American Culture: A Contradiction in Terms
To some, it is known as the Shining City Upon a Hill. To others, it is the Great Satan. But one thing is for sure: Somewhere between the attacks of Sept. 11 and the rise of America’s first secular generations, it has become apparent that our country is in the midst of the greatest identity crisis she has ever known.
Have you taken a look around lately? Do you notice the bizarre contradictions that have emerged in the last 50 years in American politics and pop culture? At age 18, American citizens are not trustworthy enough to drink a beer or play a game of poker, but are entrusted with electing the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth while they run around with M-16 assault rifles in defense of this peculiar society.
In the American legal system, the contradictions continue. Murdering a pregnant woman is still chalked up as double homicide in almost every court case, yet in Roe v. Wade, the 1972 Supreme Court decision on abortion, it was apparently decided that unborn babies are either non-human or at least devoid of legal protection.
Democrats, in the name of ‘freedom of choice,’ want to murder unborn babies but spare the lives of murderers on death row. Republicans, in the name of Jesus Christ, want to murder such murderers but spare the lives of unborn babies. It makes you wonder what the unborn baby’s choice would be, or why Jesus took the place of a convicted murderer when he died on the cross.
It would seem the only word to describe our current situation is ‘confused.’ Hip-hop emcees used to rap about social injustice, and now rappers degrade women and sell vitamin water. Women demand equal responsibilities in the workplace but still expect men to hold open the door for them and pay for dinner. Emo-ism has taken over the suburbs as rich kids desperately search for something deeper in life than the fake repetition that surrounds them, before hopping onto MySpace to create a superficial identity out of fear of being real with each other. The Internet in general has downgraded the quality of human communication and has turned knowledge into a product instead of a purpose. A record number of college students are studying psychology in an attempt to figure out what the hell is going on. In America, illegal immigrants feed us and we threaten them. The poor fight abroad for us, and we ignore them when they come home. The famous embarrass us, and we put them up on pedestals.
Nothing is what it seems. At UC Irvine we have student groups like the Chinese Christian Association and the Latino Business Student Association. Maybe I missed something, but I thought the point of both Christianity and business was to be non-exclusive. Hollywood tells us that downloading movies is immoral, while glorifying all kinds of debauchery in their films. According to Gov. Swann in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,’ ‘Perhaps on the rare occasion pursuing the right course demands an act of piracy; piracy itself can be the right course.’ What the hell, Disney? Which is it?
It’s not so much that I place blame on any certain entity for these strange conditions. I just think America is so much better than this cultural chaos. In the post-1990s era, we find ourselves without a decade name, and will be lacking one until the 2020s. In a culture that has built itself upon decade identities, this seems to have thrown us into a panic. Music genres have become blurred, fashion trends are unruly (Uggs with mini-skirts, seriously?), political parties flip-flop like crazy and consistent pop culture is rarely identifiable. Our national identity has become hard to define, and patriotism has become one of those things you make fun of rednecks for having. That’s right; in case you didn’t get the memo, it’s no longer ‘cool’ to be American. Just ask Green Day. They make millions off the very neighbors they mock.
Interestingly, first-generation immigrants have become the new American patriots, the definers of our culture, and the backbone of our economy in fields like agriculture, computers and medicine. Although recent immigration influxes have detracted from a central pop culture, replacing the ‘melting pot’ theory with the idea of a salad bowl, can we really blame them for not assimilating when Americans have lost a sense of social standards, of history, of destiny?
American culture has effectively become a rotating fa