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Thread: What are the criteria that define an American?

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

    Down the Creek's question. My proposal:

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    It's not exclusively Protestant but Protestant is a good start point. Man answers, alone, to God, alone, for his conscience. It follows then than there is no lesser judge of a person's conscience, and that therefore, one who claims the right to rule, from God, speaks blasphemy.

    So religion is out. What shall government be based on then? All the other dreck is just variation on the blasphemous theme. So all the other dreck is out as well. Now what?

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . "

    There is no period after "governed", but there might as well be. As to the source of legitimacy of government, it's game over. If a given people has labored under the misapprehension of some other basis of their government, they can overthrow it by right.

    And this applies to all. It's universal to human existence, all times, all places. That's the odd thing: when you come right down to it, it's not American, in principle. It has do with nations generally, not the American nation in particular. History has worked out in such a way that America, the nation, has undertaken the defense of these principles, that's all. In theory, any other nation can come along and do a better job.
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    To which she responded!

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    Thank you for taking my question as it was intended - seriously. I don't agree with the basic premise of your definition, but I do agree that the argument you base on it makes sense.

    Life and liberty - many nations have worked this out for themselves. Indeed, I hope you would acknowledge the fact that some of those streams of development have been the key contributors to the way they have been worked out in the USA. Similarly, many nations have defended these principles with at least as much determination and force, proportionally, as have the United States. As far as the endless military excursions of the last 70 years are concerned....defenders of life and liberty, or "thugs for capitalism?" An awful lot of lives and liberties have been destroyed in the process.

    As far as "the pursuit of happiness" is concerned - I have always found this mildly ridiculous. Pursuing happiness can be a very effective way of destroying it. And if money becomes a proxy for happiness then the old cliche - radix malorum est cupiditas - rears its ugly head and we too often see how true it is. I cannot by any means see the USA as the world leader in the "pursuit of happiness"

    A nation is as a nation does. An American is as an American does. I know that America is a nation defined by an idea, not by geography or race, and I respect that. But America, like every other nation, has feet of clay. It has a multitude of facets and, because of its size and power and "greatness" both its intrinsic talents and virtues and its intrinsic faults failings are magnified and their impact felt across the world. The handsome face and the ugly one are both 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

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

    So DTC, what is the basic premise, as you see it, with which you disagree?
    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

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

    History has worked out in such a way that America, the nation, has undertaken the defense of these principles,
    I call bollocks to an arrogant piece of tripe.
    The U S of A has been motivated mostly by Big Money's self interest. Some times they started out with an altruistic motivation, but financial self interest soon took over.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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

    And in what way is England different Nick?
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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

    The basic principles of liberal democracy are not uniquely or even originally American.They started with the Enlightenment, and thinkers from several European nations laid out the basic ideas, which were taken up by the people who shaped American government. The ideals America was founded on are the ideals of most of the nations of the European Union (the exception is Hungary, which is a kleptocracy.)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    And in what way is England different Nick?
    Humility? Pragmatism?
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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

    how did y'all obtain humility?
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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

    Like Australians, I doubt there is a cover all criteria except when politicians grope for a jingoistic definitions and wave the flag. Come to think of it your obsession with the flag is likely the one that would seem most common to the rest of the planet.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    how did y'all obtain humility?
    'God is an Englishman' sounds so humble.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    how did y'all obtain humility?
    What is more important is how did people like Osborne lose it, and why are your polies not pragmatic?
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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

    Funny, I find Osborne one of the more grounded political commentators on this forum.
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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

    Guns & pickup trucks.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by johnw View Post
    The basic principles of liberal democracy are not uniquely or even originally American.They started with the Enlightenment, and thinkers from several European nations laid out the basic ideas, which were taken up by the people who shaped American government.
    America was the first government founded on them. Nothing stopping anyone else then or now.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnw View Post
    The ideals America was founded on are the ideals of most of the nations of the European Union (the exception is Hungary, which is a kleptocracy.)
    The ideals America was founded on became the ideals of etc. and the United Nations. The modern world. More or less.
    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

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

    Quote Originally Posted by skuthorp View Post
    Like Australians, I doubt there is a cover all criteria . . .
    Don't know about Australia. For America there is. There is no cover all for any nation. We're talking minimum. See Post #1.

    Just don't fall into the uniqueness trap, that's for marketers and other bull S ers. The irreducible criteria for being American are not uniquely American. Anyone can have them. Americans must. See Post #1.
    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

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

    Nowadays the answer would be fifty extra pounds, a bump stock, and a bad case of Dunning-Krueger...

    Jeff C

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

    'Americans' are more or less permanent human residents of the USA. (Common usage, ignoring the rest of the North and South American continents, but let that pass,) That's all that's required; not ideas or convictions or anything else. Now Americans may have other common characteristics beyond being members of the same species - most of us probably do, in fact - but it sure isn't required.
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    how did y'all obtain humility?
    That started with the Hudson's Bay Company and the East India Company, didn't it?

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

    The Hudson's Bay Company sells humility?
    "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations,
    for nature cannot be fooled."

    Richard Feynman

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    Humility?
    That must be the first time i have ever seen the word Humility and England in the same sentence. Made me smile.
    Does naive fit in anywhere?

    Good call on the Bollocks though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    America was the first government founded on them. Nothing stopping anyone else then or now.



    The ideals America was founded on became the ideals of etc. and the United Nations. The modern world. More or less.
    Humility clearly doesn't apply there.
    But it does point at a word i'd have thrown in the ring - exceptionalism.
    Staggering emphasis on perfect teeth, is another one.

    (San Marino? - and my own call on the first republic to be founded on liberal ideals; Corsica. Even included female sufferage back in 1755!).
    Philip K. Dick — 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by skuthorp View Post
    Like Australians, I doubt there is a cover all criteria except when politicians grope for a jingoistic definitions and wave the flag. Come to think of it your obsession with the flag is likely the one that would seem most common to the rest of the planet.
    No one has a lock on that jingoism: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/13/w...gtype=Homepage
    There's a lot of things they didn't tell me when I signed on with this outfit....

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Wilson View Post
    The Hudson's Bay Company sells humility?
    In that case, shout the house and make ‘Em doubles.
    There's a lot of things they didn't tell me when I signed on with this outfit....

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    how did y'all obtain humility?
    age. Experience

    the same way that people do. Well, many people, at least.

    The US behaves very much like an adolescent male - - the same recklessness, ego, hubris, short term thinking, arrogance. England (and most of Europe) has passed that and aged into a more mature, more humble nation. Not that it still isn't capable of acting out and doing stupid things now and again, just like older humans.
    I rather be an American than a Republican.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    how did y'all obtain humility?
    The same way the US is going to aquire it.
    '' You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know. ''
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Let me tell you just how humble I am...


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

    The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy, call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House. Located in the northeastern region of North America, originally the Six Nations was five and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history. The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations. In our present day, we can benefit immensely, in our quest to establish anew a government truly dedicated to all life's liberty and happiness much as has been practiced by the Six Nations for over 800 hundred years.

    Women of the Six Nations have had equality and power for hundreds of years.

    The founding mothers of modern feminism in the United States shared their enthusiasm at finding functioning societies that incorporated notions of sexual equality. All seemed to believe that the native model held promise for the future. Gage and Stanton looked to the native model for a design of a "regenerated world." "Never was justice more perfect, never civilization higher than under the Matriarchate," Gage wrote. "Under [Iroquois] women the science of government reached the highest form known to the world," Gage believed. Writing in The New York Evening Post, Gage contended that "division of power between the sexes in this Indian republic was nearly equal."

    The use of Indian women to provide an exemplar of feminist liberty continued into the nineteenth century. On May 16, 1914, only six years before the first national election in which women had the vote, Puck printed a line drawing of a group of Indian women observing Susan B. Anthony, Anne Howard Shaw and Elizabeth Cady Stanton leading a parade of women. A verse under the print read:

    "Savagery to Civilization"

    We, the women of the Iroquois
    Own the Land, the Lodge, the Children
    Ours is the right to adoption, life or death;
    Ours is the right to raise up and depose chiefs;
    Ours is the right to representation in all councils;
    Ours is the right to make and abrogate treaties;
    Ours is the supervision over domestic and foreign policies;
    Ours is the trusteeship of tribal property;
    Our lives are valued again as high as man's


    The Six Nations:
    Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth (LINK)



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

    What y'all are revisiting is the dialectic of Hegel.

    Certainly - the founding fathers and mothers of the U.S. were steeped in the wisdom of a variety of French, Greek, and other philosophers, political economists, and churchfolk. And the documents they created were a marvelous synthesis of the best of it they could muster and synthesize.

    And just as certainly - our application of the principles in those documents has been flawed... and glorious... and energetic... and halting... and soaring... and venal... and hateful... and loving... as we humans normally make any set of ideals.

    There is a story about a young Cherokee boy who is conflicted about how to respond to being wronged. His grandfather doesn't tell him what to do, but tells him about the two wolves who live within every person:

    "One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

    "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

    The boy asks which wolf will win, and the grandfather replies: the one you feed.


    Our ongoing struggle is to feed the good wolf.

    We haven't been doing very well lately.
    David G
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    George Will in a PBS documentary about nationality said to the effect that to be a German or a Frenchman one considers where your grandfather came from, where you were born,who your earlier ancestors were. To be an American simply means that you assent to a collection of values contained in the Constitution. To be American is more an intellectual and philosophical act than a genetic status.

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

    Thanks, I'd seen references to the Native basis for American democracy in 1491, as well.

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

    Got a birth certificate and a passport.

    No illusions about the rest.
    We're merely mammals. Let's misbehave! —Cole Porter

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

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Our ongoing struggle is to feed the good wolf.
    That's a nice description of the struggle of humanism since the Enlightenment - but its not uniquely 'American'.
    America isn't even the best example, I'm thinking of the entrenched racism and the legal (prison) system.
    Finland and some other Northern European countries have been more successful in aspiring to the 'Virtues of the Enlightenment'.

    I think the OP is asking what qualities distinguish Americans from every other western liberal democracy....

    War is very American. Not just the heaps of wars they've been in since the beginning of the 20th Century, but War on Drugs, War on Terror and so on. Wasn't there a war on crime too?

    Militarism and prisons. Very American.
    Guns....
    Philip K. Dick — 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'.

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

    Good calls on D.K. and exceptional ism.

    Anyone with an interest in the history of republics might like to consider Iceland and the Isle of Man.
    Creationists aren't mad - they're possessed of demons.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by johnw View Post
    Thanks, I'd seen references to the Native basis for American democracy in 1491, as well.




    The Great Law of Peace

    Fleeing the Nazi conquest of Europe, the writer Vladimir Nabokov and his family took a ship to the United States in the spring of 1940. Although Nabokov was the scion of a Russian noble family, he detested the class-bound servility ubiquitous in the land of his birth. He was delighted when the lowly U.S. customs officers on the Manhattan dock failed to cringe at his aristocratic bearing and pedigree. Indeed, he reported, “when they opened my suitcase and saw two pairs of boxing gloves, two officers put them on and began boxing. The third became interested in my collection of butterflies and even suggested one kind be called ‘captain.’ When the boxing and the conversation about butterflies finished, the customs men suggested I close the case and go.” Their straightforward, even brash demeanor, with its implicit assumption that everyone was on the same social level, enchanted him.

    Nabokov was hardly the first emigré to be surprised by the difference between Americans and Europeans—a cultural divide that Henry James, like many others, attributed to the former’s “democratic spirit.” As has been widely noted, this spirit has consequences both positive and negative. The sense that anyone is as good as anyone else fuels entrepreneurial self-reliance, but also can lead to what outsiders view as political know-nothingism. For better and worse, though, this spirit is widely identified as one of the Americas’ great gifts to the world. When rich stockbrokers in London and Paris proudly retain their working-class accents, when audiences show up at La Scala in track suits and sneakers, when South Africans and Thais complain that the police don’t read suspects their rights as they do on Starsky & Hutch reruns, when anti-government protesters in Beirut sing “We Shall Overcome” in Lebanese accents—all these raspberries in the face of social and legal authority have a distinctly American tone, no matter where they take place. To be sure, apostles of freedom have risen in many places. But an overwhelming number have been inspired by the American example—or, as it should perhaps be called, the Native American example, for among its fonts is Native American culture, especially that of the Haudenosaunee.
    1491: Coda, Charles Mann (LINK)


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

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    And in what way is England different Nick?
    England is HIS arrogant piece of tripe.
    Rattling the teacups.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Pless View Post
    Funny, I find Osborne one of the more grounded political commentators on this forum.
    Plus, he's a conservative.
    Rattling the teacups.

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