There are many who claim the age of nationalism has passed. Given our global and cyber communities how relevant is the discipline of American studies to the prsent? What might the study of american exceptionalism suggest about the future of the nation and its ideals?
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It is probably even more important to study the depth of culture and nationalism now more than ever. Precisely because of globalization and ubiquitous access to communication we might lose some of the essence of what is to be who we are as a culture, as a nation, and as individuals. One must always keep the hype separated from uniqueness. Not that globalization is hype, far be from it, but the speed at which it is developing risks the chance of leaving little space for exploring the deeper end of social change within specific groups. I say we stick to it, and we hit it hard with enough historical evidence, literature richness, and cultural perspectives to develop a newfound love for it.
Are American studies relevant today? Of course. To repeat the old but true, "Those who don't know history are bound to repeat it." American history has been 200+ years of moving forward and correcting course along the way. Each generation of Americans must understand the journey because it explains who we have been and where we are today. It also provides the lessons of history to guide us in the future.
Isolationism is a long-gone option. We are part of the global community, and we have much to contribute. Our greatest contributions, I believe, will be those rooted in American ideals and principles, the foundations of American identity.
I have a bit of a confused position on the issue. I like the President's approach to exceptionalism when he says, "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as the British believe in British exceptionalism, and just as the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." When I analyze this statement, it reveals to me that the belief in exceptionalism should be held true in one's character, but it cannot be used to guide foreign policy. I think there is an inherent danger when any nation sees itself as separate and distinct from other nations, when that niche is used as a wedge from the international community. Certainly, American exceptionalism and nationalism is well warranted, as our accomplishments in our history are worthy of praise. However, we, like any other nations, have made mistakes and errors in judgment that might demonstrate a not so pleasant vision of exceptionalism. Additionally, as we see ourselves as part of a cosmopolitan world, we have to ensure that we are able to see ourselves as working with nations that have similar values, able to appreciate other visions of nationalism.
Technology has ushered in the age of globalism from a communications standpoint; due to the increased availability of information, Americans are now more aware than ever before of the interconnected nature of the global food and manufacturing chains, the financial networks that are interconnected, and the importance of even the smallest governments across the world. Nonetheless, there is both a need and a hunger for nationalism in this country; look at the response of Americans to the 9/11 crisis and the huge viewership of the Olympics. Young people need to know where we have been as a nation in order to understand where we fit into the world now, and where we need to go.
It's important to comprehend why the world is the way it is, and that can only be accomplished by a careful study of historical cause and effect. United States history is important, because the United States was predominant in the 20th century, and its events are what have defined what the world is now. The technological innovation, or more precisely, the Technological Revolution that has occurred within the last 30 years has altered life as drastically as the Industrial Revolution did 200 years ago. Learning is not now the commodity of intellectual elites; anyone with the cheap technology can learn online. This technology which has allowed informational access has proved to be the great leveler; topics that may have been overlooked or sidelined can now be sought out and incorporated in to a general intellectual discussion. However, the predominant culture still remains in place; its study should not be supplanted, but rather augmented. More schooling for you!
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