...and no culture
0 comment Wednesday, May 21, 2014 |
A while back, I had a commenter on this blog, someone in Europe, tell me haughtily that 'Americans are a people of no race.'
And more recently another antagonistic commenter condescendingly told me that 'America has no culture.'
These are not novel statements. The first one, though, I had never heard stated so dogmatically and baldly, so it rather took me aback. The second one is a rather common dismissal, a way of denigrating White Americans as being a nation of ciphers, a people whose only 'culture' consists of consumerism and lowbrow popular entertainment. The denial of recognition of American culture is just a way of dehumanizing us, in the very way that the chronically aggrieved say that majority White Americans 'dehumanize' them.
It's a way of denying that we even have an identity, or traditions, or folkways, or a heritage. It's a way of saying that we are nonentities in the world, of no import and having no rights to self-preservation.
Google the phrase 'American culture' and you will get lots and lots of hits about 'African-American culture', 'Latin American culture' 'Native American culture', and every kind of hyphenated American culture, but few about just plain old American culture. The few sites that come up among the top hits are sites that are devoted to little more than patriotic traditions, which is not bad in and of itself, but what exactly are we patriotic about? A flag? A set of ideals and 'propositions'? According to some of these sites, yes, and yes. And that's apparently all American culture and traditions are about.
By the way, Google helpfully suggests 'Also try African American culture...'
If I didn't know better, I would think that my antagonist was right: there is no American culture. We are a cultureless people.
According to one globalist-oriented site, American culture is synonymous with American popular culture, Hollywood movies and television. If that's true, we have worse than no culture; we have a depraved culture which is very alien to what our forefathers lived and died for.
This depressing page tells us that American culture is all about the melting pot, diversity, and all the usual drivel.
Here, arch-cynic Spengler tells us what American culture is, and it isn't pretty.
We all know instinctively that Americans have a culture; I was never more aware of it than during an extended sojourn across the pond. I was never more acutely aware of my Americanness than I was then. Otherwise friendly people in my host countries made me aware of my differences, and pointed out how typically American I was. At that point, I was still liberal and I was uncomfortable being told how American I was, when I considered myself so enlightened and progressive and cosmopolitan. But I began to appreciate what made me distinctly American and Southron and I began to embrace it. I was thrilled to get home again though my time abroad was interesting.
Many of the people I met in other countries had one trait that I found tiresome: they often seemed to think they knew America and Americans better than I know America and Americans, even when they had never set foot on our soil. Where did this preternatural knowledge come from? American popular culture. American movies and music. Many people in Europe think they know America inside and out, solely from watching American entertainment and meeting the occasional tourist. No amount of persuasion could make them see that they know only a false image of America. No; they had seen America on their TV screens or in the movie theater.
My interlocutors, who denied me a race or a culture, also think they know America better than an American knows it.
One thing that most Europeans seem to perceive correctly is that when they think of Americans, for good or ill, they think not of a Latino or other minorities; they think of a White American. The stereotype of Americans, though often unflattering, usually involves White Americans. The 'typical' American is a White American. Uncle Sam is white-bearded old gent, probably of Anglo-Saxon heritage. Maybe one day he will wear a sombrero or a kaffiyeh and have a different name, but for now, he is a WASP.
American=White, to most non-Americans.
American=European-descended, to most non-Americans.
Yes, there are and have been people of other stock in this country, but they are 'other' and are perceived by outsiders as not quite American.
Which brings me to the next accusation usually made by our antagonists: White Americans are Europeans by descent, hence they belong in Europe, having usurped and 'stolen' this country. Our Latino invaders allude to this when they use words like 'Pilgrim' as insults, or jeer at us to 'go back to Europe'.
The problem with that is, similar covetous invaders have staked their claims on Europe, the continent where most of our forefathers originated.
And the accusation is made that we have no culture because such culture and traditions as we have are mere hand-me-downs, as I think Spengler said, from our earlier forebears in Europe. Hence we have no distinctively American culture which is not derived from European influences.
I believe our European cousins would disagree with that; they can recognize that our ways are distinctively ours, and are hardly carbon copies of European originals.
Our centuries in this country have forged us into a distinctive people culturally, and to some extent genetically, as many people come from various different European strains. So if our enemies think to drive us back to Europe, which country would we choose? Most of us would have to choose between several different countries where our ancestors originated. More of my ancestors came from England than from any other country, but I also have Welsh, Scots, and some French and Dutch ancestry. Where is my ancestral home? I can name many of the places in Europe where my ancestors lived for millennia but which of them is supposed to be my true home if America is not my rightful place?
As for our supposedly non-existent culture, it appears that we who care about our survival should devote more effort to that culture, and try to make more people aware that we have a real cultural heritage which is far more valuable than the dross which comes from Hollywood or MTV. And yes, part of our cultural heritage is inherited from Europe, a fact we should be proud of, and a fact which we should not shy away from for fear of being told we 'don't belong here.'
Our heritage is originally European, specifically English or British, but it has become distinctively ours through the unique experiences of our forefathers over the last 400 years in this country. 'Culture' denotes, according to Merriam-Webster
b: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time c: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization d: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic...
Culture is not something that means only the fine arts and the highbrow pursuits, as some take it to mean, nor does it mean something that only 'diverse' 'vibrant' minorities have: dressing up in various regalia and gewgaws or speaking a foreign language or eating strange and exotic foods. Too many think that this is the main meaning of culture: something only colorful minorities possess.
We Americans have customs, folkways, social conventions and habits, shared memories and holidays, our own distinctive foods and folk-sayings and beliefs and folk-heroes and songs and stories. Too much of trash popular culture has crept in, but we still have something deeper and richer and more enduring than today's ephemeral, disposable entertainment, and we need to rediscover that and preserve it as best we can, lest we fall prey to the lie that we 'have no culture', and thus neglect the very real heritage that is ours.
I'll conclude with an invitation to my readers to offer their thoughts what our culture consists of, or to suggest things that are distinctly American, aspects of our way of life that make us what we are.

Labels: , , ,