General Question

Jiminez's avatar

What, in your mind, is the criteria for being American?

Asked by Jiminez (1248points) May 8th, 2009
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

37 Answers

J0E's avatar

Being born in the country or becoming a citizen. ;)

quarkquarkquark's avatar

being born in America. taking the test and passing it.

Supacase's avatar

Citizenship.

J0E's avatar

Wow, we are taking this too literal.

oratio's avatar

I read it as “being” not “becoming”.

I am not an american so I wouldn’t know, but being american to me is an attitude and an openness of mind. Most americans i’ve met are social, contact seeking and up front. But that’s just my impression. I have only met the angry ones on the web.

It also for me stands for being a part of a great nation and culture, and a great heritage.

Becoming, I guess, is citizenship by birth – or an acquired one – as you say.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

interesting distinction, @oratio… some particularly dislikable “Americans” would claim that “being” American means being white and Anglo-Saxon.

justwannaknow's avatar

By being born in this country or becoming a citizen in the legal sense. Then BEING an American to include American customs and speaknig American english IN PUBLIC. ( Do what you want in your own home) Standing up for America and ONLY America.

ragingloli's avatar

@justwannaknow that is a pretty nationalistic view

Ivan's avatar

Wanting to be one. Do you want to be an American? If so, you are an American.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

@ragingloli, I don’t think @justwannaknow‘s view is so outrageous. A country needs to have a national identity, and part of that national identity is language, and another part is culture. Although I don’t have as big an issue with this as @justwannnaknow does, I really see where he’s coming from. It seems unreasonable for people to come to America and refuse to adopt at least some major aspects of an American lifestyle. America is something more than a name and a place.

Ivan's avatar

@quarkquarkquark

Perhaps instead of creating some arbitrary culture and expecting everyone else to adhere to it, maybe our culture should be one of acceptance and freedom?

quarkquarkquark's avatar

@Ivan… we try. But the inherent paradox in that hope is whether to accept and allow to propagate cultures that do not value acceptance and freedom. Part of American culture is the protection of this ideal of “acceptance and freedom.” Not everyone thinks the same.

ragingloli's avatar

@quarkquarkquark i have some problems with “american customs”. what are american customs? especially in light of the fact that america is supposed to be a collection of many cultures. demanding uniformity in customs defeats that identity of multiculturalism.
then i have a problem with “standing up for america and america only”. when i think of that i think of bald people with leather boots and baseball bats wearing swastikas. what if america invades a country, oppresses the people there and then people happen to defend themselves with force? should one stand up for america and support killing the defenders? or should one defend american values of freedom and fairness and human rights and oppose america and stand up for the oppressed foreign country?
the way @justwannaknow worded it is quite disgusting to me.

Ivan's avatar

@quarkquarkquark

OK…we can discuss that if you wish, but that has nothing to do with forcing people to speak English. That is, unless you think speaking other languages makes you a freedom-hater.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

Although legislation towards a national language has never been passed by Congress, the business of the United States Government is conducted in English and the majority of the country speaks that language. Speaking other languages is fine—I know plenty of people who speak Spanish, Hebrew, or French among themselves or at home—but to live in the United States I feel you should at the very least be able to understand and converse in English.

@ragingloli—I speak only of what seems to be a fairly common refusal to accept American customs that are unavoidably everyday. People don’t need to go see the Yankees play or own a TV or even vote… but day-to-day there needs to be some kind of integration.

ragingloli's avatar

@quarkquarkquark what are those unavoidable customs that are exclusively american?
does one have to like american sports? does one have to like hunting? or guns? does one have to subscribe to consumerism? does one have to do any of this to be “american”?
or is it just being nice to and respect each other, obeying the local laws, etc? then sorry, these are not american customs. these are pretty much global human customs.

Supacase's avatar

@oratio I don’t think there is really anything specific that constitutes being American. Once you are an American, you can be pretty much whomever you want. There are Americans with every interest, opinion and affiliation under the sun. I guess the closest I can come to being American as opposed to becoming American is knowing you have the freedom to be yourself.

seVen's avatar

Defender of Constitution.

AstroChuck's avatar

Being born in, or a citizen of, any country in North, South, or Central America, with the exception of Canada. Canadians don’t consider themselves Americans.

oratio's avatar

@Supacase I don’t really want to go into discussion on how you are an american, especially since I am not one. But I’ll answer your comment with my prejudice. =)

I am sure you can be however you want in america as long as you follow the law, just as in sweden. America is not the only open and democratic country in the world with large amounts of immigrants. But in many ways america is special. You are all immigrants originally. Sure, in a way europeans with a tan, but african, south american and asian in a way that europe has never been.

America seems to have an overall culture though, like most countries, and there is a mentality for each culture. I know that I am very swedish. You would recognize how unamerican I am – by my choice of words, manners and body movements even – if you met me. It could be in things like I would ask you for the toilet, you the bathroom. You ask “Hi! How are you?” and I would stop and explain to you how I feel, cause you told me you wanted to hear it. The body language when I express myself would be sublimely different from yours, but noticeable in conjunction with my overall expression.

I know I expect a certain “way” of an american – from experience – when I meet that person, though I am sure sometimes it would be a dud.

Now, I am sure I would be welcomed to be as I am and not forced to change if I moved to the US, and be considered american soon enough. I would still be an americanized swede, since I act and express myself with the backdrop of swedish mentality. I never noticed how swedish I am before I left sweden and lived in other countries.

Those are my thoughts. I might be wrong, and just imagining things.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

@ragingloli—here is an example. In Chicago, Muslim taxi drivers have refused to pick up certain fares on the basis of Islamic law (Shari’a). This is an example of a refusal to submit to certain American ideals. You need to be able to negotiate compromises with your own values in order to integrate seamlessly into American society. This much, at least, should be obvious, because it goes for any society. Multiculturalism itself is one American virtue, if not a uniquely American one. I know people whose parents want them to marry within their own race, culture or religion. I do not consider these parents fully Americanized.

justwannaknow's avatar

Why is it so disgusting to want people to speak the generally accepted Language? They want to be Americans and treated as such. Then it is not to much to ask that they try to be such at least in public. Why should I have to learn their language and customs just to keep from offending them? They came to my country. When I go to another country I make every effort to learn to speak the language and about their customs so I do not offend them in their country. It is called respect.

ragingloli's avatar

It is also a matter of respect towards different customs within your own country, especially in a multicultural society.
Why you should learn their language and customs? You don’t have to. But what you can not expect is them stopping to express their culture in public just because you think they should, and it is also a matter of respect to not shove your dismay down their throat every time you encounter them.
Also you say they want to be treated as “Americans”.You act like there is some archetypical kind of American that all should have to adhere to. There is no such thing. America is comprised of many cultures, in all their differences, and it is this multitude of cultures that is American, not some imaginary prototype that you like it to be.

Let me put up an analogy. Someone is coming to your house to stay for a few days, and he intends to participate in your meals. This person happens to dislike fish.Just as it is the person’s duty to respect your rules in your hime, it is your duty as a host to consider his dislike of fish and not serve him fish for dinner just because you want to.

Supacase's avatar

@oratio I can’t speak for what you see of Americans because I, unlike you, am immersed in the life here. I see so many different kinds of people that I can’t possibly find one thing they all have in common that makes them “American.” Maybe it is because we were all immigrants at one time. I don’t know.

I know America is not the only democracy and I don’t even know that it’s the greatest place in the whole world to live. I just know that, as a whole, the idea of freedom is the one thing that comes closest to Americans as a whole holding dear. Please don’t think I’m some puffed up proud American. I am patriotic, but not ridiculous or in a way that makes me look down at other countries. There are a lot of good and bad things everywhere.

Another thought I had is that American is so large things are vastly different from region to region. You mention that we would know you are not American because of how you might ask a certain question, but that is also true of people who live in the southern US and visit the norther US (or other region to region examples). There are different customs, accents, lingo. I moved to the south from the north and was completely lost when friends were talking about the eye (burner on the stove) and cutting (turning) the lights off.

oratio's avatar

@Supacase Sounds very reasonable =). I feel like the US is an american quilt of cultural bubbles woven together with american thread, giving them all a slightly different american mentality, all still very american. But to know that I would have to go to the US.

And I suspect that the US is a fantastic country to live in, in many ways. It’s a great culture. or should I say cultures maybe

Jiminez's avatar

@seVen But one can be critical of the Constitution, right? I mean, it’s ours. We have the power to change it.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

Nobody’s saying they can’t express their culture. America is founded upon free expression of multiculturalism. This is what I am attempting to defend. What is at stake is a refusal to accept this value of multiculturalism and integrate into society. Maintaining your own culture is one thing, but disallowing all aspects of contemporary American culture to penetrate into your own is one thing. Integration is paramount to successful functioning in society. I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say that we “shove your dismay down their throat every time you encounter them.” It seems you’re speaking of a kind of jingoism that nobody here has thus far exhibited. All we’re saying is that a complete failure to integrate, primarily by failing to learn English, is a severe impediment to being considered American.

You do not have a duty to serve fish. It’s a nice thing to do and perhaps the right thing to do. If you serve fish, your guest has a right not to eat the fish, but he does not have the right to complain that you have served fish. In an egalitarian society, you do not change for the sake of a minority a menu that caters primarily to the majority.

Ivan's avatar

@quarkquarkquark

What if your whole point of existence is to feed the person, regardless if they want fish or not?

ragingloli's avatar

@quarkquarkquark they way justwannaknow expressed it made the impression he expected the immigrants to put on a mask in public and hide their culture, which is what i was arguing against. I do not deny that the immigrant has to make a certain effort to integrate which includes learning the language.
And if you serve fish to someone of whom you KNOW that he doesn’t like fish, then that is just plain rude and unbecoming of a host and it does not become right by just being the owner of the house.
Respect goes both way. And justwannalnow made it seem as if he was not willing to give it, just to receive.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

@ragingloli it seems like we agree if not in whole at least in part.

@Ivan, your responsibility is not to feed them under any circumstance. There is an implied contract to which both parties must agree in order for something other than fish to be served.

justwannaknow's avatar

I speak a number of different languages and find it very irritating that people use the language to hide behind and talk terrible about other people while lying to their faces about what is being said! THAT IS DISRESPECT! If they find it ok to say something in public why do they find it necessary to hide what they are saying in a different language? Is it because they are afraid of what may happen if what they are saying is known? I can deal with different customs, but the language deal is totally rude. Now stop trying to twist what I am saying @ragingloli.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

I agree that it seems kind of rude, @justwannaknow… but suppose you spoke only English… in order to hide your conversation with someone else you would have to take them aside from everybody else! It happens anyway.

ragingloli's avatar

what about the many times in public places, like pubs, trains, busses, restaurants, etc., where people sit close together and it is inevitable that someone will hear what someone else is saying. In these cases, one might naturally expect that people don’t want others to know what is being talked about. Maybe it’s something private and intimate. Maybe they are talking about a bad rash on their penises. I don’t suppose you would really want to know that.
“Now stop trying to twist what I am saying @ragingloli.”
I’m sorry if how i interpreted what you said is not what you actually meant, but the way you worded your previous argument really let it seem to me as the typical rightwing xenophobic bollocks that one hears from the right all the time and that really agitates me whenever i hear it. If that is not what you meant, then i apologise, but at the same time would urge you to make it more clear what you mean when you write something.

quarkquarkquark's avatar

I think we should probably all avoid associating opposing arguments with any prototypical viewpoint we disagree with.

justwannaknow's avatar

@quarkquarkquark That is what the rest of english speaking Americans do now. Why should forgein speaking persons be any different? It is not that I want to hear everything they say, It is just that I feel it is rude for them to talk in another language in general public. It is amazing that it is the illeagles that make the greatst effort to speak english in public. If they can why not everyone?

quarkquarkquark's avatar

I don’t really have a big problem with that viewpoint except the notion of rabid nationalism that automatically accompanies any argument of a vaguely nativist nature… I simply don’t think speaking different languages in public is such a big issue.

benjaminlevi's avatar

What about if it came to be that sometime in the future of this country that a different language was spoken more commonly than english? Would all you people demanding that everyone in the country speak English pick up a second language and refrain from speaking your native tongue in public?

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