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.

  • thumb
    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!
    • thumb
      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.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.