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Thread: What are the criteria that define an American?

  1. #176
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wright View Post
    Are you still toying with this topic Osborne? 5 pages? Crap or get off the pot!

    In the new world, particularly in the U.S., the answer to almost everything was generally "yes."

    In the old world, the answer to almost everything was generally "no."

    The criteria that defined an American was a sense of idealism and optimism that there were many acheivable possibilities in life. Possibilities that were made available through freedom and equality, but with an inate sense of responsibility accompanying this freedom. This idealism was aided by a sense of space, abundance, and opportunity in a vast, new, unsettled continent.

    In the old world, everything was spoken for and taken, thus the answer "no." No to breaking class barriers, no to fair political representation, no to reasonable career advancement, no to reasonable land ownership, etc. No, because clearly you're not responsible, you're not entitled, and you don't have permission. That's why people left. In America no permission was required.

    You can call this a myth and list exceptions to it, but for a very long time, and still today, it's widely accepted. Today we just have to resolve issues of responsibility with the freedoms that we have, and the idealism can be workable.

    If you believe "yes we can," you validate this, and it becomes a principle, not a myth.
    You are right to use the past tense, as you are to refer to issues of responsibility. I suggest that here we have resolved mos of your "no"s to a greater or lesser extent, whilst you are heading in the other direction.
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  2. #177
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    Responsible doesn't mean you caused it. It means that the opposition, for which you were responsible, was insufficient.
    OK, that I can generally agree with. Your views have evolved a looooong way from the comment that sparked my protestations:

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    You paid for it with your taxes and it was done in your name. You did it.
    Tom
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  3. #178
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wright View Post
    If you believe "yes we can," you validate this, and it becomes a principle, not a myth.
    At last! A sensible answer to my original question.

    In general terms I agree with this. Osborne is preoccupied with "founding principles" as expressed in a document written 230 years ago. That's a long time. Reality has moved on, a long, long way.

    But you have pinpointed something which is observable in today's reality and I would certainly acknowledge that it chimes with my own experience over around 40 years of regular visits to the US. Not true of every American of course, but it's certainly there in contemporary culture. Energy, optimism, "can-do".

    Sometimes it's admirable and inspiring (to me) and sometimes it comes across as a sort of adolescent exuberance, over-confidence and "battering ram" tendency. But this is what underpins most of the positives the US has given to the world. Not the lofty "founding principles" which were, in any case, largely based on European ideas. We had them already and built on them ourselves. Magna Carta, anyone?

    The US is a very extravert nation, I think. I enjoy it in limited doses, but, being quite a pronounced introvert I couldn't live there. I have several American friends who live over here. Perhaps they are not really Americans at all, because their reactions are similar to mine.

    Thank you, Mr. Wright!
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    And speaking of changes -

    Over the past couple of years the BBC has broadcast a series of programmes about WW1 - all drawn from contemporary records. Some of the most recent ones have touched on America's entry into the war and, not least, the army's discrimination, prejudice and poor treatment of black American soldiers.

    I happen to be reading Woodward's "Fear" at the moment (recommended if you want to plumb the depths of the Trumpian swamp) and have just come across this quote of a tweet from the Chief of Staff of the Army in response the Charlottesville outrages:

    "The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks. It's against our values and everything we have stood for since 1775"




    "Mozart is the heart's touchstone" (Edwin Fischer)

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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    At this point one of my Mother's stories. Mum was Head of the Emergency Dept at Auckland General Hospital in early WW2, a time when a lot of American troops were in NZ for R & R. Mum said she spent quite a bit of time repairing GIs as they had some strange ideas about race relations. One example was when a platoon? of Southern GIs walked into a Maori pub, decided they wanted it for themselves and ordered the n......s out. This provided a lot of work for Mum .
    Maori are used to respect and expect it.
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    OK, in the sense that having a market in which you can trade is a benefit, fair enough. Were we your only market for your export goods?
    I wish to stick to the topic.
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  7. #182
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wright View Post
    Are you still toying with this topic Osborne? 5 pages? Crap or get off the pot!

    In the new world, particularly in the U.S., the answer to almost everything was generally "yes."

    In the old world, the answer to almost everything was generally "no."

    The criteria that defined an American was a sense of idealism and optimism that there were many acheivable possibilities in life. Possibilities that were made available through freedom and equality, but with an inate sense of responsibility accompanying this freedom. This idealism was aided by a sense of space, abundance, and opportunity in a vast, new, unsettled continent.

    In the old world, everything was spoken for and taken, thus the answer "no." No to breaking class barriers, no to fair political representation, no to reasonable career advancement, no to reasonable land ownership, etc. No, because clearly you're not responsible, you're not entitled, and you don't have permission. That's why people left. In America no permission was required.

    You can call this a myth and list exceptions to it, but for a very long time, and still today, it's widely accepted. Today we just have to resolve issues of responsibility with the freedoms that we have, and the idealism can be workable.

    If you believe "yes we can," you validate this, and it becomes a principle, not a myth.
    Sounds like you're saying there is such a thing as over-population, which comes to have cultural effects. It's an interesting topic. I agree, generally, but are you saying that the fundamental principles are dependent in some way on having lots of land?
    He's a Mexican. -- Donald Trump.
    America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama. -- Governor Chris Christie (R) New Jersey
    It wasn't racism, it was an attack on Christianity. -- Fox News
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnw View Post
    That's a bit of an exaggeration. The constitution did not free the slaves, but counted them as 3/5 of a person so that the slave states would have sufficient power to retain the institution of slavery. In fact, the human rights granted by our founding document were for a 'universe' of white men, primarily of English extraction.
    The scope of human rights has expanded. The concept has been the same all along.
    He's a Mexican. -- Donald Trump.
    America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama. -- Governor Chris Christie (R) New Jersey
    It wasn't racism, it was an attack on Christianity. -- Fox News
    Crying white mothers are ratings gold. -- National Rifle Association

  9. #184
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    OK, that I can generally agree with. Your views have evolved a looooong way from the comment that sparked my protestations:



    Tom
    You're right, that was excessive.
    He's a Mexican. -- Donald Trump.
    America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama. -- Governor Chris Christie (R) New Jersey
    It wasn't racism, it was an attack on Christianity. -- Fox News
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  10. #185
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    Sounds like you're saying there is such a thing as over-population, which comes to have cultural effects. It's an interesting topic. I agree, generally, but are you saying that the fundamental principles are dependent in some way on having lots of land?
    I specifically said: "AIDED by a sense of space, abundance, and opportunity in a vast, new, unsettled continent.". It's possible that a natural abundance very much helped the formation of a large class of modest farmers / entrepeneurs who saw reason to believe in idealism and optimism, and embrace the principles of equality and freedom. I think thar dependent means somethjng different than aided.

    I could conceive of a situation of sparse resources, little land, and a hostile environment where individuals might embrace these same principles to survive. I don't know of any examples on the scale of North America.

  11. #186
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnw View Post
    That's a bit of an exaggeration. The constitution did not free the slaves, but counted them as 3/5 of a person so that the slave states would have sufficient power to retain the institution of slavery. In fact, the human rights granted by our founding document were for a 'universe' of white men, primarily of English extraction.
    It's not an exaggeration. It is precisely the case. England is [B]founded on the principle of the rights of Englishmen, as expressed through Parliament. America is founded on the principle of universal human rights, not the rights of Americans however defined.

    To be founded on A is different from being founded on B.
    He's a Mexican. -- Donald Trump.
    America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama. -- Governor Chris Christie (R) New Jersey
    It wasn't racism, it was an attack on Christianity. -- Fox News
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  12. #187
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    It's not an exaggeration. It is precisely the case. England is [B]founded on the principle of the rights of Englishmen, as expressed through Parliament. America is founded on the principle of universal human rights, not the rights of Americans however defined.
    And so what? America never actually worked on that principle and still doesn't. Meanwhile, The United Kingdom together with almost every other country in Europe and several others, subscribes to a Declaration of Human Rights that dares not to be exactly the same as the 230 year old American but is much more relevant to the world as it is. And it has teeth. It is incorporated into UK law and there is recourse through the European Court of Human Rights (nothing to do with the EU, incidentally)

    Lofty ideals versus real life as she is lived. American exceptionalism may be defensible in some respects, but not in this one. Grind as you may, as sharp as your axe may be in your own mind, it cuts no trees.
    "Mozart is the heart's touchstone" (Edwin Fischer)

  13. #188
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    Default What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    A bit like the US of A exporting 'Mocracy at the point of a gun, then buggering off to let someone else sort out the mess?


    Is that an example of ‘snarky’?

    Mine was a statement of fact. It was a well understood objective of the British empire to bring civilisation to the world. It beggars belief it is a point of contention, even for an English person.
    Last edited by gypsie; 09-26-2018 at 03:03 AM.
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  14. #189
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    Default What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    In the aspects that are material to this discussion, the Constitution hasn't changed in 200 years. America wasn't founded as a hegemon. Hegemon has nothing to do with it.

    I believe it is completely germane, and denying echos another posters difficulty with perceived exceptionalism.

    I mean this honestly, the only thing that defines an American that I can see is their citizenship. What allows the question to be asked without the asker blushing from embarrassment is American exceptionalism, borne directly from being the world hegemon.

    Everything else is incidental.




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    Last edited by gypsie; 09-26-2018 at 03:05 AM.
    Philip K. Dick — 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'.

  15. #190
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by gypsie View Post
    Mine was a statement of fact. It was a well understood objective of the British empire to bring civilisation to the world. It beggars belief it is a point of contention, even for an English person.
    Well, perhaps that was the lofty ideal for public consumption........The reality was money and power (it usually is)

    Like most things, that immense "thing" is protean. It has an infinity of facets and is capable of a vast number of different interpretations, depending on which facets you choose to see. Some former colonies do openly acknowledge some benefits (India is an example) and, of course, Australians, Americans, Canadians etc. are themselves the inheritors of colonialism. There is a difference between nations whose indigenous populations gained their independence (like India) and those where the colonists themselves did so (like America)

    But values have changed. We now have to (and do) confront the horrors and evils of imperialism. You will rarely come across anything resembling the old imperialist mindset now. Accusations to the contrary usually reflect nothing more than the projections of the accuser.

    Speaking for myself - I have studied (at university level) Irish history, literature and language (I was a reasonably fluent Irish speaker long ago, but - use it or lose it) and I am the first to acknowledge that the history in relation to Ireland is disgraceful.
    "Mozart is the heart's touchstone" (Edwin Fischer)

  16. #191
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by gypsie View Post
    Is that an example of ‘snarky’?

    Mine was a statement of fact. It was a well understood objective of the British empire to bring civilisation to the world. It beggars belief it is a point of contention, even for an English person.
    A statement of fact? You need to back that up, 'cos it sounds to me to be all noise and no substance.
    The objective of the British empire was TRADE. It was also a useful facility for getting rid of undesirable surplus population, hence the financial enterprises of the Americas morphing into penal colonies, followed by Australia when the US won independence.
    As to your hypothesis, it is discussed here:
    Yale professor Karuna Mantena has argued that the civilizing mission did not last long, for she says that benevolent reformers were the losers in key debates, such as those following the 1857 rebellion in India, and the scandal of Governor Edward Eyre's brutal repression of the Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica in 1865. The rhetoric continued but it became an alibi for British misrule and racism. No longer was it believed that the natives could truly make progress, instead they had to be ruled by heavy hand, with democratic opportunities postponed indefinitely. As a result:
    The central tenets of liberal imperialism were challenged as various forms of rebellion, resistance and instability in the colonies precipitated a broad-ranging reassessment ... the equation of 'good government' with the reform of native society, which was at the core of the discourse of liberal empire, would be subject to mounting skepticism."[113]
    English historian Peter Cain, has challenged Mantena, arguing that the imperialists truly believed that British rule would bring to the subjects the benefits of ‘ordered liberty’. thereby Britain could fulfill its moral duty and achieve its own greatness. Much of the debate took place in Britain itself, and the imperialists worked hard to convince the general population that the civilising mission was well underway. This campaign served to strengthen imperial support at home, and thus, says Cain, to bolster the moral authority of the gentlemanly elites who ran the Empire.[114]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histor...ts_and_slavery
    If the idea existed it was in the minds of the political thinkers and vested interests at home, an in the minds of the organised god botherers who saw an opportunity for missionary work. The Colonial Administrators on the ground did not consider that to be a high priority.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  17. #192
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    And so what? America never actually worked on that principle and still doesn't.
    Different question.

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    Meanwhile, The United Kingdom together with almost every other country in Europe and several others, subscribes to a Declaration of Human Rights that dares not to be exactly the same as the 230 year old American . . .
    It began 230 years ago. A lot has happened since.

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    . . . but is much more relevant to the world as it is.
    What do you mean by "relevant" in this context?

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    And it has teeth. It is incorporated into UK law and there is recourse through the European Court of Human Rights (nothing to do with the EU, incidentally)
    UK law can be changed by majority vote of Parliament this afternoon. Parliament can countermand an order of the ECHR with no regard to anything outside its own will. UK law has teeth if you are within the protection of the majority of Parliament.

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    Lofty ideals versus real life as she is lived. American exceptionalism may be defensible in some respects, but not in this one. Grind as you may, as sharp as your axe may be in your own mind, it cuts no trees.
    Principles will indeed conflict with practice, that's the point.

    I'm not advocating AE, just the opposite. AE is religious. It's not defensible in any respect. It's not American.
    He's a Mexican. -- Donald Trump.
    America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama. -- Governor Chris Christie (R) New Jersey
    It wasn't racism, it was an attack on Christianity. -- Fox News
    Crying white mothers are ratings gold. -- National Rifle Association

  18. #193
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    And speaking of changes -

    Over the past couple of years the BBC has broadcast a series of programmes about WW1 - all drawn from contemporary records. Some of the most recent ones have touched on America's entry into the war and, not least, the army's discrimination, prejudice and poor treatment of black American soldiers.

    I happen to be reading Woodward's "Fear" at the moment (recommended if you want to plumb the depths of the Trumpian swamp) and have just come across this quote of a tweet from the Chief of Staff of the Army in response the Charlottesville outrages:

    "The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks. It's against our values and everything we have stood for since 1775"




    He meant 1948. Must be a typo

  19. #194
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    The scope of human rights has expanded. The concept has been the same all along.
    No, the definition of who is human has expanded. The 'universal' human rights were not universal because the 'universe' was narrowly defined.

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