Unchecked Identity

Why are Americans so strange? As a people, they have a very short history. For many, their ancestors went there to escape oppression, build a better life, or leave what they knew for the untold glories of a New World.

When they got there, they were met by others who had done the same. The mentality that developed was a spirit of exceptionalism: A collective desire to be accepted not for what you are, but what you can make of yourself. They created traditions and a unifying source of identity. They made their own legends, like those of Daniel Boone and Johnny Appleseed.

Social life was scattered as the population moved west. Culture had no time to root before mass media took its place. Hollywood became Mount Olympus, and the stars’ lives became the stories by which the people judged their own.

The cultural isolation many of these citizens suffer has become the punchline of the century. Their aloof ignorance galls the masses. The incessant aversion to anything “Old World” has led the culture to paint itself into a corner. When difficulties arise, squabbling over a patriotic solution has begun to outweigh logical problem-solving. The powerful cry “persecution” when the time comes to take responsibility.

Today’s America is no longer defined by what you make of yourself, but how you cannot be obliged to change.

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