8 nov 2009

Christopher Bigsby, What, then, is the American? (A summary)

It is hard to perceive the line that separates reality with myth. Nostalgia can be about something that will never have happened such as the birth of the Captain of the Star Ship Enterprise. This is the problem defining what America is. It is such a recent nation that there are still many aspects that need to be inscribed. Especially from the inside, it is so difficult to define what is to be an American, and it has been this way since the foundation of the country. It is a debate that is constantly present in the American consciousness and it was there a morning of September at the turn of this century.

Certainly after the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks, an awfully present sense of déjà vu stirred in everyone’s who was watching that live event on television. These events existed in the popular mindsets with Hollywood hits such as Armageddon and Independence Day. The parallelism with this other reality present in their psyche was too vivid as if history was repeating itself and ending at the same time. This had made many Americans to prompt the same questions: who we are? Why is everyone trying to kill us?

If we look back the history of this country many American can spot how the nation has become what it is. Almost every analyst foretold what the United States was going to become, as they knew which the values that they ought to follow were. Nevertheless, that was not an exercise of identity so the question still open.

Just as there has been a great difficulty to define USA’s identity from the inside, it has always been entirely definable (and sometimes threatening) from the outside. The United States is a country built on contradictions. It has been imperial, yet promoting individual freedom since the beginning. It is a secular and a religious state, puritans in love with pornography. They celebrate marriage while one marriage of two ends up in divorce. They promote individuality, yet they always join clubs and cults. They advocate for self-improvement, yet there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor. All these ambivalence has been observed since the dawn of this nation. Just as Doctor Faustus, it is ready to lead us to the future even if it means to lose its soul on the way.

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© Pablo Camus
Maira Gall