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Don Anderson

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I need help with a dilemma: What does it mean to be American? And Why does it work?

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Up-date to thread’s scope: (July 10th)

Thanks for all the comments, they have been very helpful.
I have sorted out my feeling on being American, it maybe a jumbled mess but it is working for me. And to avoid rehashing what has been said I’ll leave it at that.

But the large diversity of views here, and within America’s culture, politics, values, heritages, etc. I have to ask;

Why does it work?

By most standards we are a highly dysfunctional group, and should be a failed society.
But here we are a great nation, and by most logic that should not be the case.
Yes we are the home of the free and the brave, but also home of tyrants, cowards, passive, aggressive, moral and immoral and I could go on and on forever.

Americans are often labeled as racist and intolerant, if that was true we would not have more nationalities and different cultures than any other country in the world.
Being American is a lessen tolerance and that is something we can’t experience in heaven, but I feel the lessen goes deeper than that.


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Is American where you live, or is American a belief in freedom and liberty for all?

Firstly let me state I believe we are here to learn from experience that we can’t have in heaven. And recently I have had two events in my life that have me confused as to the lesion I should be learning from them.

My Background: I’m just an average lower-middleclass Midwest American.

Experience 1: I have been researching my ancestry for about a year now, and I feel pride with my findings. So far my ancestors range from English noble that came to America in 1633, to peasant framer and serving maid from Prussia (Germany) in 1820. No slave owners, only union army soldiers, fought for America in the war for independence, etc.

Experience 2: Many people throughout the world, now are fighting and/or protesting for freedom and libe

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    Jun 26 2013: Personally, I agree with Socrates on this topic: "I am not an Athenian or Greek, but a citizen of the world." I think he hits the hole in one with this quote regarding patriotism and country devotion. I take from this quote that we should try to improve the world as a whole, not just our country. Improving the welfare and lives of all is much better than just your country. Our loyalty is to humanity, not a single country. This does not mean you have to hate your country, and I am fond of this country, but it does not have my loyalty.

    I share some concepts and ideas with the US, but they are my ideas. I believe we shouldn't strive to be American or any other group (atheist or whatever), but we should strive to be who we are. Our various affiliations being a part of us, not defining us. This sort of leads into racism or any other negative "-ism"s. There was some quote that I say in a Italian (capt.?) restaurant bathroom (where the best quotes and signs are written, even though this one was supposed to be there) that inspired this kind of thinking.

    Hopefully that helps, and just let me know if you want me to clarify any of my ideas!
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      Jun 26 2013: Thank you; LaMar, Fritzie and Kai for your words of wisdom.
      Your feedback is helping me sort there my thoughts.

      Even though it defies rational explanation, people do feel emotions and build connections to things beyond their world. EI: Why do most of us get emotional if our favorite sport team or your country at the Olympics wins or cheats? Why? I currently have no thoughts on the matter.
  • Jul 24 2013: America works because it has a common language: money. Whether you are a recently arrived Persian immigrant or a native born American with African ancestry money allows you communicate clearly. Superficial? Yes! Materialistic? Of course. Equalizing and fair for all? I believe so. The concept of 'world peace through world trade' applies for local trade within the US. In a diverse country such as this, doing business with people of other faiths and nationalities teaches you more about ethics and brotherhood then sermons and political ideologies. Was I treated fairly? Did the person do what he or she said they would do? If they did, relations will be warm and cordial and America will roll on. If there is a downside to all of this it is that America doesn't know what to do with something that can't be sold or is somehow useful. Spirit aside from organized religion, doesn't play too well in the mass American culture. But maybe it's enough to get along with people who are different. I think that is amazing in itself.
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      Jul 24 2013: World trade sounds virtuous as long as you are the benefactor. The slave trade did a lot of damage. Trade "winners" get to write the narrative for history and economic books. If you don't have a competitive advantage or a resource to exploit in trade you are screwed.

      I just wonder what the World would be like if we nurtured our specie instead of endlessly battling ourselves.

      What we have done to ourselves over thousands of years we wouldn't do to our pets. With humans it's fight and winner take all.

      Half of the Worlds population is starving and the other half is overweight. Kudos, World trade.
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      Jul 24 2013: “America works because it has a common language: money.”

      It was a huge improvement over what was done before, with poverty being the common language and money being the language for only the ruling class.
      I would not say it’s the only reason America works, but it’s certainly in the 10 top reasons.
  • Jul 23 2013: Historically, America has succeeded because it started with a blank canvass, had considerable resources and created significant competitive economic advantages.

    A blank canvass meant founders could use reasoned self governing strategies in lieu of Monarchs who dominated the World for the previous 1,000 years.

    The North American continent were virgin lands and seas. Had incredible wealth stored within its natural resources. Add cheap slave labor you had huge economic advantage.

    Not having enemy armies within 3,000 miles created 200 plus years of social stability for human intellect and creativity to flourish.

    While imperfect, the rule of law created fairness for a large portion of the population. (or at least better than elsewhere)

    As you may have noticed many of these competitive advantages have faded.

    I have never really understood the whole "Freedom and Liberty" virtuous jawboning. As America freedom and liberty has seldom been seriously challenged in the last 230+ years. All that seems to have done is perpetuate constant fear and reckless military spending and meddling around the World.

    We have military bases in 2/3 of the countries in the World and we still fear for our liberty? CRAZY

    We killed nearly as many of our own citizens in the Civil War as all other US wars combined.
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      Jul 24 2013: @Brian B French - I like your statement, but I disagree in one small area. Let me quote that here

      America freedom and liberty has seldom been seriously challenged in the last 230+ years. All that seems to have done is perpetuate constant fear and reckless military spending and meddling around the World. End quote.

      Look at WW II. Most people don't know their own history there. By June of 1940, Europe was gone. The Nazis in Germany had it all. The only exception was Britain. The Brits had to abandon Europe at Dunkirk & Paris fell that same month. The Nazis were the only game in town in Continental Europe. The Germans invaded Russia a year later. Italy was fighting the British & invaded Greece. By spring 1941, the Brits were bottled up in North Africa. The war was NOT going well for the "Freedom & Democracy" brigades.

      Fact is, there wasn't much left of any kind of "Freedom or Liberty" left anywhere (except the U.S.A.) by December of 1940. That was a full year before the U.S. even entered the war. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, & then the U.S. was in it. But w/o the U.S. & U.K. having broken the strategic codes used by Japan/Germany (thereby having advanced knowledge of most military radio commands) the U.S. could never have successfully defended Midway (or Hawaii either) from Japanese invasion. Had Japan taken Midway & Hawaii, the U.S would have been left Defending the west coast w/what was left of the Pacific fleet. Just because the Allies eventually won that war, does NOT mean there was never any significant threat. Prism? Not w/o cause.

      Had Germany gotten the Atomic Bomb first - that would have been the end. And as a late note, weren't there some significant events as recently as September 2001? As in 9/11/2001? Freedom is NOT free - & our liberties occasionally require defending if we want to keep them. Any other conclusion is inconsistent with the facts of history. Fear for our Liberty? I don't defend my liberty with fear.
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        Jul 24 2013: A few points:

        #1. WWII was over 55 years ago.

        #2. America was not at much risk during WWII. In fact, America prospered in the 50's because all major industrial countries were devastated during the War (competitive advantage).

        #3. Today America's spends as much on military spending as nearly the rest of the World combined. It's overkill, as we do not have a legitimate enemy that threatens our population. (guys with box cutters don't count).

        #4. Protecting other countries liberty may sound good. But it creates imperial power and control and lose - lose relationships and corruption with foreign leaders.

        Much of the World resents our influence. How would we feel if we had foreign military bases in this country?

        It's human nature, if you bully people in THEIR own neighborhood a fight is going to break out and eventually the bully will lose. America was created in response to a seemingly all powerful bully.
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      Jul 24 2013: Historically, Candida, Mexico, and all down to Argentina started with a blank canvass.
      Picasso, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Smith’s 3rd grade class also started with a blank canvass, so a blank canvass and good resources alone does not make a masterpiece.

      The US civil war has been our greatest threat to "Freedom and Liberty", so it is the enemy within that has been and still is the greatest threat.

      We have military bases in 2/3 of the countries in the World because we still fear for all of mankind’s liberty and not just our own.
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        Jul 24 2013: "Fearing for all of mankinds liberty and not just our own."
        How naive can you get?

        We use our military strength when it serves us economically.

        We trade with China which is one of the most repressive govt.s on the planet.

        Why? Because there's short term gains for big companies. World trade and multinational companies pull the strings.

        "We the People" don't need global shipping lanes and cheap Chinese slave labor to survive. But multi-national companies do.
  • Jul 23 2013: First off, there is no certain definition of Americanism. We are citizens of a country that mounted the first great revolution of the modern era. Other than the fact that we inhabit this country, there is no set definition but only what we individually perceive ourselves to be. It can be argued that there are states with much more freedom and liberty, countries in which it is far easier to climb the socio-economic ladder. Our formula for governance is but one example in a sea of many. However, the spirit through which we exist is one that does not work well for many people. Our wealth distribution is anything but equal and even the opportunities for our citizens to make something of themselves is reigned in by the immense scope of Capital to which our government has catered to since the days of Alexander Hamilton. We are far from a perfect society, but we are perhaps the first country to recognize the need to protect ourselves from government (though we fail to protect ourselves from the hoarders of Capital). Thus we set the example of individual freedom for the majority of the developed and developing world.

    Secondly, what makes it work is what makes anything work. We happen to have a mass of resources available to us and the manpower to extract them and shift into the world's largest economy. Every developed nation on Earth can claim that their system works and there are a few that I believe work better than ours, but we hold a sense of national pride, which has been instilled in us from birth so that every time we see an American Flag or a member of our Armed Forces in uniform we are brought back to the line: WE the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and Secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. We are not perfect, but I believe the best in every American man, woman, and child. Maybe I'm a sucker.
  • Jul 15 2013: There are a few parts. Many of them have to do with building on, and improving on, existing systems. I don't believe all systems operate with equal fairness, or present opportunity in an equally motivational way.

    Titles bestowed by government are illegal. There are no knights, sirs, lords, kings, or sanctioned classes. Too much room for abuse there. "Created equal" is a mantra. That implies opportunity that is unavailable in the old country.

    A recent worldwide survey found that corruption and political parties and government (position power) are all linked. The first US president was well aware of this. Please read his address:
    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp. Or listen.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTj8r6e7cbM

    The example he set became a standard of behavior. Other countries do not have the same example.

    Also, in many ways America has sorted the world's population based on initiative. People are here because they want to be here.

    So core beliefs driven by empathy and shared experience ( no classes, mostly immigrants ) are: fair play, no work no eat, minimize those institutions that empirical evidence has shown to produce corruption ( the opposite of fair play and a proven de-motivator ).
  • Jul 8 2013: I dont believe you should care.

    It seems to me that all the dotted lines on the map are imaginary (see ISS/NASA Earth footage) - so why are they there?

    Well like the flags and the dotted lines, it's something for us to say we belong to this group, we are a part of it. Be it English, American, Prussian or whatever. Interestingly it's that same belief that makes us think we belong to what we've been told that flags stands for and that's used to make us go to war, to somehow defend that flag for the benefit of others.

    It's a fools game to believe that peoples all across the world are really that much different. As one who's traveled it, I can tell you there are not 194 unique moralities, like there are flags.

    In conclusion, you can't change what your ancestors did or were, but you too can learn from them and abandon the idea of a flag and what it supposedly stands for and become like them, a global citizen, and make the world a better place. They did, you can too. That's all the pride you'll ever need.
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      Jul 8 2013: Social order, like that provided by the US Constitution, is not natural. Natural "order" would have leaders choose themselves. That leads to oppressive power structures, human classes, etc.

      A country's borders define the area where its Constitution, or template for social order, is in effect. A flag is just a reminder that one is in that area.

      The world is too big and too complex to have one central government or charter. 200+ different states in a primordial political soup allows an evolution of ideas to be tested in practice and compared for all to see and share.

      True, we have many commonalities ... one species. But also true that we can differentiate the smallest differences. So, subjectively, we can be judged as diverse as required by ones point of view.
      • Jul 8 2013: the usa still has not solved plato's problem... "who's watching the watchers". The greeks were many things, athens was a democratic trading empire hegemonically enforcing supremacy in the delian league... they f'ed up in a ways that destroyed themselves (try Aristotle's "the athenian constitution, it's short and easy.) Rome cut through the greek bickering w/the dictators sword, quite satisfying the exercise of near absolute power, but it drove them mad. democracies are terrible when they are at peace too long, the urge to tyranny typically follows... as democracy often follows republics. Education was supposed to be the usa's safeguard from the 'worst form of government" alas. thucydides is excellent too.
      • Jul 9 2013: Bob, read history, flags of what ever kind go back far beyond area's, they also cover ideals, religions, but for the most part rampant nationalism is driven by the flag.

        How many flags did you see after 9/11, would you even dare not to have one. And those that didn't have them on their cars, like the Asian man who lived in Arizona, well he's dead.

        People believe they need something to follow, and for the power brokers that realize this, a flag is manna from heaven.
  • Jul 7 2013: Wow, Don, this conversation hits home for me.

    I am an ex-patriot, and a "third culture kid". i was born in the States and moved to Holland when I was 15. When Holland changed the law to abolish dual-nationality, I renounced my American nationality to remain in Holland, to be near my family, and to continue living in the country I had become an adult in, where I knew my way around, where I felt I had the best chances of survival.

    Now, let me stress, I have never felt fully at home here. But I have never felt truly at home in America either. Have a Dutch passport that says I was born in Henrietta, NY. I often say, "You can take the girl out of America, but you can't take America out of the girl", because being American to me, is pretty hard to dilute with other cultures. It remains prominent, even after more than 20 years, when I speak English, I do so with an American accent, which always gives me away...

    I often referred to my life as "before" and "after" I moved to Europe, and clung onto the "terminally unique" idiosyncrasy of being a Third Culture Kid as a desperate attempt to form an identity, other than being 'just American', as if that wasn't enough to encompass who I really was. Silly, in retrospect. But for me, it was how to fit in as a teenager in another country. I didn't want to be different!

    I think I am now more American than I have ever been, after living in Holland for more than 20 years, which is ironically longer than I ever lived in America. Accepting my roots, understanding my heritage and respecting the country where I was born took time, effort, and perspective. After years of 'hiding' my nationality, I have finally embraced it.
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      Jul 8 2013: I’m 50ish and as this thread indicates I’m just at the start of my journey to understand my heritage and its meaning in my life. I understand the feeling “I have never felt fully at home here”, for I listen to the news and others-I-know and I feel the same way. And yet I can drive a few hours into farmland and small-towns and feel right at home.
      We never loss the culture of our informative years: so it’s not silly at all, and I say embrace your uniqueness. I fought many of my unique experiences in life, and found embracing my own uniqueness has made my life journey more rewarding and meaningful.
  • Jul 4 2013: July 4th is upon us all. Many are happy and some are saddened.

    I think that once you have lost your son's and son's-in-laws to WAR,
    and America’s leadership keeps on making one WAR after another,
    your head starts asking your mouth to speak against such insanity.

    American parents who gave away their sons and daughters seldom
    get more than brief recognition for their children’s deaths, except
    those times when they bring the bodies home, calling them all “Hero’s”.

    July 4th is tomorrow. Americans will listen to Speeches and shake
    hands with the perpetrators of those many WARs that have stolen
    millions or more lifetimes of our loved ones.

    We've as a nation been involved in 56 or so armed conflicts since WW2.
    Our nation as a result of the costs of doing battle has become bankrupt.
    This Bankruptcy is not just about money. Living sons and daughters,
    with bright futures, are no more. They have become America’s gore.

    The Spoils of War, is the other side of the coin, never truly exposed by our
    leaders, nor Hollywood nor any Media. Americans never ask, Why !!!
    Why did my son or daughter have to die so that the Spoils of War could be
    quietly accepted by Banks who finance WARs, and unknown non-soldiers
    who stay in the shadows???

    American movie makers make popular wondrous films, without any
    thought about what horrors occurred that give them what they depict.
    Their movies are made with the newest of technology, and their Drones
    come in all sizes and shapes, to be used to kill from afar. American movies
    show Leaders of make-believe nations, pushing buttons, and shaking
    the hands of movie-star strike force leaders, who were “just doing their job".
    Then everyone goes to lunch... "Cut"

    Being an American is not always fun.
    • Jul 4 2013: Sorry. War means loans, sucks up surplus paper and forstalls deflationary depression... at the cost of pensions etc.
      • Jul 4 2013: wblakesx, Thank you
        Your right. But just not right enough.
        My family lost 5 uncles to a German submarine in WW2.

        I notice there is no accountability from our American elected
        democratic government for making multiple WARs upon
        other nation's shores, 56+ times since 1945.

        I suppose being a cry baby over spilt blood isn't a kosher way
        to support our July 4th American anniversary of our Federation.
        But in the last 20 years we have lost more Individual Freedoms
        through our American Government's sleights of hand than in
        the prior 217+ years.

        So you folks out there celebrate to your hearts content. For now.
        • Jul 5 2013: I live in the tropical torturers', killers, haven, Florida USA (homestead is exempt from most legal actions) and the Batistazeroes have great USA gov support... banks, fbi, cia, nsa, bushs etc etc. Don't tell me about Syria... I remember Guatemala inter alia
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    Jun 28 2013: Building on my point below, that we are world citizens before we are the citizens of any country, I would think the same things that make us good world citizens make us good Americans: practicing love, kindness, tolerance.
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    Jun 27 2013: The American ideal is vastly different from the American lifestyle of today. Being an American simply means you reside in America.

    Don't get hung up on what it means to be an American, define yourself. If you can proudly say that you are a morally and ethically bound individual with strong convictions for doing what you perceive is right and just with a track record that reflects your ability to hold strong to those ideals, then you are a humane individual with common decency who also happens to be an American or whatever nationality you claim.
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    Jun 27 2013: Dear Don,
    How about trying not to "should" on yourself?

    We are multi sensory, multi dimensional human beings, with many thoughts, feelings, ideas and beliefs. We can believe in several different ideas at the same time, so it doesn't have to feel conflicted. For example, I am against war, and I support those people who have courageously fought wars....often for freedom.

    Do you think/feel you can continue having pride in your heritage, while not having pride for some other behaviors that may also be part of your heritage? I am proud of my father for example, for fighting in WWII. I am not proud of him for his abusive behavior with his family. We can be clear about the behaviors that we are proud of, and those we are not proud of.....make any sense?
    • Jun 27 2013: Colleen, I have concluded that you must be far wiser than I am, seriously, because i usually agree and disagree with your comments.

      I completely agree that we can be ashamed of some behaviors and proud of others.

      But right now our bombs are killing citizens of Pakistan, our purported ally. Some of those victims are innocent bystanders, some are children. If a Pakistani were to ask me what it means to me to be an American, I would hope to have a better answer than conflicted thoughts and feelings, but I cannot, even after a great deal of thought. I admire the confidence with which Pat Gilbert can describe what it means to him. Perhaps that is the true meaning of being an American, continuing to believe in the ideals that our government seems to be bent on destroying. To me, that answer seems too easy and too self serving. I think a Pakistani, even an educated Pakistani, familiar with our history, would find it confusing at best and perhaps sadly naive.

      Considering the current situation in this country, I think this question deserves serious deliberation by all Americans. Perhaps the answer will point to a better path. Pat Gilbert's answer certainly does.
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        Jun 27 2013: Barry,
        I do not think even for a second that I am wiser than you. It seems like we are often on the same page, in my perception.

        I am not proud of killing people....especially innocent people. I certainly do not agree with all the decisions our government makes, nor am I often very proud of our government. That being said, I am proud of those who are willing to put their lives on the line for their/our country.

        In my travels through other countries, people always seem friendly and loving to me and traveling companions, and they often express something very different about our government. In my experience, however, people in other countries clearly separate individuals from our government's decisions. There have been plenty of times that I feel embarrassed by decisions my government has made, and it is not a mystery to me why the US is not a favorite among the world population.
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      Jun 27 2013: Thanks Colleen,
      Your post does make a lot of sense, and putting into context of a person’s good/bad behaviors is a train of thought I’m going to take.
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        Jun 27 2013: Don,
        To follow up on Barry's comment, we can also consider a governments good/bad behaviors? Do we judge all the people in a country based on the decisions a government makes?
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    Jul 24 2013: Just saw the update; thanks for the addition!

    I think our large diversity causes our nation to be 'great'. Our diversity allows us to bring different cultures and experiences into one nation. I'm going to use this TED community as an example, since nation smoothly seems complex—which I have little to no idea on how to run a nation even badly. I'll try to make some parallelisms to running a nation, but just heads up I really don't know much about running a nation.

    The starting question, debate, or idea in this forum could be compared to a particular goal or problem of the government. Someone is presenting a problem and it is up to the community to try to find and maybe decide (if possible) a possible solution that might work. Our diversity helps in that we will most likely get many answers that solve the problem adequately. If we had little diversity, many of answers most likely would be similar and our options would be few. The main difference in this parallel is that a nation would try out these solutions. While TEDsters (is there a more official name... TEDinese...TEDians...TEDers...anyway) may put these philosophies and ideas to use in the real world, much of this forum is theoretical (not knocking it), so many possible solutions (due to the diversity) may not be as easily seen as a plus. In a nation, diversity of plausible solutions is easily seen as an advantage as they put the solution into action. If one solution does not work, they have many others that they can try that are more or less unique. If the solution doesn't work with a less diverse population—and therefore less diverse solutions— however, the nation won't have many other solutions to try out. In addition, this diversity of solutions is advantageous because while one solution may work for a particular era, it may as well not be adequate for the next era, so another solution can be tried out from the pool of diverse solution from earlier.

    Again let me know if I need to expand or clarify!
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      Jul 24 2013: Good comments.

      The deeper you dig into diversity the more you discover the benefits and find fewer flaws.

      Nearly everyone who comes to America is economically poor. My ancestor came to America in 1634 he raised 19 children (5 orphans from a deceased brother).

      All he had in his will were a few acres of land and a few household trinkets.

      His treasure was those 19 children. Those 19 (children /children) started Mormon Church, included Eli Whitney, Henry Morse. John Trull, Revolutionary War, Joshua Chamberlain Civil War hero.... and me.

      In our people is where Americas wealth and future resides.

      Greatness starts from humble beginnings and brotherly love.

      America is living proof of that... as so am I.
  • Jul 24 2013: I believe in Win - Win. I think it is the basis for all trade. Both parties usually benefit otherwise they will not continue to trade. There is more profit in making the other person happy. You can screw people one time or you can mutually profit over the course of a lifetime. Which makes more sense?

    Now as to the slave trade; not good. Nor the hard drug trade, big pharma , big food , etc.. Business is not some paradise, but it does allow people from different backgrounds to engage with one another.
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      Jul 24 2013: Screwing the other guy for as long as possible makes more sense for the one doing the screwing.

      Trade is not win-win. It's winner take all based on competitive advantage. It's creates imbalances. You couldn't get half the World starving and the other half overweight without it.

      What evidence do you have to the contrary?
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        Jul 24 2013: Strictly based on that comment I say you’re in public education and single.
        The only industry that does not desire repeat customers that I can think of is public education.
        And single because without a win-win mindset second dates are rare. ;)
  • Jul 24 2013: What does it mean to be an American, and why does it work?

    It means we agree on a few things, and have set up a system to preserve that agreement. That, despite our differences, is the fundamental thing that makes us American. It works because we keep working at it. We make it work because we believe in it, and we believe because we have seen the benefits. We have the evidence that it works.

    That's it.
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      Jul 24 2013: Well said. I criticize America because I believe in it and believe we can make it better.
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        Jul 24 2013: That would be the bully boss management system, and it has been proven the most unproductive management style.
      • Jul 25 2013: So what's your criticism? How do you propose to make us better?
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    Jul 23 2013: Don, it could be that the free and the brave outnumber the tyrants, cowards, passive, aggressive, moral and immoral people. That coupled with traditions built upon colourful history could be all there is to it. There are many countries that are similar to the United States.

    Freedom is never free. It cost blood, sweat and tears. We are seeing this in many parts of the world, the blood, sweat and tears part-- as people pursue democracy. It's a shame it has to be that way.

    I think why it works is less important then the fact we are willing to die in order to protect and share it with others.

    I'm hoping for the best --that the world will become one democratic planet.
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    Jul 19 2013: The United States was the first nation founded on the principle that the governed—We the People—are the source of all power and authority, eliminating the subjugation of both the throne and the altar. Our revolutionary history laid the foundation for many of the attitudes we still see today, including those of brashness, egalitarianism, individuality and self-reliance. Apart from the original inhabitants, Americans have historically been known for emphasizing the unit over the group, and by representing a broad range of political, religious and cultural peculiarities. Americans, if they are honest, typically recognize the values of pluralism over oligarchy, of hard work over leisure and of merit over privilege. To be an American means, in my view, holding dear the liberties we enjoy, and accommodating—hopefully welcoming—diversity, including that of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Despite periodic setbacks and lapses, Americans share a legacy of relentless innovation and improvement, and we should recognize that no problem (economic, societal, environmental, political, etc.) is too daunting, if we focus our attention on it.
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    Jul 18 2013: A lot of the things you mentioned in your post are not real, they are perceptions but this is not restricted to America alone.

    Ask yourself what influences your perceptions.

    I think that a lot of this sort of rhetoric is based on generalisations and stereotypes perpetuated by a media obsessed with emotive and evocative tripe . They are, for the most part, hollow and meaningless sound bytes.

    Is it a side-effect of 80 years of television and even more of film?

    I find it confusing that there is so much talk about a global village and yet people are still so territorial about where they come from.

    I realise it's tied up with identity but I would have thought people would have evolved beyond such narrow perceptions of the self by now.
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      Jul 22 2013: LOL, I don’t want to divert into what is real tangent, there tons of TED conversations on that. It’s not real until it’s observed, if you can’t measure it’s not real, unless it makes you feel etc etc etc ;) LOL.

      I will say meaningless sound bytes are nothing new, I’ll point to these campaign slogans as an example.
      http://www.presidentsusa.net/campaignslogans.html

      Personally I don’t Care for the term “global-village”, but there is truth in it. Generally for humans that care about the “global-village”, being territorial is about being protective of their culture, and not their land. And for many part of their culture is to help all of mankind, and not just their own. So really being global and cultural is one in the same.

      P.S. speaking of real vs. perceptions, you need to check-out todays TED talk.
      http://www.ted.com/talks/john_searle_our_shared_condition_consciousness.html
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        Jul 24 2013: I think the general sense of some cultures helping all of mankind, and not just their own. comes with the baggage of accepting the culture of the helpers. If you don't, you most likely will be excluded, especially if there is some culture clash associated with the relationship.
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    • Jul 22 2013: 2pence... I can't think of an aggregation of a million or more that I wouldn't often be ashamed of. When I look at the crimes of religions, nations etc I feel my pride or respect for the honoured ones quite neutralized... Anything good, if it is powerful and exists for a few years will attract the most awful people who will use it to their advantage. The process of great power maintenance and/or enlargement is too frequently murderous.
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      Jul 24 2013: Thank you Deepak Behl,

      I know I will need some form of meditation in the future, and Rajyog meditation sounds like one that fits my style.

      I have an abnormal path with meditation; 10 years ago I got Dx. with a health issue and without realizing it I had a type of “brain fog” I was like having horse-blinders for my thoughts.
      It was lifted 2-yrs ago thanks to a new medication, and that is when I noticed the difference.
      So for those roughly 8-yrs I was in a type of meditation (24-7) and ploughed deeply in the meaning of life type questions. So for now I feel my path is to be fully involved in the world, and to find answer without thought-blinders on.
      Via experiences like starting this TED conversation, but it is highly likely Rajyog meditation will be part of my path.
      So again thank you.
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    Jul 17 2013: I'm reasserting my premise. You must go to the roots of American independence from Britain, to get a clear picture. All the clichés muddy the waters. Being an American starts with the basic premise that, "all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights". While I make no excuse, for the irony, and depravity of American slavery, the premise behind our evolution,and revolution is still there. Despite all the bigotry, violence, disagreements, and confusion, it was the concept of individual, egalitarian freedom that makes us Americans. We know we have huge problems, and we know we are not the only ones to fight for freedom. America was the first nation to discard the aristocratic dominance of society by Kings, and their descendants. This was the first society in history that put it in writing, in the constitution, and bill of rights. It allowed any industrious person to rise up from nothing to become whatever they sought to be. We have surely stumbled many times, but that is the true meaning of (American) The massive movements of immigrants clouds the vision, from time to time. We wretch in suspicion, and tribalism, in fits, and starts, eventually, finding equilibrium. Each generation however, colors, and enriches the constitution, and society in beautiful new ways. Inalienable human rights, and egalitarian freedom is still the vision for 330,000,000 people. It's a work in progress, the inevitable culmination of a society comprised of people from cultures, and body types from around the world. We do not live in a perfect world, but we have a chance, and most importantly a (choice) to make a more perfect union, if we have the intelligence, good will, and courage to do so. The more America chooses to aspire to that ideal, the more successful we become. The demons of aristocracy, ruthless totalitarianism, and tribalism, may obstruct us occasionally,but In the end the peoples rights, and our original principles will prevail.
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      Jul 17 2013: Thank you for sharing your wisdom,
      I started thinking my dilemma was just a lesion, just like I have experienced in the past. (I’ll expand on that later*) But I now see it as a guide to a new path I need to take, with some lesions I needed for that path.
      Your right I have a fighting spirit and thanks to this thread I now understand what was holding me back. Currently the USA is in a civil war of cultures, and the other side had me believing that they had already won. I will take this new path and I now realize more than ever knowledge and ideas are the strongest weapons.

      * I feel the need to share an experience/lesion I had a few years ago; in just a three month time frame 4 people I knew and my pet had died, with my mother-in-law and pet dying for wasting syndrome (Cachexia) from old age. I struggle for month trying to understand why the reward for living a long live would be such an ugly death.
      Then one evening I fell asleep watching a documentary on India, and it most have been on Buddha at the time. (P.S. you should be proud to be an Indian) when I awoke I realized their death was only ugly from my viewpoint, and reality they were letting go of all earthly desires to gain enlightenment.
      So the reward for a long life is enlightenment, and I now see its beauty.
      So I started this thread hoping for a grand revelation to the meaning of life, but instead I’m guided to a path that will give meaning to life.
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          Jul 22 2013: What can I say; I’m just a recovering victim of public education and I’m guessing by your anti-American virtues stance you’re a public school teacher. That or you’re equally negative to all of mankind’s virtues and history.

          And in response to all your comments, and just this one; may I respectfully suggest (and I know this will sound corny, but) try to learn to love yourself. Happiness does not come diminishing of others, but from looking within and finding your own meaning in life.
      • Jul 23 2013: "experience/lesion I had " ... lesion or lesson? :)
  • Jul 16 2013: For a foreigner like me, to be an American meant that you lived in a country "under the rule of law" where you were "protected by the laws of the land". To see your president dismiss the veredict of the judicial sistem and for political gain harness the enormous power of the federal goberment to try to punish this Zimmerman guy on behalf of the "Al Shapton" cartoon caracters of your society is very disconserting.
    • Jul 22 2013: there's a history that ratifies Obama's comments.
      I'm going to bring up an uncomfortable topic. Most large societies have their factions notably "conservative' and 'progressive'. Conservatives say everythings great about the country WE"RE GREAT!!!!!!!... except for thos who don't like us. Progressives say, ' Dammit, people ar getting hurt the way things are going' !!!!... and we nhae a right and duty to try to change things. C's say AMERICA IS GREAT, we just need to get rid of all the America Haters, get back to the old days. P's say We have a start but we need to get back to the old days, what's going on now stinks.
      In walks a foreigner. Who will he side with in his public statements when?
      Note that C's Hate much of what America is, so do P's, so do Foreigners. Yet they, We, all want to preserve it.
      C's P's have very odd constructs of time, nation, freedom etc. Seems the more free a people are the tougher the government has to be. So many fairey tales, so much bs flying around. N America history is half lies, the news is ridiculous, the politicians ... are as popular as commies, witches, masons, royalists, gays, blacks, japs, muslims, feriners, indians,... used car salesmen...schools are ridiculous... what a great country.
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        Jul 22 2013: bs
        • Jul 23 2013: why is it so important to be great without accepting criticism?


          separately let me prcis my post above... a new boy should measure 10 times before he cuts once. When in Rome... but Romans were of all types too, the plebs looked poor, the patricians and their 'patriotic' sycophants (party) looked fine... but virtue and vice are not determined by status. Look at the origins of latifundia then think about usa imports and militarization.
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        Jul 23 2013: LOL, sorry for just giving a bs reply. My mischievous side wanted to show you what its like.

        As a Conservative I know I’m far from GREAT! and personally I say the US conservative party is controlled by a bunch of RINOs and is just a puppet party to give citizens the illusion of a two party system.
        But I believe the founding principles are great, unlike many progressive that calm they are BS.
        Did Conservatives get rid of the King loyalist after the US revolution? Or did the Conservatives get rid of the progressive/Democrats after they lost the US Civil war? NO!
        So saying we conservative just want to get rid of haters is baseless. In fact it is the democrats that said Bush voters should be put on trains and sent to reeducation camps.

        And calling US Democrats progressive is also baseless; you just need to look at their public work projects to see that. It’s simple when the government creates great things happen, and when government manages stagnation happens. When the highway, railroad, school, communication system where created great thing happen. But under government management they stagnate. Unlike when government turns systems over to the private sector, like what happen the phone systems in the 80s and the space program now. Democrats want government management over highways, bridges, health care, education, internet, communication, and etc, and yet have never proposed the creation of anything but more management power.

        And please stop talking as if the US started slavery, the Europeans started African slavery and the American Indians had took slaves from warring tribes, and do you think American Indians would have been better off under Aztec rule?

        Sorry for the rant, I’m just saying the founding principles are great, and not that we are doing a great job of living up to them.
        • Jul 24 2013: I say bs, when a detailed reply is a waste, partic since am far from fluent in my typing. You doubtless often catch when people lay 'happy talk', the kind that ignores the down side, on you or others. When I say 'bs' I'm simply pointing out the tale is one-sided.
          'Bs' is far from the worst I've had said or some have said to me.

          "Founding principles"? If you study the period critically I think you will find they were nowhere near what most N Americas post WW1 believe them to be. Look to the right to vote and tax revolts for a start, the rippoffs and corruption, etc. What can one say about those who revolted for the freedom to own others, forbade laws limiting speech and quickly passed the anti-sedition act which did just that, made the most massive real estate killing (literally) of all time...again and again and again etc

          Dems are too entrenched to be progressive, there is at least a progressive wing... it would be nice if they were heard and restrained appropriately by a responsible right.

          Usa industrialized slavery.. put it in a most barbaric form. Germans long had slvery, arabs too, but the slaves were often better off than the workers... same for the us , many slaves were materially better off than the irish (who were after all the victims of intentional genocidal land clearings if you look at the history a bit closely. But then genocide and slavery are 'conservative' at least in the 'southern strategy'.

          I t may sound odd but I think of myself as deeply conservative in many senses,
          since most positions in the present fracas (not debate!) have been around for at least 2200 years; some go back to egypt and sumeria. But, I believe to be truly conservative we have to take account of changing circumstances.

          I do not support the parties. Half of what we are most sure of is total bs. It makes me reject current values. repubs regulate at least as much as dems> Bureaucracies are one of the biggest problem, and not because they are not, often, necessar
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      Jul 24 2013: Oh no... another USA basher. They appear to be growing in pairs on TED these days. We can be talking about chicken farming and they will try to turn it to how our government is trying to destroy all the other countries chicken farms.
  • Jul 13 2013: Americans are labeled as "racist and intolerant" because that serves the propaganda purposes of those who would wage war upon the USA. In addition, unlike every other country in the world, we do not sweep our problems under the rug. We are honest about what we do. Thus, it is easy to point us out as the Great Satan. See how "tolerant" communist China is of Catholics who don't belong to their little pet church. See how "tolerant" the Muslim countries are of open atheists. See how "tolerant" African tribes are of neighboring tribes. The USA does not have Hutu-Tutsi type conflicts and has not had such things for roughly two centuries. Yes, we have committed crimes in the past--but they are in the past. On the other hand, the rest of the world wallows and glories in its racism and intolerance, all the while pointing at the USA as the only "racist and intolerant" country in the world.
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    Jul 11 2013: What it means to be an American has 7,000,000,000 different answers. If your someone who's neighborhood was just hit by a drone strike you might have one opinion. If your a Wall Street hedge fund manager, you might have another. There's the philosophical meaning, and there's the perspective view. The meaning, has blurred, and turned into an amorphous blob of confusion, and conflict. What it means to be an American is dependent on where you sit. The (American dream ) is a Madison avenue invention, a giant pile of advertising goo. It doesn't exist, and never has, except in the mind of propagandists. For those with the $$$$ background, the education, the connections the skies the limit. If your born to illiterate, or barely literate parents, struggling to survive things are a bit different. One has to have extraordinary drive, intelligence, and luck to climb out of the dregs. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, comes to mind. What an American is today is really up for debate. That's why were here at TED . The answer today, is very different from my childhood that's for sure. Most Americans you meet on the street, I'd venture to say, couldn't pass the citizenship test on their first try. One thing I will say. We have the most guns, bombs, jets, missiles, submarines, Rangers, Seals, Snipers, Agents, operators, snoops, spooks, satellites, meta data, the most murders, the most pollution per capita, don't forget we outsourced most of that, The highest teen pregnancy rates of industrialized countries, The highest drop out rates, the biggest wealth disparity, and a whole bunch of other great stuff . That's us! "USA" "USA" "USA" "USA"! You gotta love us, or we'll hunt you down sucker. Even with all her problems, I still lover her, I just wish she'd get some counseling, before we run ourselves in the ditch again. Drinking, and driving don't mix.
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      Jul 24 2013: I think it is more important for US citizens to determine how "they" feel about themselves before considering how others do. Self-determination is important.
      Pride in being born in America is cherished to a large degree. Immigrants who get their citizenship here also appear to adopt this feeling of pride. In my neighbourhood, there are people from all over the world. All are American citizens. They all act the same and appear Americanized to a large degree. Or, maybe that's just the way all people are and each culture takes it to mean acceptance of their national culture. I will say that Islamic people don't appear to accept the social norms of western culture too visibly.
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        Jul 24 2013: Human beings are after all biological beings for the most part, at least in this dimension. We gather together in groups for protection, and to see the extension of ourselves in the neighborhood, and our families. I was recently watching a marvelous video The Life Of The Cell, done by Harvard University.It is a computer generated cartoon describing the chemotaxis, and structural components of living cells. I recommend it. It occurred to me that we act, and react with great similarity to the most basic components of ourselves when interacting with our environment. We ward off foreign bodies that may capture our DNA, or damage the cell. We put out macrophages to consume, and recycle our adversaries. We replicate exchanging chemical information, and we read the chemical signals from different cells with different purposes to maintain the whole being, to act in unity for the reproduction of the parts. We seek comfort, warmth, food, and most of all survival.

        Anyone who is outside the narrow 20th century interpretation of American are here for a variety of reasons, marriage, school, work,or nefarious reasons, "imagine that". Mostly though they are here because they weren't able to make a viable living to survive in the (old world). Egypt for example has more than fifty percent of it's population under 30 years of age. Like other nations outside the industrialized world they are suffering terribly at $2.00 a day, "if that", since the revolution. They came from a land of hardships, and hard choices, to leave and seek sustenance or stay and beg, or die. This is the case in general for much of the world now as resources become scarce. The cartels that pull the purse strings have made sure that they have a ready supply of of sacrificial cells available to fight off threats. We average sloggers here already, have been relegated to the collection of sacrificial cells as well. They cling to what they know out of the same desires, and biological need we have.
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          Jul 24 2013: Some, including myself, would argue that humans are simply biological machines. We break down, can be repaired ( to some extent), and eventually, break down entirely, requiring disposal. I know that sounds a bit callous but it is what it is.

          As to immigrants, I do notice that people such as Egyptians, who immigrate here, tend to work harder and fare better (financially) than naturalized Citizens. In the US your heritage is not largely considered a factor in how much money you can make. In some countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia, they do limit your financial options.
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        Jul 24 2013: If one breaks the concept of a (deity) down to it's primordial core I would not denounce them. The fundamentalism prevalent today has raised it's ugly head many times in history. Absolute unyielding commitment to a single book, however profound looses my support. In my opinion that is the essence of madness. Our nation was founded by people who understood that. Outside of criminal acts, and violence, what a man does in the sanctity of his own house, his own family, his own place of worship is of no consequence to others. The resistance to assimilation stems from the ignorant, and misplaced hostility towards all new groups. When my great grandfather stepped off the boat from County Cork to take the place of a wealthy New Hampshire business man in the US civil war, he was regarded as a monkey. The signs, on the blue blood streets of Boston read "Irishmen, and dogs keep of the grass." They will in time assimilate as all others have. The Europeans had more in common and therefore assimilated more quickly, and they had no choice during the brutal times of robber baron control, and civil war
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          Jul 24 2013: I understand your feelings. My heritage is extreme northern European --direct descendent of the Druids. The Druids were caught on the northern side of the ices sheet during the last Ice age. We learned to cope. The Irish, of course, descended from us. I have Hemochromotosis, (The Irish Curse), a genetic blood disorder.

          The concept of Blue Bloodedness has been replaced by the notion of wealth as an indicator of social worth. Hopefully, that will be replaced by a more general assessment if a Technocratic society takes over, which is where we are headed as I understand it. It is becoming politically fashionable in Italy today. I hope it spreads fast. The US, China and Russia, will probably be the last nations to adopt this type of social government. Which is sad, perhaps a bit bit arrogant of their wealthy class Managers.
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    Jul 9 2013: I am not an American but, from my point of view, America rapresents the human race. It is the place where all nationalities live as one, American!
    Do you guys have problems?? Sure you do. Who doesn't?!
    You guys have the biggest guns and, with that you have a lot of responsibilities.
    A diversified nation. You guys should be proud.

    cheers
    • Jul 15 2013: Yup,it is the most advantage for being american who all natonalities live as one.Definitely being American you guys should be proud of that.

      Meanwhile it is also a disvantage to be aware of.How much racial prejudice still keep amond people's consciousness there?That is good to see equality been advocated the mainstream there.But being equal and respected not only work in words but also more in people's ideological education
  • Jul 8 2013: As an american living abroad, there is such a thing as being American. There is an American culture just like there are cultures in any society. There are multiple cultures in the United States as well.

    There may not be one overarching "American Culture" but there is not one overarching culture in any country. This is pretty blatant if you live in a place like Berlin, which I am. When I lived in Wales, it was clear there was not one "Welsh Culture" either.

    Part of being an American is coming from everywhere. And yes, there is nothing wrong with being proud of your pre-American heritage. Most people are proud of their heritage and history.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that American or any country or culture is not one thing. It is a hodgepodge of values, traditions, beliefs, shared experiences, etc.

    As for your experience number 2:
    (1) The american government is hypocritical. Read our Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence and look at our current policy. Also, something about the NSA?? Yeah, we are. But honestly, every country is hypocritical, some are just more so than others.

    Just because the US has faults (because it does), that does not mean it is bad. First of all, every country has faults. You could love the values the US was founded on and still acknowledge that right now the US Government is abiding by them.

    P.S. The whole no slave owners in your ancestry thing is not possible to tell. I know that in the last 500 years none of my ancestors had slaves. That being said, no one has any idea who there ancestors were during Roman, Greek, Egyptian or heck, even Mesopotamian times. So, no one can every know if there entire lineage dating back to prehistoric times had slaves or not. Chances are, your ancestors did have slaves sometime in the last 10 thousand years.
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    Jul 8 2013: To Do Anderson:

    Please recheck your facts.I have great doubts that your noble English ancestors who arrived in 1663 did not own slaves.It was the practice of the day that most ,if not all, English nobleman ( including the so -called founding fathers --what a moral dilemma for or nation) in the 16th,17th,18th did own African slaves and or had indentured Irish servants ; as well as had usurped ,or simply put, stolen land from the Native Peoples.That explains why most Americans of English ancestry would have had a stock of ill-gotten loot of land and free labor on which they built the economic activities of agriculture,small scale industries ( e.g Thomas Jefferson and George Washington had large tracts of land and a small nail-making venture ; both based on free labor and free land which he owned and or added from his marriage--George Washington also ,I read in William C F Pierce.YOUR LOTTERY TICKET that George Washington was a Commissioner Of The Lottery where the winning prize was free African Slaves). And these stock of wealth was passed down inter-generational for many years.
    The economy in general benefited from such an immoral arrangement.But those people of early English nobleman or common ancestry ( from the colonial and later days) directly would up to present were at birth privileged and benefited from ill-gotten land and labor factors in their property assets.

    It is not clear if in your particular case the same was true from that part of your ancestry.
    Again; my point is to acknowledge what had generally happened in history and what was the norm . We should acknowledge the brutality and exploitation that occurred in our tortured history We should therefore not wonder that a large part of the landed gentry and the earlier barons of industry, mining,transportation and agricultural plantations would be people of English ancestry .And; on the other hand the opposite prevails in The Native Peoples and in African American population sector
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      Jul 8 2013: There may be a yet an undiscovered slave owner, most were Missouri farmers and many fought for the union army. My English noble ancestor that came to America in 1633, was John Neville and he was a planter. You can Google “John Neville born in 1612” for the full story.

      My guess is that he was not the oldest son, like my another ancestor David Traill, son of “William Traill 1650” from Scotland.
      Although William was not nobility he did have a nice estate, and as normal in that time it all went to the oldest son and David came the America to make his way. I also have an ancestor sent the America in bondage for being a supporter of King James II.

      So even though there where American slave owners, most were not exploiters, brutal and/or slave owners.
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    Jul 8 2013: To Sean Quigly:
    You say "...America started great--the first real democracy.... ".
    That statement should be taken with caution and acknowledgement.
    Notwithstanding the fact that our constitution was and is one of the greatest historical living documents; we should also acknowledge that in practice America in 1776 was not a democracy.A large segment of its population or most of its citizens were excluded from its political life--namely women , African Americans and Native Peoples --it was a unilateral declaration of independence from Britain with large parts of the American public population under bondage. Voting rights was successively extended /allowed to women ;to Native Americans and lastly ; in 1964 African Americans were granted their right to vote with the passage of THE VOTING RIGHTS BILL by congress.
    When you reflect on it; it was only about 50 years to date (2013-1964) that America became a full-fledged democracy.What is a democracy that does not fully protect all the rights of its minorities--the majority have the tools to protect their rights embedded in their numbers,their economic and political clout.
    What I would say is let us acknowledge and learn from history as it happened and let us make it evolve into a yet better democracy as time goes by.
    • Jul 8 2013: It was far less a democracy than that.... it was an aristocracy with a high property hurdle to the vote. And the soldiers who fought got the shaft. Tom Paine had to run . The rev was a swindle
  • Jul 7 2013: Being American used to mean something. Let me assure you that nowadays it means nothing.
    America is mostly controlled by the wealthiest white people in the world; yes white people. Multinational corporations would like to take our rights away so they can exploit us for profit. Same with the govermnent though the government doesn't need to be as subtle about it.

    America started off great: the first real democracy; but is evolving into something worse: a mock democracy. The founding fathers are rolling over in their graves no doubt. If men like that were still in power, it would be truly different. America fell out of the hands of visionaries into greedy lobbyists.
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      Jul 7 2013: Be careful not to buy into the straw man meme, instead look at the one pointing to the straw man. In any case don't allow it to take your eye off of your own goals, which are all that really matter.
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      Jul 24 2013: I disagree. Being an American means everything to me. Our evolution is not in one direction only. While in College, I did a poll for my political science class. The question was wither on not you supported the Death Penalty. I decide, at the end of my poll to go back and re-poll everyone. The results were surprising. Most of those that supported the Penalty, after discussion with their peers, had a turn around, and so it was with those that opposed it.

      My deduction was that people change their minds, after the question is asked, and they've had time to consider it.

      So it is with American Democracy. After we are exposed to changes, we sometimes swing around the other way. In that sense, we are constantly evolving in our political thought. My mother and her generation have different ideas about nationalism. They saw America come together in a time of great peril, WWII. I lost two three uncles in that conflict. One killed on the island of Iwo Jima and the other two due to Alcoholism after the war. She has always grown a garden and feeds herself and her immediate family from it. She saw a time when food was scarce (ration cards) during that war and that is what people did. Her kids (us) are not so diligent but we all have a garden. Only one generation separates her political evolution from mine. So I don't think it is fair to call us despotic in light of her generations activities and appreciation of Democracy. Our soldiers in the recent wars also answered the call and fought for democracy in other nations. One day, those men and women will have a voice in how this nation will form and their experience will be a factor in that resolution. There is always a transition of power to the upcoming generation. That way things don't always stay the same.


      Thoughts do change faster these days but so does changing our minds.
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    Jul 5 2013: My thoughts:

    o The US Constitution is the template for the social order in the United States. It is unique. It's creation was a miracle in that the founders had a chance at a clean slate. I do not think this can happen again.

    o People who are citizens of the United States are labeled as "Americans". That really is the only definition that is meaningful. There is no "American" culture. The only "American" thing we have in common is the social order created by the Constitution.

    o People who live within the US boarders may choose what cultural elements to identify with. They may be part of any culture or mix of cultures in the world. They may even define their own. We may may practice assimilation or pluralism and are free form any association we want.

    o Every one has their own personal heritage. As an American our only heritage is how we have preserved the Constitution and improved it via amendments.

    o I think it is OK to feel pleasure for our county's achievements and your own personal or ancestral achievements. This reinforces good behavior and encourages others.
    • Jul 5 2013: "o The US Constitution is the template for the social order in the United States. It is unique. It's creation was a miracle in that the founders had a chance at a clean slate. I do not think this can happen again. "

      Didn't/doesn't help blacks much... indians (ie indigenoe Americans)
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        Jul 5 2013: Very true as far as "it didn't" not so much "doesn't". The original US Constitution contain the 3/5th compromise. "Indians" were not counted at all. Slavery existing in the land now call the United States starting in 1619 a full 170 years before the US Constitution. Slavery's abrupt removal at the time of ratification would have caused the Constitution and the US not to exist. 76 years after the ratification ended, slavery ended .. but that was not the end of suffering.

        The Constitution provided a way to end slavery. That is important. The slavery system collapsed world wide as a result. Many knew the abolition of slavery would be catastrophic. It was an evil institution that became a part of the body. Removing it was put off as long as possible. 615,000 lost lives later it was accomplished. The Constitution has evolved to correct itself.

        The decedents of slavery are still suffering. 148 years is not enough time to heal the wounds. I suspect another 100 years won't be enough time.

        I believe that the US Constitution defies human behavior as illustrated above. Many many people have been enslaved., non as brutally, perhaps, as what occurred on the US land. But few societies survived getting rid of it.

        The 600 nations that have occupied the land the US exist on, have an extremely complicated history going back 10's of thousands of years. You are, of course, correct but I have no answer to what should be done.