TED Conversations

Don Anderson


This conversation is closed.

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

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.


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


Closing Statement from Don Anderson

I just noticed that when I added the up-date at the top it cutoff some at the bottom.
Basically Experience 2 was feeling shame for the current America and how all the founding values gone, and asked how to address the confecting feelings.
I have concluded that I can feel pride for upholding the founding values of America, and as I witness its fail I should feel sadness instead of shame. And find comfort in that like the Roman Empire it values will live on thought out the world, even though it exists in name only.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • 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.
    • thumb
      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.
      • thumb
        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.
    • thumb
      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.
      • thumb
        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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.