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America was founded by immigrants from all over the world and the native born, American Indians which turned the nation into a collage made of a number of diverse cultures. With these different cultures come the laws and religions that govern their behavior. In Signs of Life in the USA by Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon there are several articles that have strong opinions on American culture. Two other articles that give some insight on American culture are A Quilt of a Country by Anna Quindlen, and Communication In A Global Village by Dean Barnlund. A person's culture is something they are born into, but the way they view their culture is how they are raised around it. A person's culture could play a role in the way they view the world. When a person has an ethnicity sometimes conflicts can be noticed between their heritage and being American. As United States citizens every man and woman should go beyond ethnicity and see everybody as an American.
Culture is what people are taught and much of the time their way of life. According to Maasik and Solomon “A cultural mythology, or value system, then, is a kind of lens that governs the way we view our world” (18). A person only knows the culture and beliefs they were brought up with. Some people are only comfortable around others who are like them. Some people who live in small communities are surrounded by people just like themselves. This seems to go well with Barnlund; he points out that “the world each person creates for himself is a distinctive world, not the same world as having occupied” (53). This would be the same as having “rose-tinted eye glasses” (Maasik and Solomon, 18). A person would only know what they see thru the lens of their mind. People would seem to have tunnel vision. Appear to have invisible side visors so they could not see anything but their own world. People would be blind to other cultures different from their own. The sad thing about this is it tends to make them prejudice.
Despite the fact that America shares many familiar values in cultural mythologies, these can change depending on geography. “The red states tend to reflect religiosity, small-town conformism, relative racial homogeneity (or polarity), and Puritanism, whereas the blue states tend to be more secular, less socially restrictive, more multicultural, and anti-puritan” (Brooks, 485). When we allow ourselves to be led by stereotyping is when we run into trouble, some could call this prejudice and cause conflicts to occur. As Quindlen states there becomes “a sense of national identity would evaporate, and slow-growing domestic traumas like economic unrest and increasing crime seemed more likely to emphasize division than community”. When Americans do not stereotype other cultures or differences the United States seems to be more at peace. America is not a separated nation, but as brooks suggests a “cafeteria nation” (493). People structure groups with common interests and call them communities, or sub-cultures. That form center communities of similar cultures. As Americans we tend to constantly cross lines from our comfort zones of our own cultures to multicultural zones. Sometimes the line is crossed due to work, education, or just visiting with friends.
In some cultures if a person comes from a different ethnic group they are looked down upon as though they are below the people of that culture. Barnlund uses the term “assumptive world of the individual” (53). He is saying that how the person envision the world is the only world he knows. Until people can get past their own thoughts of how the world should be they will continue to suffer from as Barnlund states “culture shock” (58). These people will probably be frightened and annoyed with other cultures they do not understand. A good example is when my family moved to Florida and began looking for a house. We were asked if we wanted a “prominently white neighborhood”, all the two of use could do was look at each other dumb founded. We told the realtor that we were offended and she looked shocked. We explained that we were not prejudice and the more of a mix of cultures was better. When it comes to diversity it is extremely important to remember that not everyone comes from the same back ground, religion, socioeconomic status, and there will be many different cultures.
Thinking back as a child in grade school an assignment we had was watching the miniseries Roots. After watching a black girl looked at a few of us white kids and said “sees what you did to us”. Looking at her and declaring “we didn't do anything to you that was long before any of us were born. Besides that my ancestors' never had any slaves.” This really hit home while reading Being an Other by Melissa Algranati. Algranati stated “I am forced to sit in silence while friends utter in ignorance stereotypical responses like: It was probably some spic who stole it” (700). Remarks like this are what scar an individual. Stereotyping is inconsiderate, ill-mannered, rude and extremely impolite. When it comes to filling out forms for school or government they should totally remove the question about ethnicity. Instead they should ask are you an American yes or no. As Brooks explains, “What unites the two America's, then, is our mutual commitment to the way of life—to the idea that a person is not bound by his class, or by the religion of his father, but is free to build a plurality of connections for himself” (494). Instead of looking at a person for his/her ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status people should try to see them as an individual American. There are ways around all cultural difference if people are only willing to try.
Along with teaching each generation about their culture, each generation should also be taught how to respect and look beyond cultural differences. One way to avoid cultural misinterpretation is through what Barnlund acknowledged as “the rule book of meaning” (52). Barnlund is saying that as Americans we should learn how other cultures view the world, and the beliefs and values that are the base of their opinions. This will allow other insight on how they communicate and what gestures and body languages mean in their culture. If Americans were to do this it could allow healthy interactions with other cultures. According to Barnlund this could prevent “cultural misunderstandings” (50). Being unknowledgeable about another culture cane lead to serious misinterpretation of what is trying to be communicated. Whether it be in the body language used, a gesture, or even mixing up of words in their language. Not only does it cost misinterpretation it can cause embarrassment, hard feelings and it has lead to wars. The best way to avoid this is study up on the culture that is to be visited.
Once people learn about other cultures society and way of life then as a nation America can become united. There are ways to go about this learning the spoken language is one. Then there is getting educated on the laws the rule the culture. Once people learn more about other cultures and understand how the other culture behaves then maybe there can be peace. As stated by Barnlund it would become a “cultural parochialism” (60) then people would be more insightful to other cultures. People would respect the values of each other's cultures and ethnicity. Just maybe most of the prejudice would no longer exist. As Algranati claims, to “try to help people understand how it feels to be […..] the others” (697). If Americans are able to overcome one another cultural differences nobody else would have to feel the way Algranati felt. There would no longer be classifications only Americans. Reverend Brown used to say to the parish in his church. “Never judge a book by its cover”. He would then follow it by saying “we are all god's children together we make his rainbow of beauty”.
An individual upbringing and cultural teachings make a person, and how they react to others. Unfortunately some people cannot make it past the ethnicity sometimes tensions can be detected between their tradition and being American. As United States civilians every man and woman ought to go further than ethnicity and see each person as an American. This is something that needs to be taught from childhood on. It is a shame that it is now 2010 and prejudice is very much alive in the United States. Maybe someday the citizens in America will be able to move past the cultural and ethnicity differences and see each other as equals. Then America will be a nation to be revered as a country that can overcome anything. All it takes is a little faith and kindness and understanding that everyone matters.