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Drummer Boy

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What does it mean to be "American"?
« 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?




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
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  • « Last Edit: June 25, 2019, 02:37 by Drummer Boy, Reason: typos »

    Dim

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #1 on: January 04, 2014, 22:15 »
    This is not going to end well. :D
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  • Drummer Boy

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #2 on: January 04, 2014, 22:20 »
    Well, there's a reason why I never started this topic on another forum.  :lol

    Bring it on!

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #3 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.
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #4 on: January 04, 2014, 23:13 »


     :D

    Sorry  :-x
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #5 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
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  • Dim

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #6 on: January 04, 2014, 23:20 »
    I think this kinda sums up how some Europeans feel about some Americans.

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  • Dim

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #7 on: January 04, 2014, 23:24 »
    This amuses me :D
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  • Drummer Boy

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #8 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.
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #9 on: January 04, 2014, 23:26 »
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #10 on: January 04, 2014, 23:37 »
    another spy satellite launch
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #11 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.
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #12 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
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #13 on: January 05, 2014, 00:11 »


    Aaaaooooo! HackSaw Jim Duggan is my favorite wrestler!  Flipping Awesome!  =)
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #14 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:
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #15 on: January 05, 2014, 00:26 »
    Metricisation was dropped in America because "they couldnt afford it". Skint from all those wars.
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #16 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.
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  • Dim

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #17 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
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #18 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.
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #19 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.
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #20 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
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  • « Last Edit: January 05, 2014, 00:53 by mew »

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #21 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
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  • Gotland

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #22 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.

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #23 on: January 05, 2014, 01:27 »
    ..btw I am of part Swedish heritage  ;)

    the ad I just got on this page….


     :D
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  • DB-Coop

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #24 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.
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  • Joachim

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #25 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

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  • « Last Edit: January 05, 2014, 10:06 by Joachim »
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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #26 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.


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  • LukasCPH

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    Re: What does it mean to be \"American\"?
    « Reply #27 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?
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  • 18-Valve

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #28 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.

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  • Anthony Moan

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    Re: What does it mean to be "American"?
    « Reply #29 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!
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  • Reverend Fred Saves!!

     



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