Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Definition of America

Gruesz's article raises many points within the contentious debate of American Identity. It is an ongoing debate, and one that clearly has no real ultimate result. It is entirely subjective as to what being "American" would mean to an individual.

The name "America" has an importance to it's people, in that it is the first instance of them claiming something for themselves, effectively decolonising themselves from Britain, and distancing themselves from other nearby countries such as Canada through the act of naming their own nation. "America" would no longer be simply "the New World", but a nation to be taken on its own merit. This idea of a new independent entity is reflected in De Crevecoeur's iconic writings, Letters From An American Farmer, asking the question "What is this new man, an American?" Even with this early study into America, there are already questions being raised as to why America has such a strong identity and a national fabric of patriotism and exceptionalism.

However, as noted in the article, "America" is by no means limited to the borders of the USA, with the term becoming a catch-all for the surrounding continent and countries. The question to ask then is why has this term had such a lasting impression upon the USA? Why wouldn't a Canadian or Mexican refer to themselves as "American"? If an individual labelled themselves as a "Latin-American" it would be clear that they would originate from the South American continent of the Caribbean, but if an individual labelled themselves as an "African-American" or an "Italian-American" it would be assumed that they originated from the USA. This adds validity to Whitman's idea of America being a "race of races", in that a person can retain their original identity, but blend it into an American hybrid. This therefore allows a person an element of nostalgia for their past traditions, but also the ability to have the drive and ambition of an American.

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