Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Definition of 'America'

After reading Kirsten Gruesz article on the definition of 'America' it is clear that there is not simply one definition. The word 'America' itself is not limited to the fifty states that abide by the U.S Constitution. It includes Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba and the many other countries that make up the Americas. To many, America is more of an ideological image that symbolises freedom and a utopia, that not seen in Europe or the rest of the world at the time of America's discovery.

Edmundo O'Gorman states that "America was invented before it was discovered demonstrated that Europeans had long imagined a mythical land of marvels and riches they then projected onto the unfamiliar terrain." This suggests that people were eager to have something that was not associated or linked to the evils and inequality that existed in Europe at the time. Walt Whitman's definition sums up the United States quite well, "The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, not in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors...but always in the common people." America is mainly seen as a land where anyone regardless of ethnicity and gender can succeed and have the same rights, no one is above anyone else. However, this is not the reality which can be seen previously with the repression of African Americans and more recently people who belong to 'Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender' (LGBT) and an unrecognised
class system.

So is the United States the only modern nation founded on an idea - Democratic equality - rather than on a shared tribal or racial ancestry? I believe so, mainly due to the fact that apart from the Native Americans, all the colonialist settlers had originated from Europe being France, Spain, the Netherlands or Britain and many came to escape religious prosecution. Gruesz importantly points out that colonialists "tended not to refer to themselves as Americans, since the term then conveyed an indigenous ancestry." So do Americans have to right to refer to themselves this way if they have no link to Native Americans?

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