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Thread: What are the criteria that define an American?

  1. #141
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    It is very difficult not to be struck by the contrast between the way in which American lives are valued and non American lives treated with indifference. I'm afraid that particular brand of ugly arrogance by the new imperialists is still with us in the 21st century.
    Can't argue with that, alas.

    Of course, every tribe (whether it has a flag and a capital or not) has derogatory terms for them that ain't us. All too many of us haven't gotten beyond that yet.
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    t is very difficult not to be struck by the contrast between the way in which American lives are valued and non American lives treated with indifference.
    But they are not valued. Look at the domestic death toll and their Health don'tCare System.
    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?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Wilson View Post
    Can't argue with that, alas.

    Of course, every tribe (whether it has a flag and a capital or not) has derogatory terms for them that ain't us. All too many of us haven't gotten beyond that yet.
    Indeed so. I have no delusions about America being somehow worse than other nations - mine included - but I do suggest that the rather lofty assertions about being founded on a dream; an ideal; a set of principles etc. don't amount to a hill of beans when it comes to hard reality.
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  4. #144
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    Indeed so. I have no delusions about America being somehow worse than other nations - mine included - but I do suggest that the rather lofty assertions about being founded on a dream; an ideal; a set of principles etc. don't amount to a hill of beans when it comes to hard reality.
    A partial truth, I think. The US is rather different from most older cultures, and almost every European country, in that it isn't a linguistic/cultural/ethnic state, and was deliberately founded fairly recently, at least partially on lofty ideals, most of which came from the European Enlightenment. It has often failed to live up to those ideals, from the very beginning. I wouldn't say this is 'exceptionalism' in the normal sense, but because of history, the US is actually different in some respects than many other countries. OTOH, Japan is not like Botswana either.
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    Indeed so. I have no delusions about America being somehow worse than other nations - mine included - but I do suggest that the rather lofty assertions about being founded on a dream; an ideal; a set of principles etc. don't amount to a hill of beans when it comes to hard reality.
    Of course you could find millions of Americans, many of them immigrants, who would tell you in no uncertain terms that their reality comes close to the dream.

  6. #146
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Wright View Post
    Of course you could find millions of Americans, many of them immigrants, who would tell you in no uncertain terms that their reality comes close to the dream.
    Bit like over here, then. Just been listening to some "vox pop" interviews with immigrants who are settled, happy and doing great. All wealthy countries have immigrants with a "dream" of a better life. Perhaps "hope" would be a less loaded word.

    But that's not what this is about, if the OP is to be believed. As Keith rightly points out - nations differ from one another, by reason of their history and a myriad of other factors. Who could dispute that? But...full circle? Is there something special and distinctive about the fact that America has a 230 year old constitution? Something manifest now and qualitatively different? Is that what immigrants to America come for, or is it pretty much the same as what immigrants generally seek? Money, opportunity, safety, health care.....After all, every country has lofty ideals along with the ability to offer these things. Different nations are always claiming these things as their own. I don't think so.

    Does America manifest these lofty ideals it professes to to embody in day to day policies and actions? Do Americans? Sometimes, perhaps. Often not. Just like every other "developed" nation.

    Of course America is different. It certainly feels pretty "different" to me when I am there, sometimes. But as for the nature of that difference - if only lofty principles and noble ideals qualify people as Americans, then either there are very few Americans or a fair number of people of other nationalities qualify. It's a load of claptrap.
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Osborne, that's a blatant misinterpretation of what I actually said, which has nothing to do with political "winning." I was no more responsible for the actions Obama took while President (for example) than I am for Trump's actions. How could I be, if I begin my understanding of the issue by examining what the word actually means?
    So you're not responsible, no matter what the government does? That's an even more radical position.

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    You argue, instead, from a position that honors the idea of implied consent or "tacit consent"--
    Consent does have a somewhat special meaning in this context. It includes consent by your representative.

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    . . . that is, unless I'm in open rebellion against the government, I have given my consent.
    The middle position would be, you disagree but you pay your taxes anyway, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    But there are good arguments against your position, no matter how hard you may try to sweep them aside without actually answering them. "Consent" does not necessarily mean what you want it to mean, just because you want it to. I note that nothing you have cited to support your argument specifically mentions or endorses the notion of tacit or implied consent. Others read "consent of the governed" as overt consent, or literal consent--and they are equally correct, and equally well supported.
    That's what Trump argues. Is he correct? He refuses to consent to be bound by an election he doesn't win.

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    But even accepting, for a moment, your quite restrictive reading of "tacit consent"--you would say that if I as a citizen have not pushed through a Constitutional amendment to change a law I disagree with, or challenged it in court, then I have given my implied consent. But the amendment process in Wisconsin requires legislators to either introduce the amendment in legislative session and then vote on it themselves twice before a public vote is held, or call a constitutional convention (which has never been done). It's out of my control. I may have been quite vocal in my protestations, and yet if my legislators refuse to introduce an amendment, you'd say I have still consented to the law as is. Nonsense. And if I invest the time and energy to challenge a law in court, but the court refuses to hear it--well, that's not consent, either, is it? It's out of my control.
    Not altogether.

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    If you want to look at what "consent of the governed" meant to the Revolutionary generation, this passage from the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) is interesting . . . because it quite clearly recognizes that taxes and laws exist that have NOT received the consent of the governed, but only the consent of the elected representatives. The implication is unmistakable: there are actions of government and its representatives for which citizens are NOT responsible--only the representatives.
    I read it as equating the result of the two modes of consent, rather than differentiating them.

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    It's wildly impractical to expect consent on every action of government, and the Founders realized this. That kind of lack of consent does not invalidate a duly elected government, and does not exempt citizens from obeying laws they didn't personally consent to.
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    But it does invalidate your argument that I (or anyone else) is responsible for everything our government does.
    I don't see the logic.
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  8. #148
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by gypsie View Post
    I think the OP question wants to have the word 'Unique' (as in Uniquely American) in it.
    The fact that it doesn't may be telling in itself.
    You seem to want very badly to put that word in it, but I wrote the OP.

    Telling of what?

    Quote Originally Posted by gypsie View Post
    Perhaps the belief in exceptionalism . . .
    Exceptionalism can only be based on uniqueness, and likewise has nothing to do with the OP.
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  9. #149
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    I don't see the logic.
    Truer words have never been written....

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post
    Consent does have a somewhat special meaning in this context. It includes consent by your representative.


    Which is exactly what I said here:

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    this passage from the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) is interesting . . . because it quite clearly recognizes that taxes and laws exist that have NOT received the consent of the governed, but only the consent of the elected representatives.
    So, we have some common ground.

    But here's what you aren't getting: the specific legal "consent" that happens whenever my representative does something, does NOT make me responsible for everything he does. Because responsibility exists only with a certain degree of control. And I can't control what he does.

    I agree I have a responsibility as a citizen to be involved and to use what power I have. But to insist I am responsible for, for example, Trump's every policy decision is ridiculous, and defies the generally accepted notion of what responsibility is.

    Tom
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  10. #150
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    Hmm........ Sorry, Osborne - was away sailing - partly to watch the start of the last barge match and smack race of the season. This is the Colne match, which is my favourite because the Colne is a small and very beautiful estuary and the boats are very concentrated together at the start. It's a simply glorious sight. Some nice pics here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7uzF59-1bs&t=91s (If it starts in the middle, go back, as some nice pics at the beginning) There's a tiny glimpse of my boat on one of them.
    Nice indeed. I was away watching people sail schooners. I took the liberty of importing our previous exchanges into this thread.


    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    Anyway - back to the knitting. Your question has been thoroughly worked over already. The premise to which I referred was the implied premise that being American is not so much a nationality like any other, but a set of characteristic beliefs or ideas. I think it is reasonable to infer something like this because you have, on more than one occasion, asked your compatriots outright "are you an American"? (In one case, I seem to remember, you asked it of someone who is not an American citizen)
    It's been worked over in the sense of being distorted. I take issue with your points made above:

    1. The premise is implied in the founding documents, but explicit everywhere else. Not that it matters. For example, the Constitution does not say, tribes may be formed which the government must recognize. Does that mean that they may?

    2. a nation like any other -- I have said repeatedly to be irrelevant.

    3. I don't get the part about asking someone who's not. If I was mistaken, it doesn't matter. If I was correct, the question pertains.

    4.
    What it finally seems to have boiled down to is your concession that these ideas and principles are common amongst "developed nations" and the only distinctive thing is the assertion that the USA was the first country to create a constitution based on the ideas you have in mind.
    It wasn't a concession. It was never an issue. I never said anything about limitation to "developed nations". What made you think I did? I never said it was distinctive in the first place, so I couldn't possible be taken to imply that it was the only distinctive thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    High minded ideals are all very well, but.."all men are created equal"...."life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"......They were never applied in full . . .
    If they were never applied at all, they remain the ideals.

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    An American is simply someone with American citizenship. And that doesn't depend on subscription or adherence to high ideals.
    Whoever made the comment that "American" is about an idea rather than "where your ancestors came from" is wrong.
    The existence of the nation depends on it, and therefore citizenship. Nations don't spring out of the forehead of Zeus. Governments use force. Various justifications are offered, all amounting to might makes right, except for the justification of governing by consent. America disavowed from the beginning every other possible foundational principle. That means it's the foundational principle, and remains so until people disavow it, which is what I'm attempting to learn.

    If the principle itself is invalid, then the independence of the former colonies is a continuing wrong. So it's something English people are required to come to terms with.

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    All nations, and particularly huge and populous ones like America - have a vast myriad of different facets.
    Among these are legal citizenship, and moral citizenship, yes?
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  11. #151
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by Osborne Russell View Post


    1. The premise is implied in the founding documents, but explicit everywhere else. Not that it matters. For example, the Constitution does not say, tribes may be formed which the government must recognize. Does that mean that they may?
    I have no idea what you are talking about

    2. a nation like any other -- I have said repeatedly to be irrelevant.
    Not to you, perhaps. But, again, this would need some expansion. Your thinking is very abstract. I just see what I see

    3. I don't get the part about asking someone who's not. If I was mistaken, it doesn't matter. If I was correct, the question pertains.
    It happened, but I agree - irrelevant. You probably didn't realise the person you asked was not an American citizen



    It wasn't a concession. It was never an issue. I never said anything about limitation to "developed nations". What made you think I did? I never said it was distinctive in the first place, so I couldn't possible be taken to imply that it was the only distinctive thing.
    Well, you could have fooled me. And with "developed nations" - I didn't it was what you said. I was making my own point

    If they were never applied at all, they remain the ideals.
    And yet, ideals that you implied had to be espoused by anyone purporting to be an American. Interpreted by whom? You only have to look at the political travails to see that the meaning of these abstractions is open to a myriad of interpretations - mostly as a rationalisation for doing whatever the individual prefers to do

    The existence of the nation depends on it, and therefore citizenship. Nations don't spring out of the forehead of Zeus. Governments use force. Various justifications are offered, all amounting to might makes right, except for the justification of governing by consent. America disavowed from the beginning every other possible foundational principle. That means it's the foundational principle, and remains so until people disavow it, which is what I'm attempting to learn.

    If the principle itself is invalid, then the independence of the former colonies is a continuing wrong. So it's something English people are required to come to terms with.
    I don't recall anyone claiming the principle is "invalid". Who's to say? And who is it that would "require" me or any other English person to "come to terms with that" (whatever that may mean)? (or semi English, to be more precise, as I would certainly qualify for Scottish citizenship if Scotland were to become independent - and would certainly take advantage of that)

    Your arguments are too abstract and too rarified to have any particular significance for me (and for most others, I suspect) I'm interested in what I see in the concrete. And I'm afraid I'm not at all sure whether your ideas are profound or just plain claptrap.

    Among these are legal citizenship, and moral citizenship, yes?
    No. I see no firm ground for defining citizenship other than legal citizenship. American is as American does. Back to square one.
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by downthecreek View Post
    Your arguments are too abstract and too rarified to have any particular significance for me (and for most others, I suspect) I'm interested in what I see in the concrete. And I'm afraid I'm not at all sure whether your ideas are profound or just plain claptrap.
    The principle of the consent of the governed is one of the central principles of the Good Friday Agreement, enacted into the Irish Constitution. Slowed down the troubles quite a bit. That's concrete. Claptrap?

    The Irish Government was bound by the terms of the 1998 Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement to submit Articles 2 and 3 to amendment by referendum. To this end, the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution was adopted in June of the same year by 94% of those voting. The new wording describes the Irish nation as a community of individuals with a common identity rather than as a territory, and is intended to reassure unionists that a united Ireland will not come about without a majority of the Northern Ireland electorate declaring in favour of such a move.

    Article 2

    It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.
    Article 3

    1. It is the firm will of the Irish Nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island.


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  13. #153
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Because responsibility exists only with a certain degree of control. And I can't control what he does.
    Control is something you may have a little or a lot of. You don't have a veto power. You can't shoot your representative. That doesn't mean you're powerless.

    As in other things, you have responsibility in proportion to your power. And your power is not limited to your formal political power, i.e. your vote. You can seek to influence, i.e. to have power steered in the direction you want, in any way permitted by law. This is the point of the set-up.

    Time, i.e. events, is also involved. Abu Ghraib happens once, OK. Is your responsibility different the fiftieth time?
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  14. #154
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    Default Re: What are the criteria that define an American?

    Is the question to be answered as American’ think iit does? Or as various citizens of other countries around the world use to define them?
    Enjoy a good rum on the rocks at sunset.

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