate in.

That being said, the one difficulty (although I haven't experienced it as much on Velorooms) is the misunderstanding and misinterpretation that often occurs with humor. Some things just don't translate well, I suppose.

But now to address some specific points...
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on January 05, 2014, 12:22
When/if we - Belgians - call ourselves "anti-American", usually we are referring to the American elite (the administration, Wall Street, etc.) and we do realize that the American people is far from that. Yet the USA are an Empire and we are the colonies. This elite is probably the most inhuman and awful that there's ever been and I guess it's normal for Vietnamese to feel resentment towards America, even if stereotypes are unjustified ...

But behind this elite there's a people, respectable as are all peoples in the world. During the last Presidential election, some 63% abstained ! That shows how much they distrust that elite. I know about the long abstaining tradition in the USA but this is huge, I think.

Besides I recently watch the great doco "The Money Masters", presented by William Still and realized the USA had a long tradition of mistrust towards the great banks and money changers, who unfortunately won the battle (temporarily?).

Reading HD Thoreau and Christopher Lasch also made me realize that the Americans would usually fight for independence and self-sufficiency. They would reject wage labour as slavery because they believe workers should control the means of production. They are very close to nature (while the elite destroys it). I'd really like to read thinkers such as Brownson and Emerson too.

I'd identify the USA with cowboys (the real ones, not Hollywood's), folk & country music (though country music primarily has nothing to do with the West), rodeos and the huge Western landscapes ... Sometimes watching US cyclocrosses give me that picture.  :D

Also I'd always have respect for the Cajuns in Louisiana who still speak (pidgin) French till date and also for the descendants of Belgian migrants to Green Bay, Wisconsin (1855/56 or so) where you have small towns with the names Brussels, Namur and parties like the Belgian Days: http://www.belgianamerican.org/default.aspx  ;)

The frivolousness of the big cities on both coasts, Disneyland, Hollywood, Burger King, Miami Beach, the NFL, Santa Monica, the NY skyscrapers, Vegas and sh*t pop music is nothing for me.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 05, 2014, 12:40
Drummer Boy set his post up to coming close to America bashing...
On the contrary. It has generated exactly the kind of responses I was hoping for. Of course it could have (and very well might) turn into a bash-fest, but I'm not here to "defend America's honor!" We are most often referred to as "Americans," and I've always been curious as to just what that means to people.

Many of the points raised so far represent the perfect example of how the defining characteristics of a nation are usually in the hands of so very, very few. From the severity of invading Iraq, to the frustrating inability to adopt the metric system, these are things that were decided by how many people? Two? Three? Four? Seriously. How many individuals could've changed the course of history with a "yes" or a "no"? It's frightening to contemplate.

To further the metric conversation:
It's a shame it didn't happen in the '70s, because nowadays, with the toxic atmosphere of political division, fueled by digital media, it would be nearly impossible to pull off now, I think. Such a move would be viewed with suspicion and cast in the light of conspiracy in ways that never, ever would've happened thirty or forty years ago.

Conversely, had it happened, even twenty years ago, the growth of the internet combined with the adaptation to social networking by the younger generation would've meant that doing otherwise would likely be viewed as anachronistic if not just plain dumb by tomorrow's leaders and decision makers.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Havetts on January 05, 2014, 13:06
I can say that most Americans I have met are really nice people, not the stereotypical "Americans" anyway. Just your regular people, like most of us. And then on the other hand you have the stereotypical Americans. I can remember the group of Americans I met in Germany, in a small village near the Mosel. They were American tourists on a boat vacation through Europe. They had the American flag waving on the back of the boat, were heavily overweight and were loudly shouting at an elderly German woman behind the Bratwurst stand, not speaking a word of German and upset that the woman wasnt speaking, I quote, "American".  And they were oh so happy to talk about America once I met them, talking about how strange Europe was. But besides that, still nice people.

And thats the thing, Americans always seem nice. But it at times feels so superficial to me, whenever Im at a public place in the States, or Canada, people will ask me "How are you doing?" and when i feel like responding, they honestly dont really care about it, they just said it to be nice, its more of a greeting than an interest in people. And that wonders me, cause in the Netherlands I don't just say "Hey how are you doing" and then completely ignore it. If we ask someone in the Netherlands how he is doing, we care about how they are doing and we are not just greeting each other.

With regards to politics, all I can say is that whenever I watch American politics, I feel like America is being embarassed by their politicians. I sometimes wonder whats wrong with Dutch politicians, but if you relate it to American politicians, we dont have it that bad. And the whole discussion about universal healthcare, etc. just cracks me up. Europe is socialist, and universal healthcare is supposed to be bad, but I'm 10000% sure nobody would swap their healthcare in Europe to that of the States.

Oh well, enough off topic rambling.

Where I'd like to go? I'd love to visit Wyoming. Dont ask me why, I dont know why I want to visit those plains either. It just has something to do with the bad ass name. I've been to Minneapolis and transferred in St Paul, although that doesnt count I guess. Denver is a place I'd like to visit, not sure about the rest. Ive never had the fascination with NY City or LA. Maybe Miami. :)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 05, 2014, 13:14
On the contrary. It has generated exactly the kind of responses I was hoping for. Of course it could have (and very well might) turn into a bash-fest, but I'm not here to "defend America's honor!" We are most often referred to as "Americans," and I've always been curious as to just what that means to people.

Sure, I understood that your purpose was curious rather than defensive. Which is why the question is so interesting because I always thought that America was founded on sharing some cultural beliefs. Like naming a few presidents,  citing the pledge of allegiance, the english language, the national anthem, and you'll be fine. As supposed to other nations who define citizenship by blood. America are often described as being post-modern and the question is some sort of meta reciprocal post-modernism.

From my Swedish perspective the more I think of this, the harder it is to disentangle American culture from Swedish. For instance Swedish youngsters born in 80's and 90's usually adopt english phrases in their Swedish. There's a development from older generations who used a word or two in their Swedish. They learn these phrases and cultural dispositions from watching American tv-series and phenomenon on the internet to describe their world. (I feel shivers  through my spine when the youth can't master their Swedish properly  ;) )

Even in more formal settings like the evenings news on television I can hear Swenglish constructions like That's all for now! Which is impossible to say in Swedish. Another influence is that many Swedish speakers say that the've "Spent some time" which is also impossible to say in Swedish because the word "spent" only can be used with money. Another influence is expressing possesive as the english 's in written text.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 05, 2014, 13:21
1. Nationalism/Patriotism
Standing to attention for the Star Spangled Banner, everyone having the stars and stripes flying from a flagpole outside their house.
What's funny about this is that so many "Americans" (particularly from my generation) are more likely to fly the flag (often figuratively, sometimes literally) of whatever nation their parents came from. Friends of mine whose parents are Italian, (although they themselves may never have even been to Italy) will identify strongly with their Italian heritage. That's the flag you will find hanging from the inside mirror of their car, or on their bedroom wall.

First generation Puerto Ricans will very often hang their own flag outside their homes, and plenty of people will fly the Confederate flag of the South (usually on the back of a pickup truck or on the side of a fence) long before they would ever display the Stars and Stripes (this was true even in the northeast when I was growing up, even those these same people had absolutely zero connection to the South or its history. I guess they just thought it was "cool").

Being considered IRISH American, ITALIAN American...or even AFRICAN American was (and sometimes still is) much more important to many people than simply being "American." I have to say though, over the past twenty years or so this is largely becoming irrelevant due to the increased cultural, and often mixed-race, diversity of the population. Telling your German neighbor that you were ITALIAN, or telling the same to  your neighbor whose own family history may have gone back several generations in this country, may have seemed important twenty years ago. But now that your neighbor is more likely to have parents of different nationalities (and whose grandparents may also), the whole point becomes more and more irrelevant. And thank god for that.

Come to think of it though, I don't think I've ever seen anyone flying the Union Jack, even though my own roots lie there, as was the case with some of my parents friends growing up.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Havetts on January 05, 2014, 13:25
One more thing I never ever have understood about American culture. Why are soldiers who served their duty being hailed as heroes? Whenever you see an American veteran post something online, its always "Thanks for your service". They get discounts, benefits and all those other things in society. Why? Why is it so revered in American culture to go fight a war outside of America, where America shouldnt have been in the first place and then get thanked for it?? I have never understood, and probably never will.

 
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 05, 2014, 13:26
I've definitely come across Americans out of their own country who expected preferential treatment because they were American, and of course they were apoplectic when they realised that nobody gave a sh1t and they'd have to wait their turn just like everyone else  :D

That can't be very different from the way the British behaved in the 19th and early 20th century, and curiously people like me are still subjected to the resentment caused by the behaviour of my forebears even though it took place many decades before my birth. You get it particularly strongly from some Australians who don't seem to realise that the pith-helmet wearing generation of British are long extinct.

Americans. If you want a vision of your future, pay a visit to the UK,  ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on January 05, 2014, 13:31
One more thing I never ever have understood about American culture. Why are soldiers who served their duty being hailed as heroes? Whenever you see an American veteran post something online, its always "Thanks for your service". They get discounts, benefits and all those other things in society. Why? Why is it so revered in American culture to go fight a war outside of America, where America shouldnt have been in the first place and then get thanked for it?? I have never understood, and probably never will.
Precisely.
Firefighters, nurses, policemen ... sure.
Soldiers? Hmm.

One other issue that hasn't been touched upon (much) yet is the gun culture. I'll share a story about that later.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 05, 2014, 13:38
Come to think of it though, I don't think I've ever seen anyone flying the Union Jack, even though my own roots lie there, as was the case with some of my parents friends growing up.

Well, you know exactly why that is. It is because a large part of American mythology concerns the Revolution and defeating the British.

As ever, the truth is a little less palatable. At the time the Americas were of minor interest to the British. They were far more interested in their Empire in the East, as it was enriching the mother nation and military assets were assigned accordingly. The forces sent over to America were a gesture and nothing else.  They literally did not give very much of a sh1t about it.

It is very similar the the British mythology of The Battle of Britain. This was the air war over Britain in the early years of WW2 where the massively outnumbered British air force saw off the German Luftwaffe.

Even over 70 years later it is referred to as one of the last few great British triumphs it the reality  is that the Germans really didn't try very hard to win. If they had, they would probably ave done so.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 05, 2014, 13:47
Come to think of it though, I don't think I've ever seen anyone flying the Union Jack, even though my own roots lie there, as was the case with some of my parents friends growing up.

Funny thing here is, if you had a union jack flying outside your house, or even worse, the cross of st George, it would be assumed you were some sort of extremist racist.

And thats not exagerated. If I flew the cross of St George outside my house, i would have people accosting me in the street calling me racist, the Union Jack less so, but it would still get some peoples backs up. But thats largely due to our flag being associated with the negative elements of our society.

In many ways, our view of flag toting brits (thugs, football fans, bnp supporters), leads us to our view of Americans who similarly have flags hanging from their windows or outside their houses.

Im many ways that also displays, how, despite their huge racial problems, America are in some ways ahead of britain. An integrated African American might display the stars and stripes, very few non white british residents would even consider displaying the cross of st george.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 05, 2014, 13:55
What do Americans have against trains.
They're horrible here.  :D

Case in point:
If I want to take a train from Hartford, CT to New York City, it would end up costing me two to three times as much in train fare as it would for me to spend the money on gas and parking for my car—and the trip would be longer. Not only that, I would be limited to departure times of three to four hours between trains. NOBODY I know takes a train from Hartford (our Capital city) to New York. Most people will typically have to drive 45 minutes (or more) south to the stations in New Haven or beyond (which get closer and closer to NYC) because it will be more affordable with more time options.

Driving one's car nearly half the distance just to get on a train seems silly. If there are multiple people in the car to share the gas, tolls and parking fees, than it's a no-brainer: jump in the car and just go. Only on the rarest of occasions have I taken the train to NYC (for New Year's Eve, a sporting event, and just after 9/11). I have never taken a train to Boston. I prefer the freedom to come and go as I please, and to make diversions in the journey that wouldn't be possible on a train. But if it were much more affordable and the schedules were better, I would jump on them regularly.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 05, 2014, 14:28
Well, you know exactly why that is. It is because a large part of American mythology concerns the Revolution and defeating the British.
Whereas if someone were to fly the German flag (and some do), even though the conflict was more recent (to state the obvious) nobody even associates that with WWII or that it represents "the enemy" (accept, of course, for some WWII vets, and maybe my mom).    :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 18-Valve on January 05, 2014, 14:48
What's funny about this is that so many "Americans" (particularly from my generation) are more likely to fly the flag (often figuratively, sometimes literally) of whatever nation their parents came from. Friends of mine whose parents are Italian, (although they themselves may never have even been to Italy) will identify strongly with their Italian heritage. That's the flag you will find hanging from the inside mirror of their car, or on their bedroom wall.

First generation Puerto Ricans will very often hang their own flag outside their homes, and plenty of people will fly the Confederate flag of the South (usually on the back of a pickup truck or on the side of a fence) long before they would ever display the Stars and Stripes (this was true even in the northeast when I was growing up, even those these same people had absolutely zero connection to the South or its history. I guess they just thought it was "cool").

Being considered IRISH American, ITALIAN American...or even AFRICAN American was (and sometimes still is) much more important to many people than simply being "American." I have to say though, over the past twenty years or so this is largely becoming irrelevant due to the increased cultural, and often mixed-race, diversity of the population. Telling your German neighbor that you were ITALIAN, or telling the same to  your neighbor whose own family history may have gone back several generations in this country, may have seemed important twenty years ago. But now that your neighbor is more likely to have parents of different nationalities (and whose grandparents may also), the whole point becomes more and more irrelevant. And thank god for that.

Come to think of it though, I don't think I've ever seen anyone flying the Union Jack, even though my own roots lie there, as was the case with some of my parents friends growing up.

I wonder how many Battle Flag wavin' white Southerners want to secede from the rest of the U.S., though? That sentiment definitely exists in the Deep South.

Yeah, there are pretty much only Puerto Rican flags in Puerto Rican neighborhoods.  They're immigrants, or descendants of Spanish-speaking immigrants, though. Descendants of American slaves, though? Different issue altogether, more like a second-class citizen issue, but you'd be equally hard-pressed to find a Stars and Stripes in black neighborhoods also, with the exception of government buildings or whatever.

One thing that is typically American is the police. My first day in the States as a youth and I thought I was in a ****ing Hollywood movie. Like fifteen(!) cop cars chasing a fugitive like a bunch of retards and wrecking other cars in the process (which could have easily been avoided). It was a small miracle that no pedestrians got ran over, as the pigs had no issue with testing the sidewalks. Some people literally had to duck or run for cover.

Having spent much more time in the States since then, I know that wasn't an exception. It probably rarely if ever happens in safer neighborhoods, but still.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Havetts on January 05, 2014, 15:29
I always had the feeling that the States is not the melting pot it says it is, I always get the feeling that everyone is living segregated. Black people live in blck neighbourhoods, same with hispanics, with asian communities. Only in America you can hear phrases such as "Thats such a white thing to do", people identify themselves with their colour/race/religion/etc. not with whether theyre American or not.

Our Princess, Maxima, said that there is no Dutch culture, as it is a mix of a lot of cultures and has formed itself. But is there even an " American "  culture, or is it just all different kinds of people living in a country with their cultures being kept seperate? Can anybody explain that to me, is there a way Americans portray their own culture, or what do you see as your own culture?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 05, 2014, 15:41
"What does it mean to be American?" Is a very American question to ask, in terms of the kind of inward looking self-absorbtion that seems prevalent over there.
Yes, and if I were posing that question while standing in front of a classroom of school students it would be consistent with that. Of course, that's not the question that I've put forward. I put "Americans" in quotes to specify the interpretation of Americans (by others), and directed it outwardly to the mostly European contingent of this forum—and you've offered some insightful responses.

One thing that strikes me is how often Americans in american TV news or factual programmes refer to themselves as 'Americans' rather than 'people'. I don't know why this is but I wonder if it displays a deep-seated lack of cultural cohesion.
It very likely does, as there is definitely a lack of cultural cohesion here.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Slow Rider on January 05, 2014, 16:15
Our Princess, Maxima, said that there is no Dutch culture, as it is a mix of a lot of cultures and has formed itself.

I know you've been abroad a lot, but you should at least be aware that she is our Queen right now, not our Princess any more ;)

About the US and Americans: I haven't been in the US, so can't say much about it. I have studied, travelled, lived and in one case dated with Americans, but they were mostly students in Europe, so not exactly average Americans. I don't dislike American culture, and those experiences with American students were very positive.

American politics I will never understand though. Americans (as a stereotype) hate everything that diminishes their freedom. Obamacare and universal health insurance are horrible because they limit the freedom of Americans. The government cant tell us what to do or not to do! Same with bearing arms for instance. But in some weird way, they do want the government to forbid people from marrying someone of their own gender, of euthanising people who suffer unbearably, of abortions... How is forbidding those things not restricting people's freedoms, while requiring a license before being allowed to carry a gun is?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Havetts on January 05, 2014, 16:34
I know you've been abroad a lot, but you should at least be aware that she is our Queen right now, not our Princess any more ;)

Technically there can be no Queen once there is a King, only one person in the Netherlands can hold the title of King. Therefore there can be no Queen, as that is equal to the title of King of which there can be only one. I deliberately used the word Princess because of that reason ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 05, 2014, 16:35
But is there even an " American "  culture, or is it just all different kinds of people living in a country with their cultures being kept separate?
Havetts, you've raised some really good questions in all your posts but I'll need more time to address them all.

As for the above (and I just realized that even this is a much more complex issue than I have time to properly address at the moment), I'd say it's a bit of both. There is definitely, often self-imposed, segregation between cultures, but that often does lead to a certain amount spill-over from one to another, and into the greater community at large. That greater community is sometimes what is referred to as American culture.

And the there is a segment of the flag-waving crowd—often with deep, generational roots—that consider themselves to be "true" Americans. The notion of a melting pot is an easy and convenient catch phrase for politician to use (when it suits them), and is largely embraced by immigrants and those with other than European backgrounds—and it makes for great advertising—but the very concept is also viewed as a threat by many of those flag wavers (as well as some others).

But there are so many gradients, and blurred lines, and different perspectives that I'll have to return to this topic when I'm more able.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: L'arri on January 05, 2014, 17:02
I have ... in one case dated with Americans

OK, come on then, let's hear that story, Slow. I'm curious ...  :cool
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: L'arri on January 05, 2014, 17:07
I read a great book some time ago on how the French identity was basically invented in the nineteenth century by an élite worried about social cohesion in what was at the time a young composite nation of rather disparate and sometimes very separate entities.

I think the same may be true of the US and other federal states like Germany: beyond the obvious patronage of a few painters, writers and musicians, the pressing need to create a unified cultural identity leaves one clutching at a fistful of intangible, often specious straws.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Slow Rider on January 05, 2014, 17:19
Technically there can be no Queen once there is a King, only one person in the Netherlands can hold the title of King. Therefore there can be no Queen, as that is equal to the title of King of which there can be only one. I deliberately used the word Princess because of that reason ;)

There can't be a King if there is a reigning Queen (as was the case with Beatrix), but the other way around does work: A King's consort is named Queen in the Netherlands. The technical term is Queen Consort ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Slow Rider on January 05, 2014, 17:31
OK, come on then, let's hear that story, Slow. I'm curious ...  :cool

Heheh, what is it with you and stories about dating? ;)

Not much special in that story tbh. We were both studying in the UK for some months, she was friends with my roommate, it went from there. It didn't last beyond when we both went back to our homes, which to be honest was fine with me.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 05, 2014, 17:47
Just to bring a bit of positivity back into the thread, there are some plus points about America. At least youre not Australia :P
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 05, 2014, 18:01

We have touched the topic but I found this posting interesting. A 55. 000 $ hospital bill in America would cost me 51$.  1$ is roughly 6.8 SEK

http://www.quickmeme.com/p/3vr7y8
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 05, 2014, 18:18
We have touched the topic but I found this posting interesting. A 55. 000 $ hospital bill in America would cost me 51$.  1$ is roughly 6.8 SEK

http://www.quickmeme.com/p/3vr7y8

This is why the excellent TV series Breaking Bad could not have been made in the UK.

If it had it would have lasted one episode:

50 year old science teacher gets diagnosed with cancer. Gets treated. Paid for by state (no need to finance by cooking meth)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 05, 2014, 19:50
One more thing I never ever have understood about American culture. Why are soldiers who served their duty being hailed as heroes? Whenever you see an American veteran post something online, its always "Thanks for your service". They get discounts, benefits and all those other things in society. Why? Why is it so revered in American culture to go fight a war outside of America, where America shouldnt have been in the first place and then get thanked for it?? I have never understood, and probably never will.
I'll try to tackle this issue from my own perspective. One thing to understand is that it is ingrained into our national psyche that soldiers are "protecting our freedom and way of life!" regardless of where they are or what their assignment. But I also think part of it is due to a desire to rekindle the spirit that welcomed back and hailed the WWII vet.  Much has been made over the years about how veterans from other wars, namely Vietnam (I'm not even going to touch the broader topic of why this happened at the time), received nothing of the same. A fair amount of guilt was put in place as a result. So there has been a very deliberate effort over the years to ensure that all veterans would be treated with respect, regardless of the circumstances of their service.

A more simple interpretation of that would be that most people would never want to find themselves in the situations that many military personnel are put into. And regardless of the policy or politics behind the decisions that put them in that position, it's just a way of showing support to someone who was likely not paid very much, and if injured or in need of other kinds of support, is at the mercy of a broken system that is notorious for neglecting and mishandling the very people that are, at the same time, propped up as "heroes."

I can also offer an example from my own past.
I used to work in a music store, and one of the young, part-time employees joined the National Guard, as many others did, in the interest of receiving financial help with college while only having to commit to some weekend training and other service that would be considered very much "part time." It's a route that countless others before him had taken for the very same reasons.

Then while he was in basic training, 9/11 happened. Surprise! You're going to Baghdad!
Next thing you know, he's behind a machine gun, racing through the dessert as part of one of the earliest waves of troops. The short version of this story is that he did make it back, but with some internal injuries due to explosions, and with more nightmares than one could imagine. In addition, one of store's managers had served in the Army years before all this (he was stationed in Germany during the 1980s). As a result, we always offered discounts to military personnel. Again, policy, politics and one's morality (as it applied to the war itself) had little to do with it. It was simply a gesture of support to another human being.

Firefighters, nurses, policemen ... sure.
Soldiers? Hmm.
Well there are certainly places that offer discounts, etc, to firefighters and police. Nurses? They tend to be paid quite well, and quite often more so than the others, so...
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 07, 2014, 03:27
 :cool :)
interesting thread DB
 :luv :niceday



dim where did the kitty emotie go?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 42x16ss on January 07, 2014, 04:28
Just to bring a bit of positivity back into the thread, there are some plus points about America. At least youre not Australia :P

Grr, don't get me started!  :angry

Australia isn't a caricature of the USA yet but there's a sizeable portion of the population trying to make that happen. It's like they are trying to live their lives like an American film or music video  :S

A major US paper had our PM finish second in it's ar$ehole politician of the year competition (miles behind Ted Cruz) and he wasn't even a candidate - he had to be added manually through "other"! We also have similar obesity rates and it looks like our once wonderful health care system is heading the same direction as the USA. School curriculums are getting watered down and the levels of literacy, numeracy and general knowledge in our school students are terrible for a country of our economic standing.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 18-Valve on January 07, 2014, 06:05
Grr, don't get me started!  :angry

Australia isn't a caricature of the USA yet but there's a sizeable portion of the population trying to make that happen. It's like they are trying to live their lives like an American film or music video  :S

A major US paper had our PM finish second in it's ar$ehole politician of the year competition (miles behind Ted Cruz) and he wasn't even a candidate - he had to be added manually through "other"! We also have similar obesity rates and it looks like our once wonderful health care system is heading the same direction as the USA. School curriculums are getting watered down and the levels of literacy, numeracy and general knowledge in our school students are terrible for a country of our economic standing.

And yet, it seems that lots upon lots of Brits can't wait to leave their country for Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. Just going by immigration stats.   :o
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 42x16ss on January 07, 2014, 06:09
Maybe their views of Australia are based on too much Neighbours and Home and Away? This is still a great country, but the bogan component is just getting too much.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 07, 2014, 06:10
Have you seen the weather here? ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 18-Valve on January 07, 2014, 06:25
Maybe their views of Australia are based on too much Neighbours and Home and Away?

I doubt that. Many of them already have family there.

Have you seen the weather here? ;)

That explains why Canada is the #2 destination for Brits then...

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 18-Valve on January 07, 2014, 06:55
Really, though, the U.S. would be the top migration destination for British citizens instead, if only America's immigration laws weren't so tough in comparion. At least, that's what I've been told.

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 07, 2014, 07:25
Are they? I really don't know.

Funnily enough, for migrants coming into the UK, Americans are very close to the top of the list (about 4th place)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: The Hitch on January 07, 2014, 07:36
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7OlBdFIxbk

/end thread.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: AG on January 07, 2014, 07:38
and racism is a huge issue in Aus too ... much like in America   :(

I have only been to the US once, and that was a very touristy trip, not one where we got to see much about anything actually real (Vegas, Disneyworld etc).  We did go to a few places in the south where we met quite a lot of people ... many of whom surprised me  :D

Until then, all the Americans I had met were either stationed here (perth) for work, or while I was travelling, so not your typical, everyday guy.  Most of them where lovely, normal kinds of people.

In the south we did meet some pretty weird (and incredibly dumb) people - I guess that was my overwhelming impression  :lol   They honestly believed that the world revolved around the US, and many did not have a passport (why would they need one, they were never likely to even admit the rest of the world existed, much less go there).   Some other gems :
- we got ask if we (Aus) had our own currency
- we were ask if we spoke our own language (other than American)
- we were ask if we celebrated christmas at the same time as them

Anyway, was all amusing.  As I said, most people we met were lovely, and I am still in contact with some.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 07, 2014, 09:47
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7OlBdFIxbk

/end thread.

USA

Be who you want to be...

(http://www.mozzarellamamma.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/fat_people_on_scooters_171.jpg)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 18-Valve on January 07, 2014, 10:20
Are they? I really don't know.


Yes, unless you marry an American, it's pretty damn hard to get in, even for academics etc. unless you already know people in the U.S. who can help you out. You pretty much need to have a job lined up, for one, and your American employer must have a good reason for hiring you over U.S. citizens.

Probably because so many people from all over the world want to migrate to the U.S. It kind of make sense - but the country-specific quota (every country has one, last I checked) really don't, IMO.

But since the U.S. population growth rate has slowed down markedly, 2013 saw the slowest growth rate since the Great Depression, maybe they'll relax those laws a bit? Doubt it, though.


Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 07, 2014, 10:57
About 25 years ago a friend of mine, Pete,went to stay in Salt Lake City as an 18 year old. He needed a job so he borrowed the ID card of the American he was staying with, a guy called Bruce Weigal.

Pete got a job in a diner, and naturally having said his name was Bruce he had to keep the pretence up.

After a year of working there and getting to know some of his colleagues very well, including being invited to their homes and even travelling to places with them, he left.

On his last day he said to his colleagues "By the way, my name isn't Bruce"

Apparently some if them were really upset by that.

:)

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on January 07, 2014, 19:15
I read a great book some time ago on how the French identity was basically invented in the nineteenth century by an élite worried about social cohesion in what was at the time a young composite nation of rather disparate and sometimes very separate entities.

It's not true. The French Nation is a political construction that developed throughout centuries, whether Under Monarchies, Republics or Empires. In the 19th century the Republicans only tried to redefine it but saying they invented it is very far-fetched. The monarchs already tended towards centralization.

It's a composite of people, that is true but assumed and not incompatible with their identity because the French Nation is not based on ethnicity but on common values. Jacques Bainville had a nice quote about this: "The French people is a composite. It's better than a race. It's a nation." Hence the French feel inextrically bound to their (centralized) state.

It's very different from the German concept of nation, which I'm afraid is based on ethnicity (I hate to say it, I like Germany but I'm afraid it's true !)

Quote from: Havetts
One more thing I never ever have understood about American culture. Why are soldiers who served their duty being hailed as heroes? Whenever you see an American veteran post something online, its always "Thanks for your service". They get discounts, benefits and all those other things in society. Why? Why is it so revered in American culture to go fight a war outside of America, where America shouldnt have been in the first place and then get thanked for it?? I have never understood, and probably never will.

One thing I hate about European Left is their anti-militarism. I mean soldiers are the first to realize how infernal a war is (Grandson of a WWII and Congo War Vet speaking). The opposition to the Vietnam War started in the army and not on the campus. W never was sent to war. Neither was Wolfowitz nor Rumsfeld because they did not know what it was. So I understand people remembered their soldiers killed on the battlefield (whichever was their country).

By the way your Hitchens supported a war where the US should not have been in the first place, thereby showing his true face.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 07, 2014, 19:30
By the way your Hitchens supported a war where the US should not have been in the first place, thereby showing his true face.

Christopher Hitchens was a bloated, drink sozzled hypocrite and fool of enormous proportion. As the main intellectual cheerleader for Bush's disgusting war he has to take some responsibility for egging on the killing of thousands of men, women and children.

Its a pity he isn't still around to face the consequences of the disaster that he did everything he could to fanfare.

So, you mustn't judge the UK population on the basis of one idiot. A million people marched on London's streets against that war.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 07, 2014, 20:06
George Bush jnr does have to take much of the responsibility for America's reputation.

Every hates George Bush, George Bush is corrupt, and stupid.
America voted for him
Therefore, America is stupid and loves George Bush.

(Of course the vagauries of the american voting system, like britain, mean that a vast percentage of Americans dont actually support their president). Theres a lot to be said for dictatorships. Democracy, generally leads to minority rule.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on January 07, 2014, 21:11
One other issue that hasn't been touched upon (much) yet is the gun culture. I'll share a story about that later.
It is now "later".

To illustrate the whole culture with regards to guns that is apparently so deeply entrenched into Americans Stateans, let me tell this little story:
A friend of mine was in the US on holiday, and stayed with a family somewhere (can't remember where, but it hardly matters) for some time during her stay. Said family was baffled that she had never handled or fired a gun - they owned several, and went to the shooting range regularly, with everyone having a go. My friend was invited to fire the various weapons (from pistols to shotguns) as well, since they couldn't imagine leaving her without that experience.
For me this whole attitude is - in the true sense of the word - incomprehensible. Sure, I come across people with guns in my everyday life (every single one of them a police officer), and I know a couple of people that hunt. But that's far, very far, from the apparent matter of course with which guns are treated in the US.

Another aspect is that whole "stand your ground" idea. I worked in a supermarket some years ago, and we were told that when there as a robbery, we should under no circumstances play hero: It wasn't our money, in fact it wasn't even the supermarket's money (insurance would cover it). Just comply with instructions, remember as much of the robber's appearance as possible, and push the alarm when the robber is gone. If I were robbed myself, I'd probably do the same, despite it being my own money. It's just not worth it.
I suppose if a country is founded on the fundamental belief in property rights being sacred people might feel a bit different, but it still can't explain to me why I would pull my gun if the café I'm drinking a tea at is being robbed.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 07, 2014, 21:19
Well, Americans want to maintain the right to protect themselves with firearms.

The huge irony is that the cost of that is more gun deaths than any other country in the developed world.

I mean...duh  :S

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 07, 2014, 22:27
A friend of mine was in the US on holiday, and stayed with a family somewhere (can't remember where, but it hardly matters)...
NO NO NO NO NO! IT ABSOLUTELY MATTERS!  :o

That's part of my point: What happens "there" probably wouldn't have happened "here."
Many people, many cultures, many beliefs and many different perspectives, all under the same flag.

Another aspect is that whole "stand your ground" idea. <snip>... but it still can't explain to me why I would pull my gun if the café I'm drinking a tea at is being robbed.
Well, that's not really the way it works. That café wouldn't necessarily be considered "your ground" in that scenario.

(That's not to suggest that there aren't plenty of gun-crazed lunatics in this "great land of ours."  Because there are.  :()
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 07, 2014, 22:33
America voted for him

But most of those who turned out actually voted for that "other guy."

50,999,897   48.38%   for Gore

50,456,002   47.87%  for Bush

(http://media.tumblr.com/9bc7d94e9ceb72bbb8648cdc3782ce19/tumblr_inline_muxb8vL71L1qij8k6.jpg)

It's true.  :S
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: KeithJamesMc on January 07, 2014, 22:48
NO NO NO NO NO! IT ABSOLUTELY MATTERS!  :o

That's part of my point: What happens "there" probably wouldn't have happened "here."
Many people, many cultures, many beliefs and many different perspectives, all under the same flag.
Well, that's not really the way it works. That café wouldn't necessarily be considered "your ground"

Well, I was in America, a city to the South called Rio de Janeiro...

... and we were trying our best to build a cellular network under extreme time pressure...

... so we were floating some balloons in the strategic high points of the city for line of sight and cell site planning purposes which just happened to be in the favella's....

... and the locals (mainly teenage kids) were using the balloons for target practice...

... very frustrating as although the guns looked pretty ancient, the kids were pretty accurate.

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 07, 2014, 22:49
But most of those who turned out actually voted for that "other guy."

50,999,897   48.38%   for Gore

50,456,002   47.87%  for Bush

(http://media.tumblr.com/9bc7d94e9ceb72bbb8648cdc3782ce19/tumblr_inline_muxb8vL71L1qij8k6.jpg)

It's true.  :S

Exactly, democracy inevitably puts the minority in charge. Lots to be said for dictatorships and coups. :D

BUt America should never underestimate how badly Bush Jr damaged the worlds opinion of you. Then again, maybe people feel like that about Britian and Blair. Certainly some people still hold Thatcher against the entire nation (Then again, in some countries britain is revered because of Margeret Thatcher)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: L'arri on January 07, 2014, 23:09
Moderator Comment Back on topic please, folks. Discussion is about what it means to be American rather than a coin toss over the merits of political figures. Thanks. :cool
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Capt_Cavman on January 07, 2014, 23:15
Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

I used to be hugely irritated by lots of character traits and policies, all mentioned above. But it seems to me now that a lot of them were (accidently or by design) there to prevent abuse of power by what Echoes calls the elite but I think is too generous a term. Bizarre electoral systems, gun ownership, federalism, allegiance to the flag, isolationism to name but a few; all seem to me now to have been the consequences of trying to keep the Land of the Free relatively free of those who would abuse their power. The elected and, far worse, the unelected and unseen have gained control, e.g. NSA, Goldman Sachs, Rumsfeld, Homeland Security, blah blah. Copying the European model, we've all managed to end up in much the same place in the end.


Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on January 08, 2014, 08:49
NO NO NO NO NO! IT ABSOLUTELY MATTERS!  :o
OK, it matters. But I still can't remember exactly where it was. :P
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 08, 2014, 09:55
The flag waving thing is interesting. The US is a new country. However it is older than some countries that are viewed as ancient and historic, like Italy.

The difference of course is that US is composed almost entirely of recent immigrants with little shared history. This accounts for the Americans flag-waving, but also their rather desperate attempts to invoke heritage. It is symptomatic of a deep-seated need for cultural cohesion and identity.

Of course, the dark side of patriotism and flag-waving is that it can be used to stifle questioning of acts of the state. This, coupled with an ignorance of the outside world has possibly enabled the US to be the most aggressive nation of the past half century, attacking scores of other countries.

We had that kind of bullsh1t in the UK during the 19th and early 20th too. Now it has been replaced by embarrassment
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 18-Valve on January 08, 2014, 10:54
OK, it matters. But I still can't remember exactly where it was. :P

It doesn't matter that much, though. Only Hawaii has a gun ownership rate of under 10 percent, and the states that are in between 10 and 20 percent are still in the minority. Mostly Northeastern states with tougher gun laws like NY and NJ. Florida *just* makes that list IIRC (something like 18 percent, I think), which was the only surprise for me, given the messed up stuff that happens down there. It's mostly "Southern" or quasi-Southern outside of Miami and Southeast FL, anyway.

But it's not just the South that has high gun ownership rates. Also states like Iowa, one the safest states in the Midwest and the U.S. and a state that voted for Obama twice in a row, by a reasonable margin I might add, scores upwards of 40 percent. Even WA has a high rate.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 08, 2014, 14:08
We had that kind of bullsh1t in the UK during the 19th and early 20th too. Now it has been replaced by embarrassment

This is true, most Brits actually find the words to Rule Britannia an offensive reminder of our colonial past. Twenty years ago RB was still very much in vogue as a patriotic song. Outside of a small gathering of toffs once a year at the Albert Hall, you barely hear it anymore. Britannia also left our coins several years ago. In fact, Britainia as a symbol has been pretty much killed off
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Capt_Cavman on January 08, 2014, 14:37
This is true, most Brits actually find the words to Rule Britannia an offensive reminder of our colonial past. Twenty years ago RB was still very much in vogue as a patriotic song. Outside of a small gathering of toffs once a year at the Albert Hall, you barely hear it anymore. Britannia also left our coins several years ago. In fact, Britainia as a symbol has been pretty much killed off
Pretty sweeping statement...

Not true either.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: L'arri on January 08, 2014, 14:46
America ...  :s  ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Anthony Moan on January 08, 2014, 16:25
I love America coz it is land of Krebs!!!!
And I love America coz mew the Doolittle!!!!

I want green card really, will do any job, drugs and arms included, and will bring well known Slovenian bunnies to country!
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on January 08, 2014, 17:10
So, you mustn't judge the UK population on the basis of one idiot.

 :S Did I?

(and I don't think he would have any regret if he were still there)

Quote from: Drummer Boy
But most of those who turned out actually voted for that "other guy."

 50,999,897   48.38%   for Gore

And yet that's merely 51M out of 300M inhabitants. I don't know how many adults but the abstention rate must've been pretty high in 2000 (+ the Nader voters). How can you say a President is supported by his population while these don't even go to the polls?

Just to say I'll never cry for Gore (whose name fits him very well) :P

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 08, 2014, 18:13
:S Did I?

Didn't mean you, I meant 'one'.

Quote
(and I don't think he would have any regret if he were still there)


Possibly not, and that would just further illustrate what an execrable human the man was.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be &quot;American&quot;?
Post by: Dim on January 09, 2014, 01:20
America, America....
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 09, 2014, 02:45
The flag waving thing is interesting.
In the wake of 9/11, it was flags, flags, flags and more flags. They were EVERYWHERE. People were blind to the commercial exploitation.
Look honey! They're selling flags on TV! Little ones that mount right on our car window. Let's show show those terrorists who's really charge!  :angry If we order six, we get a free, matching cup holder!

(http://www.moneymakersflags.com/feb15_02.jpg)

I guess the war-on-terror-through-cheap-useless-products was won, because after a few months, they all but disappeared.  :XD

In early 2002, at the annual music industry trade show, all you saw were products incorporating the Stars & Stripes in whatever fashion they could. It was embarrassing more than anything. To this day, some of those same products still bear the image of the U.S flag. This, from companies that did no such thing prior to 9/11.
(http://az58332.vo.msecnd.net/e88dd2e9fff747f090c792316c22131c/Images/Products51440-1200x1200-547875.jpg)

(http://www.rimshot.nl/WebRoot/StoreNL/Shops/17106090/4C35/B8C2/6241/4070/D3F4/C0A8/2935/5B40/gretsch2002.jpg)


Considering that our national anthem is, quite literally, about the flag, perhaps none of this should be surprising.
But I'm curious to know just how often (if ever) people from other countries display their own flags outside of sporting events or other public rallies?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 09, 2014, 06:07
Just after 9/11 I saw somebody in the US with a t shirt on with a picture of the twin towers and the bald eagle flying above it.

The eagle had tears in its eyes.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: The Hitch on January 09, 2014, 07:36
I was happy to read the news that one of the greatest living Americans, and one of the world's greatest scientists, Lawrence Krauss, got married yesterday for the second time. I saw Lawrence last year when he came to give a speech at my university, and event which created headlines around the world after Lawrence rightfully abandoned the debate once he had found out a religious society had segregated the audience based on gender.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/15/ucl-bans-islamic-group-over-segregation

The news  reminds me of this interview Lawrence did with CNN in  2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-EEcuLsbi4

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: The Hitch on January 09, 2014, 07:42
a bloated, drink sozzled hypocrite and fool of enormous proportion.

Sorry, but I couldn't help notice that the above description perfectly fits Bradley Wiggins.  ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: The Hitch on January 09, 2014, 08:13
It's not true. The French Nation is a political construction that developed throughout centuries, whether Under Monarchies, Republics or Empires. In the 19th century the Republicans only tried to redefine it but saying they invented it is very far-fetched. The monarchs already tended towards centralization.

It's a composite of people, that is true but assumed and not incompatible with their identity because the French Nation is not based on ethnicity but on common values. Jacques Bainville had a nice quote about this: "The French people is a composite. It's better than a race. It's a nation." Hence the French feel inextrically bound to their (centralized) state.

It's very different from the German concept of nation, which I'm afraid is based on ethnicity (I hate to say it, I like Germany but I'm afraid it's true !)

One thing I hate about European Left is their anti-militarism. I mean soldiers are the first to realize how infernal a war is (Grandson of a WWII and Congo War Vet speaking). The opposition to the Vietnam War started in the army and not on the campus. W never was sent to war. Neither was Wolfowitz nor Rumsfeld because they did not know what it was. So I understand people remembered their soldiers killed on the battlefield (whichever was their country).

By the way your Hitchens supported a war where the US should not have been in the first place, thereby showing his true face.

Since this is a topic about America and middle America is famously anti gay rights, I was wondering if you could maybe remind us of your opinion on gay rights again.  ;)

On not if you don't want.  I never really got the impression that any of the users here were in fact members of the Taliban, so like me they might not fully agree with you on it.

I'm wondering though if you know that. Like when for example you celebrated Mandela's death, or when you showed total disrespect  to the death of Arnold Coyot, did you know that it might pee others off or did you think they would agree with you?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 09, 2014, 08:24
I must say that I don't recognise Echoes description of the French. I was a resident of France about a quarter of a century ago and I have to say I was shocked at the overt racism. Saying "Je suis raciste" was seen as a legitimate political position, and it was based on colour.

I work with a French colleague (non-white) who tells me that things haven't changed much.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: L'arri on January 09, 2014, 08:52
Moderator Comment Hitch, I don't think Echoes' opinions on gay rights, Mandela's death or Arnaud Coyot are relevant to this discussion. The OP concerns what it means to be American. Can everyone please firmly remain on that topic from now on.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 09, 2014, 09:35


Considering that our national anthem is, quite literally, about the flag, perhaps none of this should be surprising.

The context is the battle of Fort McHenry though  ;)  The context for Sweden's national anthem is students drunk on "punsch"  a sweet alcoholic beverage, dreaming about a unified Scandinavia.

Quote
But I'm curious to know just how often (if ever) people from other countries display their own flags outside of sporting events or other public rallies?


Yes we do. I Sweden we have public flag days for instance birthdays in the royal family, or International day  of UN, there are a couple of more days when you are allowed to flag Swedens flag according to the law. The law of the flag stipulates the dimension of the flag according to the flagpost too.

You just don't put a flag on you car like the one in the picture in Sweden. Unless you want to looked upon as a some sort of racist/extremist.

You are allowed to flag special occasions like birthdays in the family. However when it's unofficial waiving of the flag it is location and social stratification.

If I were to walk past a back garden in summer time and the flag was up on a flag post, I would probably not reflect upon it. However, a small flag attached to the front porch in summer time I would wonder what kind of people living here, possibly being some sort of extremist/racist.

The same goes for seing flags on porches in the country in particular when it's not summer time. I would definitely react and wonder what kind of chavvy people are living there.

A tell tale sign would be the state of the house and garden.

Flags are sensitive subject in Sweden mainly because in the 90's during the economic crisis there was a lot of political turmoil and neo-nazis and right wing supremacist kidnapped the flag and made it *their* symbol. There was a large debate and the civil society managed to take back the flag from the nazis. But it can be a controversial issue. Even today a person (usually male) who has flag covering a wall in their room automatically qualifies to be a chav.
[/quote]

Sweden is a relatively old country and a old culture, so don't need to display nationalism by waiving our flag.  We have our history with Vikings, and we used to a superpower in 17th century and we have many other historical figures, and recently we have ABBA and other musical exports, or companys like Ikea, Volvo, Ericsson, H&M etc.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 09, 2014, 11:18
Swedish identity= Ikea, herrings, ABBA, Volvo and eugenics.

;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on January 09, 2014, 12:03
Yes we do. I Sweden we have public flag days for instance birthdays in the royal family, or International day  of UN, there are a couple of more days when you are allowed to flag Swedens flag according to the law. The law of the flag stipulates the dimension of the flag according to the flagpost too.

You just don't put a flag on you car like the one in the picture in Sweden. Unless you want to looked upon as a some sort of racist/extremist.

You are allowed to flag special occasions like birthdays in the family. However when it's unofficial waiving of the flag it is location and social stratification.

If I were to walk past a back garden in summer time and the flag was up on a flag post, I would probably not reflect upon it. However, a small flag attached to the front porch in summer time I would wonder what kind of people living here, possibly being some sort of extremist/racist.
This goes for Denmark as well, almost word for word.
But here, the flag is e.g. also put on Christmas trees in small garlands.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Capt_Cavman on January 09, 2014, 13:42
Flags have been around since man could stick a thing on a pole and wave it about. But apparently we're beyond all that now.

Originally military: to rally behind, to identify people/leaders/sides, to make a stand around, to plant and declare ownership. It is only natural to bring out the flags at times of crises such as 9/11 in the  US or the World Cup in England. Something to rally behind, identify who's on your side, feel a sense of common cause, blah, blah, blah.

They can be used as a way leaders galvanize the people to military endeavour such as to exhort them to invade Poland or whatever.  But on the other hand, for a leadership to imply that their flag is embarrassing or a relic of the past no longer held dear, suggests it fears its fellow citizens and their power to remove that leadership, a very unhealthy state to be in.

In short, flags are cool and often pretty. Feeling negatively disposed to your national flag or the people who wave it, suggests you're not comfortable with where you are or that where you are is not comfortable with itself. To bring this back to the US, I see the flag waving thing fairly positively.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 09, 2014, 14:34
Swedish identity= Ikea, herrings, ABBA, Volvo and eugenics.

;)

Sauna's, naked sauna's, you forgot naked sauna's

Strangely, ive never viewed americans as big ones for Sauna's, unless they are in the Mafia. As we all well know, the prime place to kill an Italian-American is in a Sauna.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 09, 2014, 14:36
In short, flags are cool and often pretty. Feeling negatively disposed to your national flag or the people who wave it, suggests you're not comfortable with where you are or that where you are is not comfortable with itself. To bring this back to the US, I see the flag waving thing fairly positively.

See this is where i disagree, i find nationalistic flag waving, especially from Americans, as really annoying. But again, perhaps its from the negative images in british culture of flag waving, bnp, skinheads, football fans, who have taken the cross of st george and made it their own. The cross of st george in britain is very often viewed as a symbol of fasism.

Union Flag, fine, cross of st George, not so.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on January 09, 2014, 15:05
Union Flag, fine, cross of st George, not so.
What about the Scottish Saltire, or the Welsh Dragon?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Dim on January 09, 2014, 16:17
What about the Scottish Saltire, or the Welsh Dragon?

Well Scottish and Welsh nationalism im fine with. :D Scottish nationalists you just think of drunk overweight men with orange wigs. British nationalists you think skinheads with swastica tatooes.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Capt_Cavman on January 09, 2014, 16:56
See this is where i disagree, i find nationalistic flag waving, especially from Americans, as really annoying. But again, perhaps its from the negative images in british culture of flag waving, bnp, skinheads, football fans, who have taken the cross of st george and made it their own. The cross of st george in britain is very often viewed as a symbol of fasism.

Union Flag, fine, cross of st George, not so.
I was thinking of this when I wrote, "...where you are is not comfortable with itself." which is true of England I believe.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 09, 2014, 17:53
Well Scottish and Welsh nationalism im fine with. :D Scottish nationalists you just think of drunk overweight men with orange wigs. British nationalists you think skinheads with swastica tatooes.

See I find Scottish nationalism slightly annoying because it is largely based around 'not being English' rather than 'being Scottish'. I know why, because in the words of the great Rentboy "Its sh*te being Scottish"

I've infinite time for the gentle Welsh.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 09, 2014, 18:03
I was thinking of this when I wrote, "...where you are is not comfortable with itself." which is true of England I believe.

You are correct.

UK is in a state of post-imperial identity crisis. A certain portion of the population (white, aged, rural-dwelling) hark back to a bygone age that may never have existed, but the reality in larger towns and cities is very different.

Despite the extreme self-conciousness about not wishing to be racist I know from many immigrant friends that the UK is very safe and welcoming for outsiders. I'm not sure that the UK realises just how comparatively tolerant it is.

Having said that, we've a political schism with no party able to claim a majority leaving the door open for racist opportunists like UKIP to carpet-bag a living in politics.

We've just yesterday had a very messy inquest over the police shooting of a black man two years ago, which underlines that certain sectors of society at least feel marginalised, and probably still are.

I have to say, on a purely philosophical basis, I think patriotism and nationalism are moronic, but I'm happy to concede that there may be societal benefits from it (for some)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on January 09, 2014, 19:37
I must say that I don't recognise Echoes description of the French. I was a resident of France about a quarter of a century ago and I have to say I was shocked at the overt racism. Saying "Je suis raciste" was seen as a legitimate political position, and it was based on colour.

I work with a French colleague (non-white) who tells me that things haven't changed much.

So you are inviting "one" not to judge Brits on Hitchens alone, quoting me, while I haven't done that (okay let it pass) but you are judging the French on some few people that you met ...

I'm francophone and often in contact with Frenchies and as a Belgian, if I had that feeling I'd be the first to say it, lol.

Of course there are racists in France. That comes from their colonial empire - which was there a left-wing undertaking  :P -(Jules Ferry: "the Superior races have a duty to civilize the inferior races"). But on the Royalist side, they would rather respect the "colonized" cultures, and the Muslims (Lyautey, for example or Bainville).

I can also take an example that would get us back on topic. A story I discovered recently: that of Bessy Coleman. A black American woman who tried to get a pilot licence in the early days of aviation. But no school in the USA would accept her and so she crossed the Atlantic and landed in Le Crotoy, Picardy, where she was welcomed with open arms: The Caudron Brothers School and she got her pilot licence in 1921. :cool

(http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ucNMTgUqodE/TXJzP7mGUdI/AAAAAAAAAwA/3wmYQ9OV-0U/s400/Coleman.jpg)

(first  time I say something negative about the USA)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 09, 2014, 20:49
Sauna's, naked sauna's, you forgot naked sauna's

Strangely, ive never viewed americans as big ones for Sauna's, unless they are in the Mafia. As we all well know, the prime place to kill an Italian-American is in a Sauna.
Actually, Sauna are more Finland than Sweden. The word sauna is a finnis word. Not that we don't mind getting naked and have a Sauna baths with our friends. However sauna baths have religious overtones in Finland and one is judged by how well you counstruct (ie. how warm it is) your sauna.

Coming back to the topic. Being uncomfortable whilst naked among friends is something that is American.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 09, 2014, 21:13
So you are inviting "one" not to judge Brits on Hitchens alone, quoting me, while I haven't done that (okay let it pass) but you are judging the French on some few people that you met ...

I'm francophone and often in contact with Frenchies and as a Belgian, if I had that feeling I'd be the first to say it, lol.

I used to live and work in France, Mon Ami. And yes I speak fluent french too.

If you are trying to tell me that racism is not strong in France you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. The National Front got 18% of the vote in the 2012 Presidential election.

Do you know who this is?

(http://www.gouvernement.fr/sites/default/files/imagecache/carousel_home/photoministre_taubira.jpg)

Do you even know why she might not agree with your summation of french views on race?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 09, 2014, 21:55
there are a couple of more days when you are allowed to flag Swedens flag according to the law. The law of the flag stipulates the dimension of the flag according to the flagpost too.
Allowed?  What the...?  :S


We have our history with Vikings, and we used to be a superpower in 17th century...and recently we have ABBA...
Surely there's a direct link to the downfall, no?  :P
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 09, 2014, 22:25
In short, flags are cool and often pretty. Feeling negatively disposed to your national flag or the people who wave it, suggests you're not comfortable with where you are or that where you are is not comfortable with itself. To bring this back to the US, I see the flag waving thing fairly positively.

Hmmm. Here's what bothers me about the flag in its various uses:
It's not uncommon when I'm out on a ride to see a VERY LARGE American flag on display on the side of a barn or other structure in whatever way is most conspicuous to those passing by. I'm always a bit confounded by such a thing. OK, I get it, you're an AMERICAN and this is AMERICA! Well, yeah. I'm an American too—born and raised. But I don't feel the urge to advertise the obvious. In fact, I usually interpret such a display to mean: I'm an AMERICAN, and you most likely probably not!

Needless to say, I never feel much camaraderie with those patriotic souls. If I were ever in need of assistance, theirs is probably the LAST door I would be knocking on. Although there's an excellent chance that a very loud and angry dog would prevent me from doing such a thing anyway.  :(

USA! USA! USA!
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 09, 2014, 22:36
Allowed?  What the...?  :S

Surely there's a direct link to the downfall, no?  :P


Well you can't just go waiving you nations flag can you? (I'm being ironic)  We seek freedom through regulation. Our equivalent to your social security number keeps track of pretty much everything in our lives.  Were you live, you relatives, grades from school/uni, taxes, hospital records, criminal records the whole lot.

What's wrong with ABBA eh? Mock them and you'll pee off a couple of brits and aussies too  :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Slow Rider on January 09, 2014, 23:11
In the Netherlands there are also rules on when you can have a flag out. I think the goal is not to overpoliticise the flag: people hanging out the flag to celebrate the death of someone whose political views they disagreed with, or the resignation of a government, etc. So to prevent all that, normally flags are only out on certain dates (and half-staff on some of those). I'm not exactly sure what the rules are and why, but it's done its job in making sure the Dutch flag is not a political symbol for any party or ideology.

For me, holding flags in such a high regard in countries such as the USA is almost childish in some way. "Look at me waving my flag, I'm AMERICAN!" But then again, I find all nationalism incomprehensible to be honest. I can't help I'm Dutch, so why would it be something to be proud of? It's a fine nationality, I like it when we're doing well in football, but to be proud of it? I'm not proud of being white or brown-eyed or atheist either, so why would I be of my nationality?

That Americans are proud of their nation is fine and all that, but to show it so often with the flag-waving feels like overcompensation to me. Relative lack of history may be to blame there, perhaps it's simply to prevent the country from falling apart over race and religion, I don't know. It feels very strange to me though.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 09, 2014, 23:35
One other thing that occurs with flags, is that you'll often see newly-arrived immigrant business owners prominently displaying the American flag inside or outside of their shop/restaurant/gas station etc., all in a futile attemtpt to say, "You see, we're just like you! We're 'American' too!" What they typically fail to grasp is the fact that doing so is so conspicuous, that it usually just casts suspicion upon them.

I always want to tell them, "You're trying hard, dude. Much too hard."
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 09, 2014, 23:49
And just to offer yet another perspective:
You will also find the American flag prominently displayed in the wake of disasters. It's basically a way of people saying, "We are strong, we are determined, we are going to do everything we can to restore/rebuild our lives." It also generally implies that they are receptive and welcoming to help from others. From an emotional and psychological standpoint, I totally get that and am not opposed to it.

It's also a way of simply saying, "We are still here."

Here are a couple of examples from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that brought massive destruction to parts of the Eastern seaboard in 2012.
(http://cdn2-b.examiner.com/sites/default/files/styles/image_content_width/hash/33/5e/335e0559672af4c0623e4e7fe7426208.jpg?itok=hH5PK6um)

(http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/files/2012/12/sandy-damage.jpg)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: AG on January 10, 2014, 00:36
But then again, I find all nationalism incomprehensible to be honest. I can't help I'm Dutch, so why would it be something to be proud of? It's a fine nationality, I like it when we're doing well in football, but to be proud of it? I'm not proud of being white or brown-eyed or atheist either, so why would I be of my nationality?

Its interesting

I get the 'being proud' thing though.   I feel as though I have contributed a great deal to my country, and I am proud to have contributed when we do something good or that I see as worthwhile (giving aid, helping others etc - not that we have done much of that lately).   I get that military personal feel proud that they have defended a way of life, a freedom, ideals that they believe in ... proud that they have tried to protect others from a regime that is cruel or corrupt.   Its not always the case - I am not that naive - but the basic concept is what I am talking about.

It gets WAY out of hand, and way overdone though. 

Australia is a fairly racist country, which I dont really understand given that Australia has grown and developed purely on immigration from other countries.  Flag waving here is very bogan ... stupid drunk idiots waving the flag and doing stupid things on Australia Day ...
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 10, 2014, 00:41
it may be the 'young country' thing…it's really the only thing we know how to do to show that we are united and tough…
during /after wars flags symbolize our freedom and how it was won by fighting for it…
yeah it has degraded into a weird sticker and cheap souvenir type logo in my opinion..but it really is the only thing we have to show that no matter what we are 'all' Americans and flying the flag is a knee jerk and ingrained response that has no other comparable…

feck I don't know  :S
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 10, 2014, 00:43
…and I for one would never stand in a crowd and yell USA USA…just like I wouldn't shove my face into a tv camera and wave and yell idiotic profanities

 :bah :=B
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: DB-Coop on January 10, 2014, 01:00
For me, holding flags in such a high regard in countries such as the USA is almost childish in some way. "Look at me waving my flag, I'm AMERICAN!" But then again, I find all nationalism incomprehensible to be honest. I can't help I'm Dutch, so why would it be something to be proud of? It's a fine nationality, I like it when we're doing well in football, but to be proud of it? I'm not proud of being white or brown-eyed or atheist either, so why would I be of my nationality?

I think the only justified usage of a flag is what used to happen in Denmark 5 - 10 years ago where people would put small flags in dog poo to warn people that somebody didn't bother to pickup. I really want that tradition to return.
(http://www.vovhund.dk/images/hundelort.jpg)

What's wrong with ABBA eh? Mock them and you'll pee off a couple of brits and aussies too  :D

Main thing I dislike about ABBA is that everyone seem to love them, when they were only average at best. They are a while from cracking my top 3 of stuff from Sweden I dislike list though. # All the neo-nazi's, what is up with that? #2 Swedish clerks in Copenhagen, when I switched to English upon realizing the clerk was Swedish it should be a hint that I'd rather speak English than "Scandinavian" #3 The fact that I couldn't come up with anything for number 3.

Taking about racists, what is up with Denmark having a stereo type of Swedish people being drunk. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. It is all the same, Swedes are only drunk when ever they in Denmark. Danish people are drunk most of the time being in Denmark too.

 
See this is where i disagree, i find nationalistic flag waving, especially from Americans, as really annoying. But again, perhaps its from the negative images in british culture of flag waving, bnp, skinheads, football fans, who have taken the cross of st george and made it their own. The cross of st george in britain is very often viewed as a symbol of fasism.

Union Flag, fine, cross of st George, not so.

England might be the place most in need of some PR advise of all the places I have ever seen. The type of press they receive around the world makes it seem like Team Sky hired the best team in all of England to do their PR. A woman in Greece won an award for beating up an English tourist I remember hearing sometime.

 
And just to offer yet another perspective:
You will also find the American flag prominently displayed in the wake of disasters. It's basically a way of people saying, "We are strong, we are determined, we are going to do everything we can to restore/rebuild our lives."

Seems a bit silly to be honest. My house collapsed now putting up the flag should be main focus. Also why do they build outer walls out of plaster in America and then simply cover the outside up, it must cost a fortune to heat up those houses. And you can break a wall by opening the door too hard, which means that while your door might be locked anybody could break right through your wall. Sort of like if Japanese banks had rice paper walls.
(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Takamatsu-Castle-Building-Interior-M3488.jpg)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 10, 2014, 01:15
no one said we did things 'right' or 'correctly'  :P
it's just the American way

and I wish we could stop the wood frame house thingie and build with concrete, brick or stone
horrible waste and again it's not the smartest way
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 10, 2014, 01:36
Seems a bit silly to be honest. My house collapsed now putting up the flag should be main focus.
Well, no. It's more like: Our entire town was just completely decimated beyond recognition by a massive tornado. And in case you're wondering, we're not all dead.
(http://cdn.lightgalleries.net/4bd5ec080bf97/images/news_joplin_tornado_flag-1.jpg)

Also why do they build outer walls out of plaster in America and then simply cover the outside up, it must cost a fortune to heat up those houses. And you can break a wall by opening the door too hard, which means that while your door might be locked anybody could break right through your wall.
Wut?  Now, I hardly live in fortress, but I can assure you that breaking in by way of a window would be considerable more effecient than trying to break in through...one of my walls.  :D


Sort of like if Japanese banks had rice paper walls.
Well in that case, there would be a ninja waiting on the other side. I'd keep my money in there.

(http://mymindsink.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Ninja-crouch.jpg)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 10, 2014, 02:18
Every now and then you do read of a car or truck out of control that crashes through someones' bedroom or living room wall and kills them while they're sleeping…..

once when I was a kid in the city next to our town a truck flew out of control on a curve and crashed into a donut shop..the driver got burned by the grease... :o

so American...
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 10, 2014, 02:20
Swedish identity= Ikea, herrings, ABBA, Volvo and eugenics.

;)

I drive a little volvo  ;)
..but I never did like ABBA...
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 10, 2014, 02:36
Every now and then you do read of a car or truck out of control that crashes through someones' bedroom or living room wall and kills them while they're sleeping…
It happened just a few days ago.  :o

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/12/man-asleep-in-bed-killed-in-suspected-dui-accident/ (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/12/man-asleep-in-bed-killed-in-suspected-dui-accident/)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: mew on January 10, 2014, 02:44
It happened just a few days ago.  :o

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/12/man-asleep-in-bed-killed-in-suspected-dui-accident/ (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/12/man-asleep-in-bed-killed-in-suspected-dui-accident/)

 :o :o
even weirder..
I flew into Orange County on that day
 :o
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: 42x16ss on January 10, 2014, 03:16
Its interesting

I get the 'being proud' thing though.   I feel as though I have contributed a great deal to my country, and I am proud to have contributed when we do something good or that I see as worthwhile (giving aid, helping others etc - not that we have done much of that lately).   I get that military personal feel proud that they have defended a way of life, a freedom, ideals that they believe in ... proud that they have tried to protect others from a regime that is cruel or corrupt.   Its not always the case - I am not that naive - but the basic concept is what I am talking about.

It gets WAY out of hand, and way overdone though. 

Australia is a fairly racist country, which I dont really understand given that Australia has grown and developed purely on immigration from other countries.  Flag waving here is very bogan ... stupid drunk idiots waving the flag and doing stupid things on Australia Day ...
So very true, remember the "Cronulla Riots?" Bogan POS's going around belting the crap out of anyone who looked remotely Middle Eastern - Greeks, Italians, Spanish, Macedonians etc. A very dark day in our history :(  :angry

The attitudes from a disturbingly large percentage of this country is totally frightening. Here are a few charming T-shirts you see from time to time, mostly on Australia Day but they are around at other times:

(http://img.auctiva.com/imgdata/1/5/7/9/0/2/8/webimg/490012149_o.jpg)

(http://sictees.com.au/ebay/products/thumbs/N414.jpg)

(http://sictees.com.au/ebay/products/thumbs/412.jpg)

Usually the easiest way to spot these types of people is if one (or more) of their tattoo's are the Southern Cross (the collection of stars next to the Union Jack on our flag). Thankfully most people see this behaviour for what it is, but there are more like this than you first expect  :TT :cry

As an ex-serviceman who has actually served overseas, I find this behaviour more offensive than most.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 10, 2014, 06:05
England might be the place most in need of some PR advise of all the places I have ever seen. The type of press they receive around the world makes it seem like Team Sky hired the best team in all of England to do their PR. A woman in Greece won an award for beating up an English tourist I remember hearing sometime.

England or UK?

Have you seen how British youth who are out in town on weekend evenings behave?

Well they do the same in other people's countries too. Its no wonder people get peeed off. Its embarrassing for the rest of us. Unfortunately there is now a very ingrained culture here that for teenagers and people in their twenties having fun means drinking yourself into a stupor, vandalising, fighting, and just behaving like a pr1ck.

But because you were drunk, its all OK. The girls are as bad as the men.

Its degenerate.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 10, 2014, 10:22

Main thing I dislike about ABBA is that everyone seem to love them, when they were only average at best.

Well it's all about taste. Americans tend to have a omnivorous taste as opposite to a taste that is socially stratified in a Bourdieu sense. I guess that anything goes in America.

Quote
# All the neo-nazi's, what is up with that?

It's a question of geography ( or locality really) and socioeconomic status (SES) in regions of Skåne and Blekinge (The most souther and South Eastern part of SE) and its closeness to Denmark.

There are areas in those regions were people for many generations barely have completed high school as highest level of education. In the same areas you'll find the highest ratings for Sweden Democrates (Right wing populist party with an anti immigrant agenda) and of course a high level of people voting for Nazi parties.

These are the people who say that immigrants come to Sweden and *steal* their jobs. When infact they are lowly educated and have fewer *choices* on the labour market. The blue collar labour market is being replaced by more skilled jobs. The competion for jobs between migrants and native born Swedes with low education are quite high.

Not in America though, because the labour market is hour glass shaped with high end tech jobs at the top and blue collar menial jobs at the bottom. America tend to have a middle-class problem AND increasing conflicts between upper-class and the proletariate.

Coming back to Skåne and Blekinge in Sweden, people in such areas have a tendency to a greater extent to sick and unemployed. Due to diferences in SES. The government in 2006 cut back on social insurances and unemployment insurance in order to finance tax cuts for those who had a steady job ie. the highest paid got most tax incentives. Those on the outside the labour market were affected  the most. As a consequence, frustration grew even higher and Sweden Democrates gained more votes in the election in 2010.

There is other historical reasons too. The nobility in Skåne seems to have a weakness for lifting their right arm in the air and shout two german words. Why I don't know. For all I care they can do it in and rot away in their castles together with the  feeling of catharsis. As long as they don't bother me with their Nazi crap.

 Sorry, long off topic answer maybe it could be intertwined with the oppression of the working class in American or something  ;)
 
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on January 10, 2014, 10:32
They are a while from cracking my top 3 of stuff from Sweden I dislike list though. #3 The fact that I couldn't come up with anything for number 3.
Admit it, you love the Swedes and couldn't be without them.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: L'arri on January 10, 2014, 16:16
Admit it, you love the Swedes and couldn't be without them.

I watched Susanne Bier's Hævnen (2010) when I was off sick with my foot which, among many other things, features a nugget of Danish bad attitude toward the Swedish family at the centre of the story. Never knew such sentiments between the countries existed. :(
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 10, 2014, 17:14
It exists everywhere.

 You should know that. You live in Belgium.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: DB-Coop on January 10, 2014, 18:11
Admit it, you love the Swedes and couldn't be without them.

I would probably have a very unfurnished place to live if all Swedish things disappeared.

I watched Susanne Bier's Hævnen (2010) when I was off sick with my foot which, among many other things, features a nugget of Danish bad attitude toward the Swedish family at the centre of the story. Never knew such sentiments between the countries existed. :(

More a love-hate relationship than anything. Revolving about Denmark being bad at war. Denmark being smaller than Sweden, mostly because of point one again. And that Swedish is impossible to understand. In reality most Danes wants to work closer together with the other Scandinavian countries. I remember reading about 90% of Danes being positive about leaving the EU and form a union with Norway and Sweden instead.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on January 11, 2014, 15:30
If you are trying to tell me that racism is not strong in France you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. The National Front got 18% of the vote in the 2012 Presidential election.

Doesn't prove anything. Yes unfortunately I know the Taubira.

Quote from: AG
I get the 'being proud' thing though.   I feel as though I have contributed a great deal to my country, and I am proud to have contributed when we do something good or that I see as worthwhile (giving aid, helping others etc - not that we have done much of that lately).   I get that military personal feel proud that they have defended a way of life, a freedom, ideals that they believe in ... proud that they have tried to protect others from a regime that is cruel or corrupt.   Its not always the case - I am not that naive - but the basic concept is what I am talking about.

Best post I've seen on this thread so far. I gave it a like, I could've given it 10 of them if I were entitled to. Lovely to read. Bravo !   :cool :)
I've always thought that citizenship was a choice and not a gift. I mean surely if you are opening a bank account in the Cayman Island or if you own a company whose production you relocate overseas, are you still a citizen of your country? On paper perhaps, on heart, no.

I've always thought that the sense of social duty is extrically linked with the sense of patriotism - which is why left-wingers hate me here -. If I am to serve people, that would first be my relatives, friends, neighbours and fellow countrymen. Quite obvious to me but for this I'm sometimes labelled neo-nazi or something. I can't help quoting Rousseau (who cannot decently be judged a racist or anything of the sort): "Distrust these cosmopolitans who pride themselves on loving the Tartars in order to be exempted from loving their neighbours." It's feeling you belong to a group of people and you are not a selfish, greedy individual. Feeling you are ready to do without some individualistic entertainment in order to serve common good (on a voluntary basis). I'd always sing my national anthem more fondly than the Internationale.

The flag is also something I'd never insult. If people say it's childish, my reaction would be to try and get one and wave it, out of sheer provocation.  :D I don't have one because it should be in the hearts of people more than in their hands. Chavez would say "the fatherland you have to feel it in your ovaries and in your balls", lol.

My grandpa fought for that flag like many others and I'm not ready to forget about it. I'd even humbly add that I'm proud of what he did.

Quote from: Gotland
and recently we have ABBA and other musical exports, or companys like Ikea, Volvo, Ericsson, H&M etc.

Representative of Swedish culture while singing in English?  :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 11, 2014, 15:48
Representative of Swedish culture while singing in English?  :D

Yes, ABBA paved the way, and is a part of Swedish cultural export?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 11, 2014, 15:51

Quote from: Joachim
The National Front got 18% of the vote in the 2012 Presidential election.

Quote from: Echoes
Doesn't prove anything.

It proves that nearly one in five of French voters voted for a racist party.

Look, I can give you the facts, and I can interpret them for you, but I can't do your thinking for you. Saying 'Doesn't prove anything' doesn't prove anything.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on January 11, 2014, 16:46
Yes, ABBA paved the way, and is a part of Swedish cultural export?

Probably. Call me idealistic but I've always regretted it when non-Anglophone bands sing their songs in English rather than in their mother tongue.  I've always liked Golden Earring, for their musical skills but I think as a Dutch band, they should have sung in Dutch, though they would have enjoyed less international success. The language is the voice of a people and I think it's sad to see many artist willing to disown their language for the English one. Just like I regret the fact that all our pop radio are filled with crap American pop music, all our cinema hall filled with crap American films and our TV channels as well (+ American series).

Quote from: Joachim
It proves that nearly one in five of French voters voted for a racist party.


Look, first the Presidential election are not a matter of parties but of personalities and second if you think UKIP is racist, I guess we are not on the same planet. So it'll be hard for me to have a healthy discussion with you. I can interpret facts in an accurate way on my own, thank you. I'm a well-capable adult. There are many explanations for the vote Le Pen. Saying they are racist is a BH Levy stance. Someone who judges ! But who would never care to understand. I'll never have such elitist stance. I ain't no Fortunate Son. It ain't me.  :-x
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 11, 2014, 16:59
 You are right.

There is no point you and I discussing this. You are on another planet.

Le Pen has been tried and convicted of racism or inciting racial hatred at least six times.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Gotland on January 11, 2014, 17:39
Probably. Call me idealistic but I've always regretted it when non-Anglophone bands sing their songs in English rather than in their mother tongue.  I've always liked Golden Earring, for their musical skills but I think as a Dutch band, they should have sung in Dutch, though they would have enjoyed less international success. The language is the voice of a people and I think it's sad to see many artist willing to disown their language for the English one. Just like I regret the fact that all our pop radio are filled with crap American pop music, all our cinema hall filled with crap American films and our TV channels as well (+ American series).
Well it's a bit ironic to criticise ABBA from the standpoint that they should keep their cultural identity by singing in Swedish. When infact the whole purpose for ABBA was commercial success from the very beginning. That included singing in english and participating in the Eurovision song contest.

To put this in an American context, the land of market econonomy and free capitalism. On the free market the underlying assumption is to maximize ones own utility by making choices on the market. Therefore it is a little bit funny that you complain about pop radio are filled with crap American pop music, all our cinema hall filled with crap American films and our TV channels as well (+ American series).. My question to you is why are you making crappy choices on the market then?  ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be &quot;American&quot;?
Post by: Icebreaker on January 12, 2014, 15:25
It has been some time since I stopped by, and when I do, I find this.

It is hard to imagine what the original motivation for this thread may have been but it is pretty clear, and somewhat disturbing, where the thread has gone.

Seems to have become a "let's make fun of American stereotypes" thread.  I wonder how many of the contributors actually spend any significant time in the US?
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joachim on January 12, 2014, 16:05
Eh?

It's all about Abba and Echoes parallel universe
Title: Re: What does it mean to be &quot;American&quot;?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 12, 2014, 16:54
It is hard to imagine what the original motivation for this thread may have been...
:slow

Well, I suppose I could rearrange some different letters to form some different words...

The "original motivation" was nothing other than being curious about how others (non-Americans) view Americans (OK, OK, "citizens of the United States"), what they associate with "Americans," an how those views came to be shaped.

Not much more to it, really.

It would seem that the cartoonish filter of the media has played a heavy hand in much of it. Some very interesting discussions though.

And the reason you "found this" is because, well, it is here.

Join the fun!  :party
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Icebreaker on January 12, 2014, 19:30
Look,

I am a primary resident of a country other than the US, however, I own a home in the US and spend a lot of time there.

My time in the US is not just flying into an airport and then flying back out.  I drive back an forth from my home in Canada to my home in the US, an hour or so drive from the Mexican border.  I have a lot of contact with the US, and its people.

It is easy to stereotype any nation and its people, the US probably more than most as a result of the intrusion of US popular culture into virtually every corner of the globe.

To be brutally honest, the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo are not great advertisements for any people.  And sometimes Americans abroad don’t help the cause - cue the family I encountered in a McDonald’s in Banff, Alberta who were  demanding to see the manager of the store to find out why they could not get their change in US funds.  The fact that they were in a foreign, sovereign nation seemed to have eluded them.

I find the people I encounter in my daily activities in the US (I actually hate the term “America” or “American” as it really applies to the peoples from Tierra del Fuego to Baffin Island) to be not much different than the people I encounter anywhere, with the exception that I find a greater sense of “inward isolation” then in other places.

The population of this board is quite international so that may be hard to understand, but I am often surprised at not only the total lack of curiosity about places outside the US, but frequently the outright suspicion.  My personal favourite remains the young lady manning a gas pump outside Portland, Oregon who looked at my Visa card, then looked at my licence plate, then handed me back my Visa card and informed me that “we only take American money”.

My neighbours in the US are lovely people who are worldly, experienced and caring.  They keep in touch with us all year and are eager to offer any assistance they can if we ever need it.  They are, in my view, the best the nation has to offer.

What I have found over the last few years is a notable change in “official” America.  Almost a militarization of approach and mentality from the earliest interaction at border crossings, all the way through.  It is a suspicion and only mildly disguised hostility.  This is troubling, and it is sad because this is the first face of the nation that visitors encounter, and I think, is the prevailing take away.   Along with it has come the increased jingoism, I see more US flags on the backs of motorcycles, hanging out car windows, stitched on workers' overalls, etc than I remember in the past.

In World War II there was a character called Killroy - and Killroy was used to pass the message that people were watching.  My overwhelming view of “official” America these days is Killroy, peering over the wall.   Building walls and barriers and making it ever harder to actually enter the US, and then peering over the wall to see what is going on “out” there.

This is not the people I interact with on a daily basis going to the grocery store or riding my bike.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on January 12, 2014, 20:58
It seems we are in perfect agreement then.

Your thoughtful and article post demonstrates exactly what I was hoping for in this thread, in addition to the perspective of those who have never been here.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on January 13, 2014, 19:40
Well it's a bit ironic to criticise ABBA from the standpoint that they should keep their cultural identity by singing in Swedish. When infact the whole purpose for ABBA was commercial success from the very beginning. That included singing in english and participating in the Eurovision song contest.

Ironic? I'd rather say consistent. Where's the contradiction, lol? Actually I haven't followed the whole sub-topic about Swedish/Scandinavian identity, so perhaps I misunderstood you.  :D By the way,two of my cousins and my uncle are Swedish, uncle & aunt currently living in Skåne (Bastad/Ängelholm). Nice area.  :cool

To put this in an American context, the land of market econonomy and free capitalism. On the free market the underlying assumption is to maximize ones own utility by making choices on the market. Therefore it is a little bit funny that you complain about pop radio are filled with crap American pop music, all our cinema hall filled with crap American films and our TV channels as well (+ American series).. My question to you is why are you making crappy choices on the market then?  ;)

What makes you think I'm making them?  :P
I'm never listening to the radio, going to a cinema and I hardly ever Watch TV anymore. It's just about my political/economic idealism. I think  public broadcaster should at first promote local culture, then be universal. But universalism does not mean Americanism. There's a whole African cinema, with a yearly festival in Ouagadougou (don't know the English spelling) but we know nothing of it in Europe because they are never played in our cinémas or on our tv-channels, why? Or else the Indian cinema/Bollywood? South American cinema? Why should we strictly play US films? It does not mean we shouldn't play US films at all, of course, but everybody should get a chance... Hollywood studios are rubbing their hands, thanks to our generosity/submissiveness. Actually, this has roots a long way back. In 1946 the French negotiated the Blum Byrnes Agreement whereby they agreed to open up their cinema to about 121 US films a year, as a counterpart for the Marshall Plan. The whole hedonistic US way of life the ensued was also godsend for Hollywood and US record label. Also the jeans epitomized this kind of "soft power" imperialism, as was observed by Michel Clouscard. To some extend I feel guilty because I am also a product of this culture (I'm a rock fan, after all), but how can you escape such an oppressive culture? (argued Clouscard again)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on January 13, 2014, 19:51
Ironic? I'd rather say consistent. Where's the contradiction, lol?
ABBA never were about any Swedish cultural identity. They were, as Gotland says, about commercial success. That they were Swedish doesn't mean anything, they could just as well have been Spanish, Welsh or Minnesotan.
Had they called themselves "Göran Andersson och hans muntra träskor" the case would be a bit different. ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on January 13, 2014, 20:06
Well we agreed from the beginning then, I guess.


Quote from: Icebreaker
I wonder how many of the contributors actually spend any significant time in the US?


I wanted to quote this, by the way, because it sounds like the good ole "you have no right to comment on cycling because you don't cycle yourself."  :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Icebreaker on January 13, 2014, 20:21
Well we agreed from the beginning then, I guess.


I wanted to quote this, by the way, because it sounds like the good ole "you have no right to comment on cycling because you don't cycle yourself."  :D

good for you.

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on June 25, 2019, 04:56
It's back!  :P

(https://cdn11.bigcommerce.com/s-45cfc/images/stencil/800x800/products/1089/3210/eagle-1-american-flag-tattered-decal__71620.1548223617.jpg?c=2)

A few recent conversations have inspired me to reopen this thread.  Namely, with the announcement that Chris Horner would be joining the crew over at NBC Sports for their coverage of the 2019 Tour de France, there was a suspiciously misinformed press release from the network that stated:
Quote
Chris Horner, the only American Grand Tour champion of the last 29 years, will make his Tour de France commentary debut with NBC Sports next month.

The above quote has generated no shortage of outrage and disdain across social media. But the main reoccurring theme has me genuinely puzzled. It goes pretty much like this:

Nevermind Armstrong, Landis, or LeMond.

"Only American Grand Tour champion" - Hesjedal, Quintana, and Carapaz want to have a word with the country that has adopted the label for a whole continent and applies it to its own citizens only, pretending that Canada and Latin America are ... what exactly?
The bloody arrogance. :angry

https://twitter.com/NathanPeterHaas/status/1142127081041682432

Not only has that been the sentiment of many, but the very same point was made at the beginning of this thread.
Should we call it the United States, since doesn't the term "America" in this sense ignore Canada and everywhere else south of El Paso? ;)


But this is where I have to jump in.

(https://live.staticflickr.com/1299/862511637_7b16afe307_z.jpg)

Now don't get me wrong, I completely understand the point that Lukas is making in terms of the "American" media having an over-inflated sense of importance towards its own.

However (and this goes to L'arri's original point as well)...

What the heck are we supposed to call ourselves?

It's literally right there, in the name! The United States of America.

Our flag is known only as "The American flag." Sure, there are some nicknames for it (as others have for their flags, too) but no other official names. And no one on the planet would confuse the reference for any other flag.

There is no other generally accepted term for the citizens of the United States. "Yanks" or "Yankees" gets tossed around by some, but don't use that term to describe any Southerners. And if you called someone from the west coast a "Yankee," they likely wouldn't even know what you were talking about.

But that's nothing compared with the more international interpretation of the word "American."

The terms "South American" and "Central American" certainly get their fair share of use, and there's no confusion as to to which people and countries that might apply to. But "North American" is rarely used to described the collection of people north of Mexico. Mexicans living in Mexico don't refer to themselves as "American," and I can guarantee you that Canadians most certainly do NOT refer to, or like to think of themselves as, "Americans." If anything, most Canadians are proudly not "American." Many of them take a rather dim view towards the neighbors on their southern border.

Also, "American citizenship" is exactly what immigrants who come to the U.S are seeking if they wish to stay. What else would you call it?

For that matter, I've never met anyone from Brazil, Perú, Costa Rica or any of their neighboring countries who referred to themselves as "Americans," nor have I ever met anyone from those countries who took issue with how the citizens of the the U.S. most commonly refer to themselves.

The use of the term, it would seem, is something that only upsets Europeans.
 :D

When referring to the land mass, the term "North America" is no more controversial than the broader term of "the Americas." Either tends to be a mostly dispassionate description of geography. But throw in that small little "n" and suddenly people from afar are creating something out of nothing.

The inhabitants of the U.S. get plenty of flak for plenty of things that they deserve.

But what else are we supposed to call ourselves?!?!
:slow
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Archieboy on June 25, 2019, 07:25
[quote

But what else are we supposed to call ourselves?!?!
:slow
[/quote]

Drummer, we call you Septics in rhyming slang.

Septic tanks = Septics = Yanks

As in "the septics won the football yesterday..."
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on June 25, 2019, 09:23
But what else are we supposed to call ourselves?!?!
:slow
Mexico - Mexicans
Germany - Germans
Italy - Italians

Logically, the inhabitants of the US(A) are USians - pronounced you-zee-ans. :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Joelsim on June 25, 2019, 11:45
Just call yourselves Bubba.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on June 25, 2019, 13:09
Just call yourselves Bubba.

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51uErM%2BJx0L._SR600%2C315_PIWhiteStrip%2CBottomLeft%2C0%2C35_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

Seriously though, it's been quite interesting reading back through the entirety of this thread, especially given the political shifts and developments since this topic was started in 2014.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Armchair Cyclist on June 25, 2019, 16:50
What the heck are we supposed to call ourselves?
 

There are several terms that have been proposed, mainly several decades ago, or even in the early post-independence era:
Usonian
United-Statesian
Columbian
 Columbard
 Fredonian
Frede
Unisian
United Statesian
Colonican
Appalacian
Usian
Washingtonian
Usonian
Uessian
U-S-ian
Uesican
United Stater.


But language is dependent on popular uptake, and that has not been achieved by any of these.

I would tend to support the right of a people to choose their name: I object to the attempt of UK press, media and public to often try to force "Republic of Ireland" or "Eire" upon the country whose name is "Ireland", and although I have never knowingly met anyone from Skopje, I would be perfectly happy for them to introduce themselves as Macedonian without any geographical qualifiers or allusions to a dissolved state.   

And yet it is the perceived arrogance that some Greek influences have about a name applicable beyond the borders of the nation that is the issue in these comments about the adjectival references to the USA (not the only United States in the world either: cf Mexico and, I think but don't have time to check right now, Malaysia).  Of course, the perceived arrogance of the country's political activities and of some of its citizens abroad is also an issue in the response to the mode of self reference.  We never say the same of the Netherlands, although "the Low Countries" is generally taken to be a term that encompasses three nation-states, and the northeastern corner of India does not seem to consider it's identity or territory threatened by Bangladesh's name.

Even in languages that do have a simple demonym for Trumponian (and I wouldn't put it past him to propose that as a solution), the less specific term seems to have greater traction in colloquial use.  Americain(e), Amerikaner and american@ are more used in French, German and Italian than  étatsunien(ne), US_Amerikaner or statunitense.  And in South America, norteamerican@ is used, presumably with Mexico considered part of América Central, and Canada ignored.

Some country names are not easily turned into adjectives, and yet while we have no problem using New Zealand as both noun and adjective, there is a marked reluctance to do so with United States and United Kingdom, resulting in, respectively, the current debate and an adjective relevant to 3 constituent countries being applied to all 4.


And then Denmark and Netherlands both apply the same name to both a constituent country and a conglomeration of countries.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on June 25, 2019, 21:13
I think even Noam Chomsky, who can't be considered a US chauvinist, admitted that the demonym "American" to refer to the people of the USA is not indicative of the US will to represent the whole American continent and to disregard other nations but only comes from the linguistic difficulty to coin a demonym out of "United States".

As Armchair said, the word "états-unien" exists in French, even in the Larousse dictionary, but is not often used. I've only heard it used by people who hate the USA and who wish to real distinguish between the USA and the rest of the continent. As a native speaker of French, I also feel it's ugly and artificial. I would always used the word "Américain". Usually the context would clearly point out if you are strictly referring to the USA or to the whole continent.

However in order to settle it, why wouldn't we simply use the word "Pan-American" to refer to the whole continent? The word also exists in French and I guess in many other languages. Then the demonym "American" can still be used of the people in the USA...


By the way, the same debate could've occurred with the United Arab Emirates. Obviously, they are not the only ones who could call themselves Arabs but fortunately, the demonym "Emirati" (existing in English, French, Spanish and other languages, I guess) works perfectly.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: search on June 25, 2019, 22:03
in German "US-Amerikaner" is a commonly used term for inhabitants of the USA.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on June 26, 2019, 02:05
There are several terms that have been proposed, mainly several decades ago, or even in the early post-independence era:

I did not know any of that. Honestly, I really hadn't explored the topic beyond my own experiences and observations, and the contributions of others to this thread.

I wasn't even certain if you were serious or not at first  :P, but clearly you are historically accurate (as I have since learned).

Interesting stuff!  :cool
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Armchair Cyclist on June 26, 2019, 08:47
but clearly you are historically accurate

As much so as Wikipedia allows: I find this sort of thing interesting, but evidently not enough so to have researched it widely.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on June 26, 2019, 13:16
As much so as Wikipedia allows: I find this sort of thing interesting, but evidently not enough so to have researched it widely.

What I find equally interesting is that we were never taught any of this in school. I remember one high school history class in particular where we spent all of about ten days on the Revolutionary War, and a good six weeks on the Salem Witch Trials.

 :S

(https://i.pinimg.com/originals/57/c8/fc/57c8fcb4bdee4872fa269f29d7f33ffc.jpg)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on June 27, 2019, 21:53
By the way, I just found out an article about the most spoken languages as native languages in the USA.

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-most-spoken-languages-in-america.html

First of all I'm sad to see that no Amerindian languages make it in the top25.

Second I'm glad to see that French, coupled with French Creole, was still the 4th most spoken language. I've really been fascinated by Cajun history for quite a while now and know that they've been oppressed by almost a century of coercitive cultural assimilation. By the late 20th century, few Cajuns would still speak French as main language. Yet Louisiana reopened French school and there was a great French "immersion programme" for learning French in the nineties but it seems that those who would learn French were not historical Cajuns.

I don't know if anyone of you know more about that.

1   English   231,122,908
2   Spanish   37,458,470
3   Chinese (incl. Cantonese, Mandarin, other Chinese languages)   2,896,766
4   French and French Creole   2,047,467
5   Tagalog   1,613,346
6   Vietnamese   1,399,936
7   Korean   1,117,343
8   German   1,063,773
9   Arabic   924,374
10   Russian   879,434
11   Italian   708,966
12   Portuguese   693,469
13   Hindi   643,337
14   Polish   580,153
15   Japanese   449,475
16   Urdu   397,502
17   Persian   391,113
18   Gujarati   373,253
19   Greek   304,932
20   Bengali   257,740
21   Panjabi   253,740
22   Telugu   247,760
23   Armenian   237,840
24   Hmong   214,943
25   Hebrew   212,747

This page was last updated on June 12, 2018.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on August 17, 2019, 10:49
Recently got deep into the story of the French-Canadian migrants to New England (about 900 000 between 1840 and 1930). Jack Kerouac is from that root (born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac).

I read in an article by François Gauthier (Revue des Deux-Mondes, July-August 2010, p.51-52) that a 2000 census revealed that 1.5 milion New Englander claimed to have French Canadian roots, 250 000 of them spoke French at home and in Maine alone 5.3% of the population spoke French on a daily basis (compared to 4.6% in Louisiana).

Is it true that there are still speakers of French in New England as a result of the mass migration in the late 19th century?  :o
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on August 17, 2019, 12:23
Is it true that there are still speakers of French in New England as a result of the mass migration in the late 19th century?  :o

Honestly, having grown up in New England, this is the first I've ever heard of this. My best guess is that this was only ever true for Maine, given its northerly location.

It might also help to explain the Maine accent, which, if thick enough, can be nearly unintelligible to the rest of us (although the less severe versions tend to sound more like a variation on the Boston accent, which wouldn't seem to imply any French influence).

Even as a young kid, my family often went north for winter skiing—Vermont and New Hampshire being the most popular destinations. But I never encountered anyone speaking French during those trips.

However, we would also make annual trips just north of the Vermont border to Mont Sutton, Quebec, where French was obviously a dominant language. But I never noticed any of that influence below the border of Canada and the States.

Again, I suspect that rural and costal Maine may have its own history of language and customs, but I've never been aware of it spreading beyond there.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on August 17, 2019, 18:26
Thanks Drummer. It really would've surprised me, to be honest and I'm inclined to trust you. The last French-speaking newspaper to shut down was "Le travailleur" in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1978, no more readers.

Vermont was the main destination for the French Canadians between 1840 and 1860. Since 1860, it was rather Massachusetts (Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts).

Maine, however, has a longer history because historical Acadia stretched partly to present-day Maine. So perhaps that can be right.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on August 30, 2019, 04:13
They talked about living in Westport - which, as far as I can tell is in CT?

Yes, it's a very affluent community near the shore, and one of the places I sometimes take the train from if heading into New York City. It's a small station, but parking is usually available, and I would often rather take the shorter train ride from there as opposed to the longer, but far more popular, ride from New Haven, where one of the main hubs is.

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: M Gee on August 30, 2019, 21:14
. . .

First of all I'm sad to see that no Amerindian languages make it in the top25.

Second I'm glad to see that French, coupled with French Creole, was still the 4th most spoken language. . . . By the late 20th century, few Cajuns would still speak French as main language. Yet Louisiana reopened French school and there was a great French "immersion programme" for learning French in the nineties but it seems that those who would learn French were not historical Cajuns.

 . . .

Up until the '80's, French speakers were regarded by most as a lesser form of human being, and the cultural pressure was to speak English and assimilate. Prior to the 1950's, geographical isolation helped maintain the old ways. After that, not so much. In the 80's and 90's, there was a trend to maintain the old ways, but a lot had already been lost forever. It was the same up in Quebec, although the French speaking population didn't die back so hard as Louisiana.

The native American languages were, and are, lucky to survive at all. In the early 20th century there was a concerted drive by government agencies to wipe them out. Many haven't survived. Some have been resurrected from what little was known and recorded, but I have to wonder how well such a resurrection could work. A very few: e.g. Navajo, Hopi, have surviving culture, but even those are under threat of extinction, as the young are still caught up by assimilation. There's no work on the res, you know. So they don't stay.

Recently got deep into the story of the French-Canadian migrants to New England (about 900 000 between 1840 and 1930). Jack Kerouac is from that root (born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac).

I read in an article by François Gauthier (Revue des Deux-Mondes, July-August 2010, p.51-52) that a 2000 census revealed that 1.5 milion New Englander claimed to have French Canadian roots, 250 000 of them spoke French at home and in Maine alone 5.3% of the population spoke French on a daily basis (compared to 4.6% in Louisiana).

Is it true that there are still speakers of French in New England as a result of the mass migration in the late 19th century?  :o

I can easily believe the numbers who claim French-Canadian roots. I find it VERY hard to believe the latter two claims: that 250,000 still spoke French at home, and 5.3% of Mainers speak French daily.

I COULD believe you'd find a few families who still spoke French up by Lac Megantic, on the American side of the border.

Honestly, having grown up in New England, this is the first I've ever heard of this. My best guess is that this was only ever true for Maine, given its northerly location.

It might also help to explain the Maine accent, which, if thick enough, can be nearly unintelligible to the rest of us (although the less severe versions tend to sound more like a variation on the Boston accent, which wouldn't seem to imply any French influence).

Even as a young kid, my family often went north for winter skiing—Vermont and New Hampshire being the most popular destinations. But I never encountered anyone speaking French during those trips.

However, we would also make annual trips just north of the Vermont border to Mont Sutton, Quebec, where French was obviously a dominant language. But I never noticed any of that influence below the border of Canada and the States.

Again, I suspect that rural and costal Maine may have its own history of language and customs, but I've never been aware of it spreading beyond there.

Also my experience. In my high school days we spent some summer days up by Lac Megantic, as my father had business in the area. I've never seen any cultural French-Canadian remnants in Maine, although I could easily believe you might find some close to the border. Not many people up there though.

My grandfather talked of hiring French-Canadians to cut wood in the northwoods of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. He didn't like them as workers though - he said they would work until you paid them - and then it was party time. So you didn't dare pay them on Wednesday, as they wouldn't show up for work on Thursday.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on August 31, 2019, 11:52
Up until the '80's, French speakers were regarded by most as a lesser form of human being, and the cultural pressure was to speak English and assimilate. Prior to the 1950's, geographical isolation helped maintain the old ways. After that, not so much. In the 80's and 90's, there was a trend to maintain the old ways, but a lot had already been lost forever. It was the same up in Quebec, although the French speaking population didn't die back so hard as Louisiana.

The native American languages were, and are, lucky to survive at all. In the early 20th century there was a concerted drive by government agencies to wipe them out. Many haven't survived. Some have been resurrected from what little was known and recorded, but I have to wonder how well such a resurrection could work. A very few: e.g. Navajo, Hopi, have surviving culture, but even those are under threat of extinction, as the young are still caught up by assimilation. There's no work on the res, you know. So they don't stay. 

Huh I don't understand. French is very much alive in Quebec and still the main language ! ???

I can see that the French speakers in Louisiana were looked down as sub-humans. You would notice that in plenty of films. I recently watched Walter Hill's "Southern Comfort". I wasn't born when it was released but I think it was quite a success back then and really the Cajuns in the film were seen as savage beasts, a part of a hostile environment  (it was a survival film around in the Louisianian bayous). It really struck me. I can still remember the final scene with a beautiful cajun song mixed with a horribly barbarious pork slaughter. However I was glad that the recent Magnificent Seven remake included a cajun character played by Ethan Hawke.

I feel strongly about Louisianian French because my uncle was a teacher (primary shcool) for two years in Houma, Louisiana (in the Cajun heartland) back in the late seventies, I think. It seems that a lot of Belgian teachers went to teach in Louisiana at that time. However he told me how he was forced to teach a lot in English while he was supposed to strictly teach in French. A lot was already lost. Even in his host family, only the grandfather would be fluent in French. My own parents who went there as well woud also tell me how obesity already was a major problem among the Cajuns.

About the Amerindian languages I would've thought that in recent years there would at least be some concern to keep some of them, the most renown ones (Navajo, Sioux, etc.), as the American expansion to the West - "Manifest Destiny" or "American Frontier" (whatever you call it) - is mainly seen negatively by the younger generations. I do know that the reserves were developped on barren lands and that alcohol is nowadays a major problem in the reserves (or has it been overstated?)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: M Gee on September 05, 2019, 03:12
Huh I don't understand. French is very much alive in Quebec and still the main language ! ???

I can see that the French speakers in Louisiana were looked down as sub-humans. You would notice that in plenty of films. I recently watched Walter Hill's "Southern Comfort". I wasn't born when it was released but I think it was quite a success back then and really the Cajuns in the film were seen as savage beasts, a part of a hostile environment  (it was a survival film around in the Louisianian bayous). It really struck me. I can still remember the final scene with a beautiful cajun song mixed with a horribly barbarious pork slaughter. However I was glad that the recent Magnificent Seven remake included a cajun character played by Ethan Hawke.

I feel strongly about Louisianian French because my uncle was a teacher (primary shcool) for two years in Houma, Louisiana (in the Cajun heartland) back in the late seventies, I think. It seems that a lot of Belgian teachers went to teach in Louisiana at that time. However he told me how he was forced to teach a lot in English while he was supposed to strictly teach in French. A lot was already lost. Even in his host family, only the grandfather would be fluent in French. My own parents who went there as well woud also tell me how obesity already was a major problem among the Cajuns.

About the Amerindian languages I would've thought that in recent years there would at least be some concern to keep some of them, the most renown ones (Navajo, Sioux, etc.), as the American expansion to the West - "Manifest Destiny" or "American Frontier" (whatever you call it) - is mainly seen negatively by the younger generations. I do know that the reserves were developped on barren lands and that alcohol is nowadays a major problem in the reserves (or has it been overstated?)
Wow, dude! So many questions! :D Cool, tho.

First, Quebec. French is still 'alive and well' there because there was a VERY strong political movement, by the French-Canadians, to reclaim French back in the 70's-80's and on. It was well on its way to dying. I don't want to exaggerate, though, as there WERE young folk in some town who were learning French as they grew up - I met a few. But more weren't learning it, and in some cases it was headed to something like the "Spanglish" you get in LA or NYC. I guess it would have been "Franglish", eh? So, somewhere along in there, folks had a political movement to get French in the schools, and in public signage. It was a pretty abrasive time, politically. But they got it done, and folks are living with it, AND they revived French as a language in Canada.

Southern Comfort, the movie. I remember that one! "Barbarous" pork slaughter? That's an odd one coming from a guy who likes to comment on cycling farmers! It was definitely a pig slaughter, and that is never for the squeamish.

I loved hearing about your uncle's experience in Louisiana. Pretty much spot-on with what I've observed. There was a political movement, just like Quebec, to revive and strengthen French back then. It wasn't as strong, nor as successful, as the Quebecois.

Prejudice against cajuns was not something you'd get much feel for from the movies. It WAS a daily reality on the ground, in real life, in the schools, in the courts, etc. Not as bad as the prejudice against blacks, but real. After the Quebecois had some success, and with the rise in popularity of zydeco, cajun and Creole become something of a fashionable thing. That reversed some of the prejudice - the lightweight stuff. I don't know about the deeper prejudices down in Louisiana, but I am inclined to believe that prejudice is a thing of the past. Louisiana and New Orleans have made too much money, and created too many jobs because of "cajun" and "Creole" - folks don't ignore that.

I met and chatted with Justin Wilson back in the 80's. His normal accent was typical Louisiana southern. He could put it on, tho!

I've been to Houma a few times, btw. Mostly just driving through when I lived in Memphis.

Amerindian, First Nations: I hear of efforts to relearn the old languages, songs, and stories, and I hear they have some success. Alcohol has been a major problem for them for way longer than I've been on this earth. Once they got put on the reservations, work was an issue - there wasn't any. This problem got way worse in the early 20th century, as mechanization took over agriculture. What little value something like Navajo wool had went down. Jobs, or lack of, are a huge problem. This has changed, in some ways, and for some tribes, in the past 30 years. Gambling casinos have provided income for some. One tribe - the Pima - outside of Phoenix - have benefited as their reservation got surrounded by the growth of Phoenix. They used to have some income from growing cotton - but it wasn't a good income, and it didn't impact a lot of the tribal members. I'm told that they are doing much better now - but whether from gambling income or something else - I don't know.

The Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo, and Sioux languages, when I was last in the southwest, were surviving, but it was a struggle. Young people need work. To get work they have to leave the "Rez" (reservation). And to get work, they need to speak English. And schools are taught in English. So they never learn their mother-tongue. Or ignore it when they could. The effort required to find and keep work is too great - there isn't energy to devote to keeping a culture alive. There ARE individuals who try. I haven't been down there in a couple of decades, so I don't know with what success.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on September 24, 2019, 11:39
Sorry, I've been too busy lately to answer but it interests me so much that I had to get back to the discussion.


First, Quebec. French is still 'alive and well' there because there was a VERY strong political movement, by the French-Canadians, to reclaim French back in the 70's-80's and on. It was well on its way to dying. I don't want to exaggerate, though, as there WERE young folk in some town who were learning French as they grew up - I met a few. But more weren't learning it, and in some cases it was headed to something like the "Spanglish" you get in LA or NYC. I guess it would have been "Franglish", eh? So, somewhere along in there, folks had a political movement to get French in the schools, and in public signage. It was a pretty abrasive time, politically. But they got it done, and folks are living with it, AND they revived French as a language in Canada.

I guess you are referring to the Bill 101. I don't want to underrate the influence of it in the preservation of the French language in French Canada but was the situation initially comparable to Louisiana? The French wiki page for the Bill 101 says that it started from a crisis in the late sixties ("Crise de Saint-Léonard") when Italian migrants wished to send their children to English schools. But I mean what part of the population spoke French in Quebec in the sixties? It's very much possible that a greater part of the population would've spoken English if it weren't for Bill 101 but my opinion is that French had been preserved because the French people had densely in the Saint-Lawrence valley in a compact way in the 17th century (they were numerous on a relatively small area, while when they spread across the rest of the continent they would be in tiny minority) and because the rough climate discouraged mass British migrations after the 1760 conquest. I mean francophones in Quebec already had political power (which made Bill 101 possible) and had mainstream media (especially TV since at least the fifties, which has always been insrumental in spreading a language everywhere). Cajuns had none of that in Louisiana in the sixties. I think they had to start from a much lower level. That's why the nationalist movement could prevail in the Quebec province and not in Louisiana. Anyone correct me if I miss a point!



Southern Comfort, the movie. I remember that one! "Barbarous" pork slaughter? That's an odd one coming from a guy who likes to comment on cycling farmers! It was definitely a pig slaughter, and that is never for the squeamish.

Prejudice against cajuns was not something you'd get much feel for from the movies. It WAS a daily reality on the ground, in real life, in the schools, in the courts, etc. Not as bad as the prejudice against blacks, but real.

Squeamishness is not the point here. In the film Cajuns are definitely the vilains, right from the start. So the pig slaughter scene (sorry I was a bit mixed up: pigs, pork, ...) by the end of the film was only there to highlight their savageness. The film would've been the same without that scene. It's true that my love for the countryside and agrarian areas is contradicting my love for animals and vegetarian tendencies but even though I know that 99.9% of farm animals end up in slaughterhouses, there's a difference between knowing it and showing it on screen. Obviously that would have effects on the viewers' opinion.

But I sure agree that prejudices against Cajuns were in daily life and not just in cinema. I've heard a lot of testimonies about it: children beaten at school for speaking French schoolyards for example.

After the Quebecois had some success, and with the rise in popularity of zydeco, cajun and Creole become something of a fashionable thing. That reversed some of the prejudice - the lightweight stuff. I don't know about the deeper prejudices down in Louisiana, but I am inclined to believe that prejudice is a thing of the past. Louisiana and New Orleans have made too much money, and created too many jobs because of "cajun" and "Creole" - folks don't ignore that.

So pop culture still had an influence. :D

I really love zydeco and have always been interested in the way it influenced famous rockers or country music singers: Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, CCR or Neil Young (who long played with Cajun fiddle player Rufus Thibodeaux)...

By the way something one topic has puzzled me in recent years: the "Cajun Queen" myth, which we can hear about in the CCR hit "Born on the Bayou" ("Roll on with some Cajun Queen") It seems to me that it has nothing to do with Cajuns but rather with African culture and voodoo (much present in Louisiana, especially around New Orleans). If anyone of you knows more about that I'd be grateful!   

 

Amerindian, First Nations: I hear of efforts to relearn the old languages, songs, and stories, and I hear they have some success. Alcohol has been a major problem for them for way longer than I've been on this earth. Once they got put on the reservations, work was an issue - there wasn't any. This problem got way worse in the early 20th century, as mechanization took over agriculture. What little value something like Navajo wool had went down. Jobs, or lack of, are a huge problem. This has changed, in some ways, and for some tribes, in the past 30 years. Gambling casinos have provided income for some. One tribe - the Pima - outside of Phoenix - have benefited as their reservation got surrounded by the growth of Phoenix. They used to have some income from growing cotton - but it wasn't a good income, and it didn't impact a lot of the tribal members. I'm told that they are doing much better now - but whether from gambling income or something else - I don't know.

The Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo, and Sioux languages, when I was last in the southwest, were surviving, but it was a struggle. Young people need work. To get work they have to leave the "Rez" (reservation). And to get work, they need to speak English. And schools are taught in English. So they never learn their mother-tongue. Or ignore it when they could. The effort required to find and keep work is too great - there isn't energy to devote to keeping a culture alive. There ARE individuals who try. I haven't been down there in a couple of decades, so I don't know with what success.

Thank you for this. No additional comment because I'm clueless about that issue, just thank you.  :cool
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: M Gee on September 28, 2019, 16:17
. . .
I guess you are referring to the Bill 101. I don't want to underrate the influence of it in the preservation of the French language in French Canada but was the situation initially comparable to Louisiana?
 . . .Cajuns had none of that in Louisiana in the sixties. I think they had to start from a much lower level. That's why the nationalist movement could prevail in the Quebec province and not in Louisiana. Anyone correct me if I miss a point!  . . .

Precisely so. However, there were parallels, in that both were approaching assimilation (to English). The fight over Bill 101 was long, protracted, and rancorous. We heard the echoes over here in the US! I have not much more than my personal experience to go on, but! In Quebec, I occasionally heard people speak French, but it was rare. I think I recall meeting an old person who didn't speak English. I never heard a clerk in a store speaking French to a customer. I contrast that with Wales, where you can often walk into a small town store, and hear storekeeper and customers speaking Welsh. In Louisiana, I only HEARD about people speaking French - and never met anyone conversing in French. I agree that the Louisiana Acadian culture "had to start from a much lower level". I also think the "English-only" crowd is stronger in the US.
It seemed to me, though, that the push to include French as an official language was a reaction to its near assimilation to the English culture.

Quote
. . .Squeamishness is not the point here. In the film Cajuns are definitely the vilains, right from the start. So the pig slaughter scene (sorry I was a bit mixed up: pigs, pork, ...) by the end of the film was only there to highlight their savageness. The film would've been the same without that scene. It's true that my love for the countryside and agrarian areas is contradicting my love for animals and vegetarian tendencies but even though I know that 99.9% of farm animals end up in slaughterhouses, there's a difference between knowing it and showing it on screen. Obviously that would have effects on the viewers' opinion.
Aha. So the barbarity was including the graphic violence of a typical farmyard event, albeit perhaps the MOST violent regular farmyard event. About the only animal killed for meat more often would be the chickens, I suppose. I'll go with that - it certainly flavored the film action.

Oh, and a note on American English usage - your use of "pork slaughter" was acceptable usage. Technically, I can't explain why, as I don't understand why. But I suppose it's a bit like, on seeing a yard full of pigs, declaiming "Look at all that pork!" No American would find anything unusual in that usage.

Quote
. . .But I sure agree that prejudices against Cajuns were in daily life and not just in cinema. I've heard a lot of testimonies about it: children beaten at school for speaking French schoolyards for example.

So pop culture still had an influence. :D

I really love zydeco and have always been interested in the way it influenced famous rockers or country music singers: Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, CCR or Neil Young (who long played with Cajun fiddle player Rufus Thibodeaux)...

By the way something one topic has puzzled me in recent years: the "Cajun Queen" myth, which we can hear about in the CCR hit "Born on the Bayou" ("Roll on with some Cajun Queen") It seems to me that it has nothing to do with Cajuns but rather with African culture and voodoo (much present in Louisiana, especially around New Orleans). If anyone of you knows more about that I'd be grateful!   
Cajun is/was the appellation for the mixed race population of Louisiana, and typically rural and/or lower class. Creoles were the city French, the high-falutin' cream of the crop class. Those definitions were loose, and have even changed somewhat over my lifetime. Today, Creole seems to refer more to the mixed-race parentage, and Cajun more to the Acadian ancestry, but both can be mixed-race. But all this is just to say that African heritage, and voodoo, was a significant factor in the evolution of that culture.
 
Quote
Thank you for this. No additional comment because I'm clueless about that issue, just thank you.  :cool
You are being unnecessarily humble, you are hardly clueless!
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on September 28, 2019, 23:35
By the way something one topic has puzzled me in recent years: the "Cajun Queen" myth, which we can hear about in the CCR hit "Born on the Bayou" ("Roll on with some Cajun Queen") It seems to me that it has nothing to do with Cajuns but rather with African culture and voodoo (much present in Louisiana, especially around New Orleans). If anyone of you knows more about that I'd be grateful!

[I believe it's Rollin' as in a contraction of "rolling."]

I'm pretty sure "Rollin' with a Cajun Queen" is just a reference to a romantic encounter with a beautiful Cajun woman.

The whole premise for the song was a fabrication though, as John Fogerty had no such upbringing, nor was he raised anywhere near a Bayou.
 :P
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on September 29, 2019, 00:44
First, Quebec. French is still 'alive and well' there because there was a VERY strong political movement, by the French-Canadians, to reclaim French back in the 70's-80's and on. It was well on its way to dying.

What? :slow

My own, annual, experiences in Quebec were mostly in  the early to mid 1970s, and French was very much the dominant language. In fact, as a very young kid, native adults would usually address me in French before I would clumsily inform them that I only spoke English. But the fact that they expected someone of my age to be fluent in French tells me that it was hardly something relegated to an older generation.

Also, it was at that time of life where most of my skiing instruction came from, and all the instructors, as well the other staff on the slopes (First Aid, Ski Patrol, maintenance, etc) were primary French speakers, and they were mostly in their late 20s to 30s. Come to think of it, at least half the kids in my group classes spoke French as their first language, and we were all very young.

I returned there in 1981 for the Drum Corps World Championships that were held in Montreal, and again, French was the dominant language that we encountered on the streets as well as from police, etc.

So I'm a bit mystified by your characterization of French being "rare" within the borders of Quebec, at any time. Unless I'm misunderstanding something here.

Even in Toronto, Ontario, where I would go nearly every summer because of relatives there, I'd always remember the neighbors who would ONLY speak French, which was made more obvious because of the many raucous gatherings they would have with their French-speaking friends.

Which only just now jostles another childhood memory (only tangentially related, but I may as well share...).

When I was a young kid in central Connecticut, there was a school yard across the street from our house with multiple baseball fields. Once a week during the summers, there would be a gathering of French Canadian softball teams. Looking back on that now, I've really no idea where they came from, as neither my town, or the surrounding ones, had any noticeable French Canadian population. None, in fact, that I can recall.

Because of my exposure to that culture in Canada, any French Canadians would've been quite conspicuous to me. But I only ever saw, and heard them, during those summer softball tournaments. It's most curious to me now.


All of which brings up yet another childhood memory... :D
I've only just remembered that good friend of mine from high school, who lived just up the road from me—his parents were French Canadian. So I may have just contradicted my previous statement. However, his parents were very quiet, and rarely spoke in front of me, which is why I had probably forgotten about that. But they would sometimes speak in French to their son, and he understood them perfectly, although I don't have any recollection of him speaking French in front of me. So maybe they intentionally kept their roots, and their language to themselves. Not that it would've mattered one bit in the neighborhood where I grew up, but who knows what other experiences they may have had in other places, or at other times.

Now that I dig even deeper to the memory banks... :lol
When I was growing up, French Canadians were known stereotypically as being "sheet rockers" because it wouldn't be unusual to finding them doing just that: building houses, etc. If anything, they had good reputation for being reliable in that field of work. It was a complimentary view, if anything. But it's been many years since I've heard that reference. So maybe that's who made up those softball teams after all! Where they all went to is beyond me, because I can't remember hearing any French around town (European or Canadian) in many years, except for a short-lived pastry shop here and there (and they definitely weren't Canadian).


Interesting flashback all this has sparked within me.

Thanks for the memories!  :cool
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: LukasCPH on September 29, 2019, 07:57
(Just imagine that there is a Quebec flag here ... we don't have one in the list of icons ...   :)   )
Is *mq a good enough approximation? ;)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: M Gee on October 08, 2019, 21:22
What? :slow

My own, annual, experiences in Quebec were mostly in  the early to mid 1970s, and French was very much the dominant language. In fact, as a very young kid, native adults would usually address me in French before I would clumsily inform them that I only spoke English.  . . .
As a Quebec resident, I can unequivocally say that you aren't misunderstanding anything.

French in Quebec is not and never has truly been under threat. It is still the majority language by a country mile - without the need for Bill 101.

Francophones are by far the largest linguistic group - followed by allophones (ie., non-franco and non-anglo native language speakers).

The biggest "threat" to French since WW2 was immigration - which saw a proportionally larger influx of non-French (and non-English) speakers than the natural population growth.

 . . .
So, to finish on the original topic ... no, French has never been under threat in Quebec in the lifetime of any of the members of this forum. . . .

Hmmm. Ok, then, seems like there is more to the story than I knew! My experiences in Quebec were more limited. Visited Quebec a couple of times as a result of my father's work - and spent a couple of summers in the Lac Megantic area as for the same reason. I don't recall anyone ever addressing me in French - but obviously there could have been another reason - I was rarely about without my dad. During college years - early 70's - I was in Michigan's U.P., and took road trips crossing through Quebec province to N.H., where I had finished high school. Both of you sound like you have greater experience than I, so, I must defer!

My experiences in LA were a little more comprehensive - we lived in TX for a spell - near the state line - and my sisters would cross the state line to LA to get drunk. A few years later, due to my work, I would be spending small bits of time in Baton Rouge, along with Shreveport and Monroe. Several earlier school years were spent in coastal Florida, where for some reason I recall discussing Cajuns with relatives. We knew people who worked in the oil industry - who would have had contact with the locals in LA.
It was during the career where I was traveling through the previously mentioned towns that I spent some holiday time in NO. I remember going out, with my date, and chancing on Bruce Daigrepont playing at some club. We two-stepped and swung the night through - dripping sweat - but I was in great shape from riding. We danced pretty much every number. I didn't even know what zydeco was then. But I knew I'd found something I liked. We just danced and danced.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on October 09, 2019, 00:50
It was during the career where I was traveling through the previously mentioned towns that I spent some holiday time in NO.

That reminds of my own trip to New Orleans in 2004—one year before Hurricane Katrina—for the Jazz Fest. A drummer friend of mine had moved down there from Massachusetts, probably ten years prior, but I hadn't had any contact with him in the interim. I had asked some other drummer friends down there about him but they weren't familiar with him.

The first night I arrived I made my way straight to the French Quarter, and the legendary Bourbon Street. Lo and behold, the very first club I walk into, and there he is, on stage, behind the drums. Now again, we hadn't seen each other in many years, and I had just recently gone from my typical (at the time)  very long hair to very short, bleached-blonde. He would have had no reason to even expect my appearance, but without even a moment's hesitation, he looked up from his drums and says, "Hey, man" as if we were just passing on the street back home.

The next thing you know, I'm on stage performing with him, like I was regular.  :D

So the was my first ten minutes in New Orleans. I could go on and on, but the rest of the week-long adventure proved to be just as memorable, for many reasons. Had a great time, and, of course, lots of great food.
 :cool

(https://st2.depositphotos.com/1035350/11130/i/950/depositphotos_111308438-stock-photo-bourbon-street-new-orleans.jpg)
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: M Gee on October 10, 2019, 14:20
Oh - one addition to the "French language existence threatened in Quebec" topic. As I recall, the public rhetoric/discourse on the topic was very much along the lines of "the existence of spoken French is under threat" - from the Francophone side, of course.

Other than my direct experience, which you guys trumped, that would have been a source of my knowledge/opinions.

Oddly, perhaps, the bill 101 controversy seemed to me to churn the "English as an official language" pot in the US. Even though most Americans were hardly aware of the Canadian controversy.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on October 13, 2019, 12:38
Cajun is/was the appellation for the mixed race population of Louisiana, and typically rural and/or lower class. Creoles were the city French, the high-falutin' cream of the crop class. Those definitions were loose, and have even changed somewhat over my lifetime. Today, Creole seems to refer more to the mixed-race parentage, and Cajun more to the Acadian ancestry, but both can be mixed-race. But all this is just to say that African heritage, and voodoo, was a significant factor in the evolution of that culture.

Just what I thought, yes. Wiki page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cajuns#Cajuns_as_Louisiana_Creoles) says there had been ethnic mixing over centuries since the Acadian migration. They are referring to people with Irish and Spanish heritage and to a lesser extent German or Italian heritage. Then also there had been intermarriages with Amerindians and African Americans. "Historian Carl A. Brasseaux asserted that this process of intermarriage created the Cajuns in the first place". Wikipedia is not always reliable, so I don't know how accurate this is. I've also read that the famous Cajun accordions were partly imported from Germany. And more recently, many Vietnamese Catholics settled in Louisiana after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. That makes me think of the "True Detective" series. The series is very well done but just like "Southern Comfort", the Cajuns are despised. It's all set in Louisiana, in the Cajun heartland and the villain has a French last name "Ledoux". However you see nothing of Cajun culture and cuisine. However in one episode, I think you would see the detectives eating Vietnamese food! If I remember correctly!

The Creoles were the French people who had settled in Louisiana before the Acadian migration. They were the slave-owning people. Slavery was extremely rare among the Cajuns, actually it only started a few generations after the migration. A small Cajun elite would get rich enough to buy slaves but they usually would be deny their own low-class Cajun identity as though they were ashamed of it. They would rather consider themselves Creoles. Then of course, what can be confusing is that next to this "Creole population", you also had the Louisiana Creole language which was spoken by the slaves and the Free African American (during the slavery era) but not by the so-called Creole. So the two shouldn't be confused. However after the abolition of slavery, the former free Black people, also tried to identify themselves as Creole to distinguish themselves from the former slaves. I guess all of that led to a mixed culture.

[I believe it's Rollin' as in a contraction of "rolling."]

I'm pretty sure "Rollin' with a Cajun Queen" is just a reference to a romantic encounter with a beautiful Cajun woman.

The whole premise for the song was a fabrication though, as John Fogerty had no such upbringing, nor was he raised anywhere near a Bayou.

Thanks for the correction! In my defence, it's not always easy to get the Fogerty accent as in "Proud Mary keep on boyning/burning" :D

What makes me think it's a story about an African American family is the line "My Poppa said "son, don't let the man get you do what he done to me"". I was told that "the man" among the African American community refers to the "White" man exploiting their labour. Just like that line from "Proud Mary": "Working for the Man every night and day". Then also you have an occurence of the phrase "Cajun Queen" in the Rolling Stone's "Brown Sugar", which is all about slavery in the US (lyrics (https://genius.com/The-rolling-stones-brown-sugar-lyrics)). It really makes me think that "Cajun Queen" doesn't refer to a Cajun woman but to an African American woman.

But it's true that John Fogerty wrote all those songs without ever having been to Louisiana before. CCR guys are from California, around San Francisco, if I'm not mistaken?

we lived in TX for a spell - near the state line - and my sisters would cross the state line to LA to get drunk.


You couldn't get drunk in Texas?  :D
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: M Gee on October 13, 2019, 17:29
. . .

You couldn't get drunk in Texas?  :D
They were underage. The drinking age in LA was 18, but they could get in the bars, and served, when they were 16. The bars were loose. Girls, women, attracted more business. They wouldn't let underage guys in - but guys that age typically look younger and the girls, if they want to, can look older.

TX was much tougher at the time.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Drummer Boy on October 14, 2019, 01:17
What makes me think it's a story about an African American family is the line "My Poppa said "son, don't let the man get you do what he done to me"". I was told that "the man" among the African American community refers to the "White" man exploiting their labour.
While that is true, the term is also used by whites when referring generally to any oppressive employer, or any large corporation with mostly anonymous and faceless heads of business who get rich off the work of others.

Although when used by whites, it's often somewhat lighthearted, or meant to be taken as an exaggeration, but with the understanding of some underlying truths. I hope that makes sense.


Quote
Then also you have an occurence of the phrase "Cajun Queen" in the Rolling Stone's "Brown Sugar", which is all about slavery in the US (lyrics (https://genius.com/The-rolling-stones-brown-sugar-lyrics)). It really makes me think that "Cajun Queen" doesn't refer to a Cajun woman but to an African American woman.

That's an interesting one for a couple of reasons.
Depending on your source, the lyrics are either "Cajun Queen," or "Tent show Queen." Actually, in the link you provided, it's "Tent show." So that would mean she was a performer of some sort, and perhaps very popular, hence the "Queen."

After several listenings of the song (just now) I have hard time hearing the word "Cajun." But even if we were to accept the lyrics as "Cajun Queen" it still wouldn't refer to an African American woman. It would mean that the song was about a black (or "brown") woman who's mother was Cajun and who's father was of African descent. So a mixed marriage that produced an "exotic" daughter—someone with African American roots, but not strictly of African descent. I hope that makes sense as well.
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Armchair Cyclist on October 14, 2019, 08:18
Quote
"Proud Mary's" singer, a low-wage earner, leaves what he considers a "good job," which he might define as steady work, even though for long hours under a dictatorial boss. He decides to follow his impulse and imagination and hitches a ride on a riverboat queen, bidding farewell to the city. Only when the boat pulls out does he see the "good side of the city"—which, for him, is one in the distance, far removed from his life. Down by the river and on the boat, the singer finds protection from "the man" and salvation from his working-class pains in the nurturing spirit and generosity of simple people who "are happy to give" even "if you have no money." The river in Fogerty and traditionally in literature and song is a place holding biblical and epical implications. ... Indeed, the river in "Proud Mary" offers not only escape but also rebirth to the singer.
John Fogerty: An American Son by Thomas Kitts (via Wikipedia)


Hank Bordowitz, in (Bad Moon Rising: The Unofficial History of CCR, quotes Fogerty, apparently making the analogy of his army career as the "good job in the city" and going full time into music as the boat ride:
Quote
"The Army and Creedence overlapped, so I was 'that hippie with a record on the radio.' I'd been trying to get out of the Army, and on the steps of my apartment house sat a diploma-sized letter from the government. It sat there for a couple of days, right next to my door. One day, I saw the envelope and bent down to look at it, noticing it said 'John Fogerty.' I went into the house, opened the thing up, and saw that it was my honorable discharge from the Army. I was finally out! This was 1968 and people were still dying. I was so happy, I ran out into my little patch of lawn and turned cartwheels. Then I went into my house, picked up my guitar and started strumming. 'Left a good job in the city' and then several good lines came out of me immediately. I had the chord changes, the minor chord where it says, 'Big wheel keep on turnin'/Proud Mary keep on burnin'' (or 'boinin',' using my funky pronunciation I got from Howling' Wolf). By the time I hit 'Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river,' I knew I had written my best song. It vibrated inside me. When we rehearsed it, I felt like Cole Porter."


Fogerty, quoted in Rolling Stone magazine and in response to the use of the song's title and (adjusted) lyrics for a film, suggests that there is no particular subtle message in the song:
Quote
I wrote the song about a mythical riverboat, cruising on a mythical river, in a mythical time. Perhaps, the setting was ‘back in time’ on the Mississippi River. It was obviously a metaphor about leaving painful, stressful things behind for a more tranquil and meaningful life, far from a story about killing people for money.


So there is no suggestion that Fogerty intended it as from a black man's perspective, although in a spoken intro to his 1969 cover, Solomon Burke imbued it with that:
Quote
I know a lot of you folks would like to know what the old Proud Mary is all about
Well, I'd like to tell you about her
She's nothing but a big old boat
You see, my forefathers used to ride the bottoms of her as stokers, cooks, and waiters
And I made a vow that when I grew up, I'd take a ride on the old Proud Mary
And if you'd let me, I'd like to sing about it
Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: Echoes on October 26, 2019, 11:47
TX was much tougher at the time.

Eheh much what I thought. I saw a few years ago a TV show about Louisiana on France TV. They interviewed a professor in French literature, Robert Desmarais Sullivan who claimed that authors such as Tennessee Williams or William Faulkner came to Louisiana because the Catholic society in Louisiana was much more tolerant than the Baptist in neighbouring Mississippi (the streetcar in Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" is the New Orleans' streetcar) : "They saw people dancing, singing, drinking while not being low-class mean and cruel people. They were fascinated and liberated. They could go out with girls being forced to create a marriage". :D

Although when used by whites, it's often somewhat lighthearted, or meant to be taken as an exaggeration, but with the understanding of some underlying truths. I hope that makes sense.

Then it is much possible that you and Armchair are right. It would be the story of a white man going out with a Cajun girl but then it means that Fogerty was mixing culture (as you suggested above). In the song you have the line "And I can still hear my old hound dog barkin'chasin' down a hoodoo there". Hoodoo is definitely an African belief, pretty un-Cajun. I think I read him saying he took that idea from Muddy Waters.

That's an interesting one for a couple of reasons.
Depending on your source, the lyrics are either "Cajun Queen," or "Tent show Queen." Actually, in the link you provided, it's "Tent show." So that would mean she was a performer of some sort, and perhaps very popular, hence the "Queen."

Wow shame on me for not checking my links. :D When I googled it up, the lyrics that Google automatically provided said "Cajun Queen" and then I opened a link without checking, not realising that there could've been a mistake. :lol Thanks for correcting!

But really there are numerous song referring to a Cajun Queen. In Jimmy Dean's "Cajun Queen" song, you can have the feeling it's about voodoo and not really Cajun culture. Then you have George Strait's "Adalida", Emmylou Harris' "Amarillo" or The Bellamy Brothers' "Catahoula".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_4CWfQi0Tc

I also checked up the definition in the Urban Dictionary:
A cajun queen is a male impersonating a female, especially during "mardi gras". They are proud, statuesque works of art. They carry their respect for the female in an exaggerated form of outlandish dress, make-up, hairstyle, and the seductive qualities of a woman who hones her sexuality either in high society or on the street.
https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cajun%20queen

"Mardi Gras" being the last day before Lent, usually with a carnival but in Louisiana, I guess the Carnival lasts for several weeks. It's also the name of CCR's last album.



So there is no suggestion that Fogerty intended it as from a black man's perspective

Thank you. It's convincing. I've always loved CCR and loved to know the meaning behind Fogerty's songs, so that's very informative!

Title: Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
Post by: M Gee on October 26, 2019, 12:48
. . . Fogerty was mixing culture (as you suggested above). In the song you have the line "And I can still hear my old hound dog barkin'chasin' down a hoodoo there". Hoodoo is definitely an African belief, pretty un-Cajun. I think I read him saying he took that idea from Muddy Waters.

 . . .

"Cajun" may have originated from "Acadian", but it is and was very much a mixed culture thing, with African and native American roots as well. That mixture was well-established before the American Civil War. From the early days, the French were much more willing to mix with other local peoples.

However, I do think Fogerty was likely indulging in poetic license, doing things to make a good song, not because they were autobiographical or historically accurate.


 . . .

I also checked up the definition in the Urban Dictionary:
A cajun queen is a male impersonating a female, especially during "mardi gras". They are proud, statuesque works of art. They carry their respect for the female in an exaggerated form of outlandish dress, make-up, hairstyle, and the seductive qualities of a woman who hones her sexuality either in high society or on the street.
https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cajun%20queen
 . . .

 :lol :lol :lol :lol
Omg. Tears rolling down my face from laughing. That, is a bit of hyperbole. A "queen" is US slang for a gay male who cross-dresses and appears as a female. A "queen" is pretty much as described. Although some queens would probably think the description was a little exaggerated, even just to describe a queen (no cajun). They would probably take issue with this bit: "an exaggerated form of outlandish dress", as many queens, while in public, would pass casual examination and be thought to be female. And I'd bet a tenner that little description was written by a gay person!

Since Mardi Gras (like Carnival) is associated with sexuality and sex, I would have no problem imagining some queens marching in Mardi Gras parades. So, the author conflated the two, and voila! "Cajun queen."