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 What makes America different from other countries? Are Americans different from the...

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riveav | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 28, 2009 at 5:15 PM via web

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 What makes America different from other countries? 

Are Americans different from the citzens or subjects of other countries and cultures?

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 29, 2009 at 8:49 PM (Answer #2)

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The United States of America was the first nation on the planet that was born out of the idea that people had the capacity to totally govern themselves. The political philosophies of  Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu become the great American experiment. The notion that the political ideologies which suggest natural rights surpass the divine right of Kings was as radical as it could get in the 17th century. (Please note that the U.S. with all of its aspiring ideologies has not been without fault. There was and still is discrimination here, and although we have not attained the aspiration of 'We The People' the nation has struggled to move in that direction, much blood has been shed in that vein.)

Another subject that differentiates The United States from other nations are the people who live here. We are a nation of people who at one point or another came from another nation. Often referred to as a nation of immigrants, the U.S. is far more ethnically diverse than most other nations. I think that the complexity of America's diversity has created a very unique perspective on its culture. For example, if they choose people can celebrate ethnic festivals such as St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Chinese New Year and need not be Irish, Mexican or Chinese to do so. On the other hand, regardless of where their heritage originates, most folks do recognize and my experience has been that many celebrate the 4th of July. That mindset is purely American.

 

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted January 30, 2009 at 4:30 AM (Answer #3)

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What makes America different from other countries? Your question is a good example of the American assumption that America is 'special' in some way. 'America' does not make Americans 'special' but Americans believe it does. A true patriot can criticise their own country without fear. American citizens find it very difficult to criticise America. 

Other countries are older, more defined and more mature. Their citizens are more secure about their identity. As a nation, what makes Americans different is their national uncertainty. We are not 'Americans', we are Italian Americans, African-Americans, Irish-Americans etc etc. We struggle to define what it means to be American. So we create simplistic definitions of 'American Values'. Other countries laugh at such two-dimensional nonsense. European countries don't constantly say, "France loves Freedom" or "Italy symbolises democratic values" etc. They don't cover every space with the national flag and sing patriotic songs all the time. They are comfortable with their national identity. America is a young country and its citizens are different because they are unsure about how to be an American. So they 'display' American-ness very loudly to reassure themselves.

(When Americans have problems abroad, they instantly wave their passports and say, "You can't do this, I'm an American." It is very worrying and insulting. There is nothing 'magic' about America.)

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Jen Sambdman | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted February 1, 2009 at 1:52 PM (Answer #4)

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I am going to go a way slightly calmer than Frizzy did because I didn't read it as you asking "why are we so awesome?" I am reading your question as "Are there distinctions and differences of Americans to those of other nationalities."

Simple answer: Yes.

We have a different culture, we are exposed to a lot more diverse cultures in a small space. Someone born in Italy has a different way of life than someone in Africa, and Mexico, and Russia. It is about life experiences. Even look at the difference between someone born and raised in NYC versus Oklahoma. Everyone is different and have different cultures, values and ideas. That doesn't make one culture better or worse than another, just...different.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 3, 2009 at 12:13 PM (Answer #5)

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The United States were found upon principles established during the Enlightenment, as previously noted, and established governance by Rule of Law.  With the possible exception of the Greek city-states, this was the first country in the world to do so. That alone makes it unique, and all else that followed, well or ill, until recently, was the result of a free people under a limited government.  (See poem at end, written 35 years ago.  Still applicable today.)

Once, many years ago late at night,  I walked through the Chinatown section of my city with a friend looking for an open restaurant.  Here were two kids, one descended from Polish Jews and the other from Italian Catholics looking for Chinese food.  Just as we were about to enter the restaurant of our choice, we nearly bumped into a Chinese kid (who turned out to be the owner's son) who was hurrying inside carrying a stack of pizzas for the kitchen staff's dinner.  "Only in America!"  said my friend.

France symbolizes wine and Frenchness.  Try speaking English in the wrong place at the wrong time and you're assessed a fine.

Italy had its place in the sun during Roman times.  I'm sure when Rome was young, Romans went around the known world waving id scrolls in foreign official's faces while shouting "You can't do this, I'm a Roman!"   Imperialism isn't specific to any time or culture.  It's just sad the US has devolved so fast.  But still, it was only 65 odd years ago they saved the world.

Mankind Loosed, author Unknown

I have died in Viet Nam but I have walked the face of the moon.
I have befouled the waters and tainted the air of a magnificent land but I have made it safe from disease.
I have flown through the sky faster than the sun but I have idled in streets made ugly with traffic.
I have littered the land with garbage but I have built upon it 100 million homes.
I have divided schools with my prejudice but I have sent armies to unite them.
I have beat down my enemies with clubs but I have built courtrooms to keep them free.
I have built a bomb to destroy the world but I have used it to light a light.
I have outraged my brothers in the alleys of the ghettos but I have transplanted a human heart.
I have scribbled out filth and pornography but I have elevated the philosophy of man.
I have watched children starve from my golden towers but I have fed half the earth.
I was raised in a grotesque slum but I am surfeited by the silver spoon of opulence.
I live in the greatest country in the world in the greatest time in history but I scorn the ground I stand upon.
I am ashamed but I am proud. I am an American

 

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted February 4, 2009 at 1:50 AM (Answer #6)

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"But still, it was only 65 odd years ago they [The US] saved the world." Enotechris

I think you'll find that was the Russians. Beware the seduction of propaganda. Stalin beat Hitler, not my Churchill or your Roosevelt.

(In my local town (Knutsford), during 1943, they built a huge US base to station marines and stuff. General Patton and Eisenhower were stationed there for nearly a year. They often drank in my local pub (The Bells Of Peover). One night, Churchill sent Montgomery up from London and they all sat in 'the snug' in The Bells with maps of northern France and beers, arguing about the plans for D-Day. A truly historic meeting. Every time I have a pint in The Bells, I imagine those very stubborn, difficult military geniuses saying things like, "Hitler's 4th heavy infantry is at Rouen, it'll take them 3 days to get to the coast. We must be dug into St Michel before they arrive." So, I know that I want to believe that D-Day was the turning point, but Hitler was beaten at Stalingrad. The western front was secondary and comparitively unimportant.)

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 4, 2009 at 2:00 PM (Answer #7)

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In response to frizzyperm:

I stand corrected.  The Soviet Union indeed bled the most during the war, and Adolph's sole motivation was to destroy Stalin & Company.  And Stalingrad was the beginning of the end (and an interesting study of battle -- apparently, Adolph wanted to level it as a slap in the face to Joe's namesake.  Capturing the city didn't warrant the resources expended on it. How's that for hubris?  One egomaniac attempting to belittle the other!) The Western Theatre was very much secondary.  It's important to remember that the conflict in that part of the world during that whole ugly era was about Fascism vs. Communism. How's that for a no win choice?  Which totalitarian regime do you want to be supreme?!?

Thank you for catching my bit of ethnocentricity.  Given that, would it be safe to say that they saved Europe?  (If I ever get back to England, I'll go have a pint in that pub!.....which reminds me of another story I'll tell you offline, if you're interested......)

"Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his."    :)

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted February 5, 2009 at 3:17 AM (Answer #9)

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The clash of Hitler's 'super-man' mentality with Stalin's equally brutal survival instincts has been described as... An unstoppable force colliding with an unmovable object. The people caught in the middle didn't stand a chance.

The fact America waited a little while before entering such a tornado of destruction is only natural self-preservation. In the end, I think the American's contribution was not stopping Hitler, but, stopping Stalin from extending beyond Berlin. I honestly don't want to pick a fight, but this 'We saved Europe' belief (which British people believe about Churchill and our contribution) ignores the fact that in 1945 the 'iron curtain' slammed down across Europe, trapping Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Austria (for a while) and, of course, the East Germany in a massive land-grab by the Soviets. 'Western' Europe is called that because Eastern Europe was captured by a mad regime. Europe was split in half and the east stagnated for 50 years under the boot of a tyrant.

After the fall of Germany, Patton wanted to carry on to Moscow apprently! But we were all too tired and too bankrupt to consider tackling 'Uncle' Joe Stalin and his vast army.

We like to believe our armies are the glorious saviours of freedom, but more often than not they are only the defenders of national self interest.

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 5, 2009 at 4:53 PM (Answer #10)

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The United States of America is a country that provides people with freedom and opportunity.  As long as our current Administration doesn't allow their Socialist ideology to destroy our capitalist society, America will remain the greatest country in the world.

No country is as generous as America, no country gives more support, both financial and with the blood of our soldiers like America.  It is because of America that Europe was saved from the savages of Stalin and Hitler. 

It is because of America that people in trouble due to catastrophes caused by natural events or through invasion by the enemies of freedom, that more people are free today, free from oppression, torture, starvation and disease.  America is different from other countries and cultures, Americans are free people who give freely to help others in need and in trouble. 

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, MY GREAT COUNTRY, MY BLESSED COUNTRY, I LOVE AMERICA, I AM A PROUD AMERICAN.

 

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted February 6, 2009 at 2:53 AM (Answer #11)

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Reply to #10: When we are deeply in love, we often fail to notice the faults of the person (or country) we adore.

Maybe you were too busy singing love songs to notice that, under Bush, America started an illegal war based on deliberate lies; against the wishes of the entire world; without adequate planning; killing 98,000 civilians; operating an illegal torture centre where people are still held without charge and causing deep long-term hatred of the US?

America is not 'blessed'. It is perfectly capable of immoral behaviour. A true patriot is not a blind cheer-leader.

(And btw... I'm 50%American / 50%English, your propaganda claim that America 'saved' Europe from Hitler is offensive and ill-informed. My English grandfather was badly wounded in North Africa fighting The Nazis at Tobruk. His best friend got blown to bits right in front of him and he got permanent shrapnel wounds in his stomach. Was their contribution irrelevant? Was it only glorious GI Joe who saved the day? The British victory in North Africa was essential, but you imply 'weak' Europe simply waited for 'brave' Uncle Sam?

In 1941, while the US watched, the British fought the Battle of Britain, regarded as the critical moment of Hitler's halt on the western front. They stood alone and beat the Luftwaffe, barely. Europe is extremely grateful for America's assistance in World War II, but it was slow in coming and, without Pearl Harbour, would it have come at all?)

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cburr | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted February 14, 2009 at 5:08 PM (Answer #12)

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Even though this will be #11, I'll throw it in!  :)

One thing that I believe has made America different is that it was populated by people who were willing to leave behind everything they knew, travel a great distance often at great sacrifice, and carve out a home.  These people were risk-takers, and I believe that their genetic inheritance has led Americans to achieve many things.  Of course, it has also led to excesses and alot of ADHD!! :-)

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 17, 2009 at 10:20 AM (Answer #13)

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In reponse to #9 and #11 - During the 1990's many classified documents from WWII were finally available.  I don't remember which one I read, but it's very clear the US sat on the fence for quite a while during The Great Slavic-Germanic Conflict because.......they were waiting to see who got the upper hand, and jump into bed with the winning side. Much has been made about German atrocities; less has been made about Slavic ones -- is that because Uncle Sam finally threw in with "Uncle Joe?"  People forget the US actually fought the burgeoning Soviet Union during WWI!   Poltics makes strange bedfellows, and nothing shifts faster than politics.  Patton knew what had to happen next, and pushed his idea to invade our Soviet "Allies."  Strangely, he then didn't make it out of the war alive....... History shows us, again and again, standing armies are not a good thing, because some mega-maniacal god-damned fool will eventually come round who'll want to use them (I won't even hint about our recent vice president......)

Germany lost the war at the Battle of Britain, not tactically, but strategically.  All that German aircraft that went down couldn't be replaced, yet was vital to to counter the Slavic ground forces later on.  Would have been a different land war then.  Had it happened, maybe Anglo-Germanic forces would have solved the Cold War back in '45.....

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blueburst | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 5, 2010 at 9:31 PM (Answer #14)

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What makes America different from other countries? Your question is a good example of the American assumption that America is 'special' in some way. 'America' does not make Americans 'special' but Americans believe it does. A true patriot can criticise their own country without fear. American citizens find it very difficult to criticise America. 

Other countries are older, more defined and more mature. Their citizens are more secure about their identity. As a nation, what makes Americans different is their national uncertainty. We are not 'Americans', we are Italian Americans, African-Americans, Irish-Americans etc etc. We struggle to define what it means to be American. So we create simplistic definitions of 'American Values'. Other countries laugh at such two-dimensional nonsense. European countries don't constantly say, "France loves Freedom" or "Italy symbolises democratic values" etc. They don't cover every space with the national flag and sing patriotic songs all the time. They are comfortable with their national identity. America is a young country and its citizens are different because they are unsure about how to be an American. So they 'display' American-ness very loudly to reassure themselves.

(When Americans have problems abroad, they instantly wave their passports and say, "You can't do this, I'm an American." It is very worrying and insulting. There is nothing 'magic' about America.)

I don't know much about you, but judging from your answer to the question, I'm going to assume that you're British.  I respect your answer, it is a very educated response. However, i think that you are a little off base. We may have titles like African American or Irish American, but that's only because that's a part of our individual identities. Individualism is very important here in America, (can't speak for Britian)and we want others to know the struggles that our ancestors went though to get us where we are today.  Like the old saying goes, "if you don't know where you're from, how will you know where you're going?" Besides, when the shit hits the fan, we always know when it's time to strip the prefix, stand tall, and become American.  It's the only way we know how to rise to challenges and it's the only way I know how to act. After all, it worked for us when we defeated the British, why not now?

We may be younger than most of the elder races on the other side of the world, but I'm 100% sure we're the most passionate and strongest country than any place in Europe or the world for that matter. If anything we don't have an identity crisis problem (that's Canada), we have an over bearing sense of self-confidence and entitlement.

Thank you for your time, I know this reply is being written a year later. I hope you get this. thanks again.

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gippy2009 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 10, 2011 at 12:15 AM (Answer #15)

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there is no doubt america is great country in terms of freedom, liberty.but america harmed the world also to keep its status.

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gagarcia00 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 31, 2012 at 5:19 AM (Answer #16)

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What makes America different from other countries? Your question is a good example of the American assumption that America is 'special' in some way. 'America' does not make Americans 'special' but Americans believe it does. A true patriot can criticise their own country without fear. American citizens find it very difficult to criticise America. 

Other countries are older, more defined and more mature. Their citizens are more secure about their identity. As a nation, what makes Americans different is their national uncertainty. We are not 'Americans', we are Italian Americans, African-Americans, Irish-Americans etc etc. We struggle to define what it means to be American. So we create simplistic definitions of 'American Values'. Other countries laugh at such two-dimensional nonsense. European countries don't constantly say, "France loves Freedom" or "Italy symbolises democratic values" etc. They don't cover every space with the national flag and sing patriotic songs all the time. They are comfortable with their national identity. America is a young country and its citizens are different because they are unsure about how to be an American. So they 'display' American-ness very loudly to reassure themselves.

(When Americans have problems abroad, they instantly wave their passports and say, "You can't do this, I'm an American." It is very worrying and insulting. There is nothing 'magic' about America.)

I find it unfortunate that you as a teacher with all of your credentials find it difficult to appreciate what a special place America is. It has been built by European ideas from the most progessive European thinkers. While it still suffers as so many other countries do because of the Human condition it's ideals are to create a society more free from tyranny of an all powerful king...another old world "mature" idea

I don't believe anyone struggles to define what it is to be an American AND Americans are THE most self critical society ever..EVER! Climb out from your pro-European rock...As a second generation American I know what it is to be an American and I AM Special though not any better than anyone else I am special and I am lucky and I am greateful to be an American! Further I am thankful to have never had a teach like you!

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