Is “American Culture” a Contradiction in Terms?
Is “American Culture” a contradiction in terms? American Culture can often be thought of as a contradiction of terms because every piece of “American Culture” arises from a different source. It first must be noted that the founding of the United States was not based on spreading a certain country’s colonization (in most regards). The United States was founded because religious separatists, or purists, desired freedom to practice their religion freely. In an effort to do so, these “pilgrims” built the backbone of what many know as American Culture.
The reason American Culture often seems a contradiction in terms is because culture can often be defined as a way of eating, dressing, or cultural values. In the United States there are very few original foods; ways of dressing that are not common among other parts of the world; and generally diverse religion, values, and viewpoints. It is also difficult to define because each piece of American Culture has roots in another culture (hamburgers are not American, but McDonald’s popularized it). However, the core of American culture remains the “American Dream”. Americans seem to believe that the sky is the limit.
Although these sentiments may be shifting because of increased comfort and lack of youth education, the idea that anyone can be anything runs deep from the values first instilled by the Pilgrims. The values only increased with the addition to the United States after the Louisiana Purchase and expansion to the west. On the other hand, upon founding the United States, the Americans killed or ostracized the Natives (“Indians”). Thereby they rid the country of nearly any influence from this group. Furthermore, American culture innovates and publicizes. American culture is often associated with new things.
These “new” ideas are often the combination of different cultural values. Again we can return to McDonald’s. The hamburger is not American, but fast food is purely a result of faster and faster paced American life. The combination of these two aspects created a worldwide phenomenon characterizing Americans as moving too fast to enjoy life and eating more than necessary. With such a large land area, no single culture can characterize the United States. Consequently, as often seen in American politics, the South is usually more conservative, the north and west being more liberal.
The food, music, and concepts of time differ greatly across the expanse of the United States as well. The US is a worldwide example for capitalism and its results. Often things associated with capitalism, both positive (better standard of living) and negative (the lack of care for the poor) can characterize American Culture as unwilling to care for social causes. In conclusion, although American Culture does provide undoubtedly some contradictions, it is still no contradiction in terms because all the different cultural pieces that one can find in the US create American Culture itself.