05 April, 2009

weekly discussion #7 (anthro 101, class)

Reflect on the unique history of the United States. Each nation has its own unique history that created its cultural values, political structure, and legal code. After reading the two C&C case studies for the week, how was the United States influenced by non-state societies in its founding? What contributions were made by smaller-scale societies? Were you surprised by these contributions?

Secondly, how do the U.S. cultural values and ideas about "good" government impact our decisions in foreign policy? How can our assumptions, coming from our own unique history, cloud or understanding of other nations' political systems and values? How might we use our understanding of other cultures and their political systems to better foreign policy?


America was influenced greatly by Britain, France, Greece, Rome and also had major influences from the American Indians with one of the most important political institutions borrowed from them being the caucus, (pg. 288). I was surprised a bit, I must admit, by the extreme involvement in the shaping of our country by the Natives. I have, of course, heard the usual: "The Indians helped the Pilgrims at Plymouth" etc., and to some extent had knowledge of further involvement (such as in battles, and what-not), but in a truly American naivety I will honestly admit that I was not aware of the extent. That chapter brought me great pleasure to read, if not simply for the fact that it shed a light that is rarely lit, onto the involvement of all the other contributers that made our nation the one it is today. It wasn't just us making it for ourselves the whole way, we needed a lot of assistance.

The fact that the colonists were so restricted by the British government, before they left for America and after, really helped make the push to drive this (what would blossom soon enough, country) away from the kingdom/ruler mentality and toward democratic practices. 

America, as it grew, was very much an experiment. In its early years not only became a melting pot of ethnic groups, peoples and religions, but also as a melting pot of different political ideas broken down and re-molded into something new – a painting of ideas much like a painting by Picasso.

As far as our "good" value system goes, America has a history of always thinking we have the answer to everything and are right in everything; we are not. In the article comparing the U.S. to Iraq, and discussing the interactions between them, some very interesting points were brought up. Things such as how Americans view "justice" and "freedom" much, much differently than the Iraqis were mentioned. There is a film I've watched many times for various communication classes called "Control Room," it is a documentary on America's involvement with the Iraqi war. I cannot help but use this film as a prime example for how we so impose our opinions, beliefs and the way we do things on other cultures and peoples.

In the film, the American soldiers spoke of how they were "helping" the people and it was ridiculous that they Iraqi people and media would/could see it as anything else. The Iraqi people, on the other hand, had ways they handled conflict and situations. These ways, though not American, were the way they did and had done things for ages. Who are we to go in and tell another culture that their definition of "freedom" or "justice" is wrong?

Now, I'm not saying that punishment for peoples who are out of line in our country, is wrong. Not at all. I'm just saying that demanding Americanization of other cultures and peoples, trying to pass it off as "aid," is.

The way to understand, communicate and get along with other nations and cultures is not to go in and demand everyone else change to the way we are and the way we do things. If every country in the world did that, we'd have a lot more spats and wars, I would think. It's just annoying to me to have my country be known for pushing its ideals and notions on other people. There are things in this world that I will agree are morally wrong. But those same things, while morally wrong, are not necessarily Americanly wrong and we cannot just go around demanding the rest of the world see things our way.

1 comment:

Kim Hedrick said...

Great job discussing the readings!