Just finished reading further posts in this thread. "Rant" warning!
Let me tell you about my American identity. The ideals of our founding fathers,which I still cherish, have been twisted into their very antithesis by our present corrupt corporate oligarchy,the same one which controls our media propaganda machine -- I can't call it "bread and circuses", since there's not much "bread" for a lot of U.S. citizens these days, but the "circus" part is thriving.
While I do see pockets of regional and ethnic identity, if I were asked to describe our "nation's identity", I'd answer "consumerism, Darwinist capitalism, ruthlessly increasing economic and military world dominance. The most hated nation in the world today."
We are a nation stealing the resources of other nations by economic bullying and military means, including war; ousting fairly elected benevolent governments and replacing them with ruthless, oppressive puppet dictatorships for the benefit of our own economic interests. A nation with the highest inequality between rich and poor of all the OECD nations. A nation with the most expensive higher education system in the world, yet suffering from (per a January 9, 2010, Bloomberg report) 10% unemployment, 17.3% underemployment, almost one million non-workers not counted in unemployment statistics because they've given up looking for work, an average unemployment length of 29 weeks (the highest since 1948), and still loosing over 500,000 jobs per month, with the forecast for increasing unemployment looking dire, anticipating job growth only in the health sector.
Although we are supposedly the wealthiest nation in the world and have the most expensive health care system in the world, we are the only developed nation without universal health care. Fifty million Americans have no health insurance, 150 million have only partial health coverage. Life expectancy in the United States is 48th in the world and falling. The over-all health of our citizens ranks 70th in the world.
But we do lead the world in number of prisoners per capita; our 715 per 100,000 soundly trumps second place Russia's 584 per 100,000.
THAT'S our nation today -- THAT'S our REAL national identity.
I remember a time when an average working or middle class adult working an honest 40 hour week could expect to buy a modest home, raise a family, take annual family vacations, educate his children, and plan to one day retire from his company with a pension he could live on. Why, even minimum wage was a living wage. Can you imagine?
I remember going to the same school and church with and being friends with kids of the man who owned the company where my father worked. Their houses were larger than ours, but only about four blocks away. (Even the nation's most famous football player, quarterback Johnny Unitas, reportedly lived in a "normal" middle class neighborhood.) We were all part of the same community, similar to thousands of other communities across the nation; we were all proud to be Americans.
There are no words to describe our feelings in 1969 when nearly all Americans, young and old, hippie and straight, stopped our normal activities, gathered around our TV sets and watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. I was especially proud. I lived only 30 miles from the Redstone Arsenal (where the Saturn rocket was developed); my best friend's dad was a physicist there, a personal friend of Werner Von Braun!
Yes, we were naive, but I remember what it was like to FEEL like a "Real American". Back then I knew nothing of McCarthy-ism, CIA and FBI shenanigans, the out-of-control defense industry, covert and black ops. I could never have imagined that MY country was built on the suffering of millions around the world.
Well, I matured as our society deteriorated, the future promise growing more and more distant as everyday life became harder and less certain. When we buried my father, he was no longer the proud, hard working, rowdy union man of my early childhood. He had become Willie Loman.
By that time, Viet Nam was in full swing and we were learning more and more "secrets" about our government's list of unconscionable atrocities, both domestic and international. Over the years I not only lost the America I had loved and believed in, watching it gradually turn into an ugly, unrecognizable, hard and barren land, I even lost my "good" memories. What "honorable real American" would accept the spoils of such dishonorable, unjust, corrupt, ruthless horrors -- for many years, I refused to claim those early memories. I was too ashamed.
So go ahead and sing "The Star Spangled Banner" (if you can hit the high note) to your heart's content and wave your flags, but don't let yourself be fooled into believing that this present abomination called the United States of America bears the slightest resemblance to the ideals and ideas upon which it was founded.
In an earlier post I said I envied the deep rooted identity and traditions I see in peoples of "old" nations. But even as a citizen of a young, growing and changing nation, I am capable of a deep love and reverence for the original ideals of this new nation. Am I the only one here outraged that thieves and lowlifes with the principles of a slug (and in this comparison I am insulting the slug) have usurped these precious, fragile ideals?
I don't know that I can precisely define "authentic identity", but I'm sure it is more than laissez faire acceptance of any status quo. It MUST involve love and passion and deep feelings for something very special. If today's U.S.A. suffices for your identity as an American, if you are content to keep her magnificent original ideals and principles buried underneath this present garbage heap, I have to wonder if you are even capable of love, passion or deep feelings -- or "authentic identity".
Rant's over. It was not aimed directly at any one person, and was not intended to insult. Just my way of screaming WAKE UP!!!