First of all, let's remember that America is two continents large and describes more than just the US of A. But for a moment, let's focus on what many of you think of as "American." It's kind of a ridiculous task to try to describe what this diverse group of people finds important, but of course, someone has attempted it. In this fascinating article by L. Robert Kohls he does his best to describe thirteen values our culture embodies. I find it incredible that despite our diverse religions, socio-economic statuses, and historical experiences, so many of us rally around a few key points.
Here's Mr. Kohls's list (with my brief descriptions):
Personal Control over the Environment - I am in charge, not a victim
Change - Adjustment and evolution are valued over what is seen as stagnant, irrational tradition
Time and Its Control - We stick to strict schedules and consider it rude to buck against those
Equality - Giving equal opportunities to try, rather than overtly recognized privilege to some
Individualism/Privacy - Having my own things for me, rather than joint ownership or sharing for the good of the group
Self-Help - Pulling oneself up by their own bootstraps rather than depending on a community
Competition - The motivation to beat one another (rather than cooperate or tie)
Future Orientation - A focus on what we can do and are working toward (rather than what is happening in the present).
Action/Work Orientation - Doing more than being
Informality - Practicality over pretense
Directness/Openness/Honest - The shortest distance to making the point, rather than beating around the bush or implying
Practicality/Efficiency - Finding ways to make things work quickly and effectively, rather than the pomp and circumstance of formal ceremony or tradition
Materialism/Acquisitiveness - Owning stuff
Which of these do you agree with? Of course you may not agree with any of them, but it's important to consider cultural trends. If you want to live intentionally (#1), you need to know the direction of the river you're riding. (Here I am preaching numbers 5 and 6). You need to decide which direction you want to go and what role you want to play amidst your fellow travelers.
I'm not sure that I see these values as consistently true in both the North and South parts of the country. And certainly not on both the right and the left. (But maybe that is just my #7 showing).
But if Mr. Kohls isn't correct, what do you think actually binds us together as a country? Is there anything?
Unsplash cred: NASA