Understanding Americans

This nice, nice man finally figured out that Americans aren’t just the nice, squishy, vaguely-amoral people you see on MTV, and are actually old-fashioned, generally polite, and ready to rip your head off in a New York Minute.

The idea has somehow gained currency in Britain that America is an essentially peaceful nation. Quite how this notion took root, I do not know. Perhaps we were unduly impressed by the protesters against the Vietnam war. 

How anyone, no, let me restate that, A-NEE-ONE, could look at American History for even ten minutes, and come away with the idea that we’re a peaceful people is nuts.  To paraphrase a friend of mine, we have some of the most violent peace protestors on earth.  And they’re the ones the rest of us look at as candy-asses who will be snapped in half when, in spite of all our best efforts, the Awful Reckoning comes.

Look at our pop culture.  No-Holds-Barred fights.  Boxing.  Wrestling.  Violent movies.  Grand Theft Auto ™. One of our most popular songs is, and let me all-caps this, just so we’re perfectly clear, “LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR.”

You hear LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR coming out of American radio, and think Americans are peaceful at heart?  Well, Mr. Gimson apparently has caught the clue.  Americans are extremely violent, and see getting even more so as a plenty viable option.

That’s why we’re also so touchy about being polite.  It’s why we worry about when peoples’ rights are violated. 

It’s why we view assimilation as a necessary and valuable trait, and see the multiculturalism practiced elsewhere as a recipe for strife and disaster.  We want people to buy into the system, and have come a long, hard road figuring out how people can simultaneously adopt and defend one identity without having to paper over or deny the identity with which they got to this country.  We’ve spilled ink – and blood – aplenty to solve this problem, which is why we infuriate Europeans when we shake our heads at them and claim to have the solution to the problem.  Those Upstart Cowboys.  What do they know. 

We’re an assimilated fusion of people, any bloc of which could have torn this nation apart at the seams, and one which actually managed the trick.  The Native Americans were violent, too.  Very violent.  So violent that the women thought that polygamy was a good idea — any one husband was way too likely to eat a war club in a given year (of course, the bright and shining difference is that the women chose the husbands, not vice versa…).  There are good reasons why “balance” is a serious concept in American Indian thought, and “center” an actual direction. 

Then you have the folks whose families were slaughtered while they, the apparently lucky ones, got dragged halfway across the globe in chains to work like dogs for a bunch of pale people in funny clothes.  And those pale people in funny clothes were buying them not merely because other African tribes thought it was a quick way to score some gold… but because those pale people were from the continent that gave you the Vlad the Impaler, The Inquisition, Oliver Cromwell, and the Thirty Years’ War.  Think the Middle East or modern day Sudan is bad?  Try Germany circa 1630.

Yeah.  Those people.  Those pale people who figured out that slavery worked once they hit these shores and ran with it… and who saw no issue with the idea of “assimilation, for some of us.”  It’s more complicated than that — real life always is.  Sufficiently complicated to necessitate Gettysburg.

And that’s where Mr. Gimson doesn’t get it.  Americans are every bit as idealistic as Europeans.  We have to be.  It’s the thin veneer that stands between us and the abyss of Athens’ barbarism to the rest of the Delian League.  It is the notion that each and every individual has a stake in making this place a little nicer than when she got here… and not, in spite of what George Lakoff thinks, to rely either on Stern Daddy Tyrant or Loving Mommy Bureaucrat to do the job for us.

Now if only they can figure this out in Beirut….that place looks like it could use an Assimilation Shake and an Establishment Clause-burger, paid for by citizens willing to be the first to signal their waiter for a Bill of Rights.

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  1. 1The Damned

     /  August 14, 2006

    @ The Damned:  All replies should be either topical or else addressed to the blogmeister.  Your screed is neither, and is blatant spam with highly objectionable comment — it has been deleted by the moderator.  Another diatribe of this sort will result in your being banned.

  2. I got the impression from reading Gimson’s piece that he believed Europeans far less idealistic than Americans, and that this was ultimately problematic for their understanding of the United States. Consequently it seems to this humble reader that your umbrage with Gimson over Americans being generally less idealistic may be misplaced.

    Did you read some of the comments on Gimson’s page? Quite a lot of responses. Some from Europeans who understood, some from Europeans who did not. Mostly, though, from Americans. Again, some understood, others did not. A few were well thought-out, some were platitudes, a few were bigoted and cruel. I am guessing from your note in Comment #1 that these kinds of responses are gracing this page as well.

  3. Umbrage may be too strong, but I was apparently coming across MUCH harsher than I intended to yesterday in general.

    There are a ton of responses on Gimson’s page, mostly, so far as I can tell, using his work as an excuse to talk up a storm. I saw relatively few that were true *responses* to his work. And, yes, #1 was par for that course, and, actually, much worse. It richly deserved the deletion.


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