July 4, 2017

THE CULTURE WARS ARE A ROUT:

How to Be an American (Richard Nilsen, 7/04/17, Imaginative Conservative)

"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn," Ernest Hemingway wrote.

In that book, nearly every theme that identifies our art as American is established and explored: migration, race, individualism, anti-intellectualism, optimism, religion, social-climbing, money-grubbing, and the comfortable informality that marks us as a people.

It's as if Huck Finn were the instruction manual for how to be American. In that, Twain is just as clearly American as Debussy is French or Basho is Japanese. We often look to our art for clues to national identity. But although Twain gives us Americanness in concentrated form, most of the arts made on this continent, from Captain John Smith's General History of Virginia (1624) and Anne Bradstreet's poetry, all the way up to this week's latest rap song, partake in certain common traits.

What are they? First, we need to eliminate some of the things we like to think are particularly American, such as patriotism or respect for the family. Every culture feels these qualities are particularly their own, but in fact, they are universal. Even such negatives as bigotry and racism have their American coloration, but they are evils found in every culture.

It needs to be noted, too, that what we admire in ourselves is not necessarily admired elsewhere. Americans are direct, which others often see as rude. We are informal, which others translate as slobbishness. We are optimistic, which can be taken as arrogance. We believe in individualism, which others see as selfishness. But there are six things that we can see as particularly American: migration, individualism, optimism, religiosity, informality, and expansiveness.

The one thing all Americans share is that we are immigrants.






Posted by at July 4, 2017 8:12 AM

  

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