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To be an American - Transience Divine
March 18th, 2012
10:05 am

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To be an American
I just went to Ireland for spring break (I flew back on St. Paddy's day)! It was the most relaxingly enjoyable trip I've had in years. If you want to read about it, see http://travelersnetwork.org/luckybreak. I had a pile of posts to write-- about a zine of spirituality, psychology, and politics I want to start, and a rant about positive psychology-- but this has been on my table longest:

People often mistake me as being from another country, and I always blush. Who wants to be from the great monster of imperialism, unhindered capitalism, waste, and environmental myopia? There are a lot of reasons to not be proud of the actions of my country-- its government and the collective effects of its people-- but I've realized that there are core traits of American culture that are wonderful and I hold deeply. Surely many come from privilege, but there they are. Not all American's live by these values, but they strike me as quintessentially American, and I am proud to share them.

  • Work Ethic. If I could work all the time, it wouldn't be enough. I love working, accomplishing tasks, building something. Whatever gifts I have, they come from this greatest one.

  • Puritanism. The body and mind work best when neither coddled nor poisoned. Give me water pure, beds simple, and a life without distraction.

  • Forthrightness. Things should be said and done as directly and brutally honestly as the situation allows. And if I err on crass bluntness, it's a beautiful crassness that has its own virtue.

  • Questioning Authority. What good is authority but to offer an thesis to build an antithesis for? Authority seems like a straw-man to be undermined and humanized.

  • Independence of identity and thought. I am my own person, and no matter where I go, I carry my independence with me and want for little else. This allows me to be creative and think new thoughts without fear.

  • Love of Liberty, or self-determinism. If independence is a psychological state, liberty is its corresponding locus of action. I thrive on the potential to make any decision for my own affairs.

  • Entrepreneurship. Wherever the questioning of authority bears fruit, it's time to make fruit salad. All good ideas deserve to be embodied in the world, through work and liberty.

  • Mutt-ism. I am not a pure-bred anything, and this hybrid vigor gives me strength and contributes to my identity. It is exactly my middle-class, cross-roads origins that give me potential.

  • Love of Diversity. The surest source of both beauty and truth is the creativity that comes from mixing together differences. Let all the peoples of the world jumble together and humanity will flourish.

  • Save the World Complex: This is probably more a Western thing than American, but I do think there's a potential to save the world, and that we are well-situated to "do" it. Doing it might not mean leading it, but it surely includes helping with ideas, building, and communication.


These are only a small share of the values I hold, and without doubt community, sharing, love, travel, and play all are very important to me. But for some reason, they don't seem as American, and who would want to just be an American?

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