United States Cultural Values, Essay Example

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Essay

No. 01.  On page 52 of my textbook, sociologist Robin Williams suggests that there are 15 dominant values in the United States of which this student, for the purpose of this assignment, has been asked to pick three with which I most agree and one whose value I think is not as significant as the others.  The three that I believe to be the most important are freedom, equality, and achievement and success.  The one with which I agree the least is racism and related group superiority.  I will first discuss the ones with which I agree the most and then the one with which I agree the least.

This student believes freedom to be the most important of the 15 dominant values.

Living in a free country, as we do, most of us likely take it for granted, especially if we have never known anything else.  However, virtually all over the world, individuals, groups, and nations have willingly laid down their lives for the cause of freedom.  Movies have been made and songs have been written about freedom. The 1966 film, “Born Free” with its song by the same name  that I cannot listen to or just read without a profound sense of gratitude overwhelming me for having been born free in a free country is but one example.  Just think, this is what most of us take for granted:  “Born free, as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows, born free to follow your heart…Born free and life is worth living. But only worth living ‘Cause you’re born free….”  (Barry).  This film and the song did a lot to diffuse the issue of freedom and it certainly—especially since it’s been forwarded by the media over the years—has made it significant.  Even more significant was the 1860 – 1865 Civil War, one of whose objectives was to end slavery, which was accomplished at  a loss of 500,000 lives.  Certainly this was significant and is diffused through schools and the media.

Surely, we have all heard the saying, “Everyone is born equal, but not everyone is equal,” something with which I agree.  Just the fact that some babies are female and some are male bears that out.  That, however, must not mean that females should not be treated fairly; such as, for example, equal pay for equal work and not being subservient to men as a result of their gender.

Helen Keller was not equal either; not because she was born a female but because she was born blind. However, given the opportunity and the support of her nanny/tutor, she received a university education and has become famous throughout the world. People should not be treated unfairly based on gender, age, physical and/or mental disabilities, religion, marital status or  race.

United States citizens certainly value achievement and success. The United States is considered to be “the land of opportunity” where anyone regardless of humble origins can with positive motivation and hard work reach any goal that is within his or her potential.  President Obama is an excellent example of rising from very humble beginnings to the top position in the country.  Although some people measure success by how far up the socio-economic ladder one has climbed, many others, including this student, judge achievement and success by having reached one’s potential and performing well and being happy in that capacity.

The dominant value that I do not agree with at all is racism and related group superiority.  The population of the United States is comprised of many races:  It is a real cultural mosaic.  Who is to say which races are at the lower rungs of the ladder and why?  Inherited, perhaps, from the days of slavery, Afro Americans may be seen by some as being capable of little more—Yet, our president and some other political leaders, medical specialists, and entertainers (examples:  the late Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson) have proven such thinking erroneous.  Not all whites are ethical, patriotic, and successful.

No. 02. I agree with the definition in our textbook, which is repeated on the assignment sheet, that the Self is “a person’s identity and what makes that person different from others.”  If we believe that, then we also must acknowledge that people are not clones of one another, but unique individuals with characteristics that are their very own and of which their identity—their Self—is comprised.  We measure differences among people in almost innumerable ways. One way is noticed as soon as someone begins to speak and that is the extent to which they know the English language.  We can tell if English is not their native language; and if not, get a good idea as to how long they have lived in the United States and from where they immigrated. If English is their native language, and people speak it poorly and punctuate it liberally with profane language, we have some additional clues about them. If one listens carefully, one can tell if the speaker is shallow, egoistic, inconsiderate, rude, loud, poorly educated, a loner, part of a nuclear or an extended family and so forth.  We also measure differences with respect to marital status.  We notice whether individuals are single, living together (which nowadays is quite chic—royalty has been doing it for years!), homosexual, in a traditional heterosexual marriage, have children, a one-parent family, an equality-type marriage, or a patriarchal or matriarchal type.  We cannot help but notice how they dress, if they dress as a member of their subculture or of mainstream North America.  Are women all bundled up or are they half naked? Religion and political beliefs are powerful measuring tools.

I believe that the United States wants its residents and citizens to have a unique personal identity—up to a point.  Their personal identity can not supersede the law of the land.  Terrorists, drug cartels, war lords, criminals of all types, vigilantes, human traffickers, money launderers, are not encouraged even if they claim what they are doing is in accordance with their religion.

While members of certain religious groups have narrowly-set parameters in which to develop their individuality, families that are aware of the importance of individuality, encourage the development of this in their children.  They encourage them to make choices and to understand that most choices have consequences.  At an early age, they can help pick out clothes; and later on, they can go shopping for some of them by themselves or with their friends.  Parents allow children, for the most part, to choose their friends, but try to discourage friendships—as do teachers and school counsellors—with individuals who do not value education, hard work, abiding by the law, and clean language.  Females, who have wanted to break into male-dominated sports and work, are encouraged to do so.  While many decades ago, boys were not allowed to play with girls’ toys and vice-versa, today the individual tendencies of such children are normally not stifled. Now we have had women go to the moon.

Mom, dad, and their two children sitting around the dinner table eating a full course meal and making polite conversation was the norm up to the mid 20th century; but now it is a rarity.  It is difficult for mom to get home from work and make a meal for a certain time that will in all likelihood conflict with the son’s piano lessons and the girl’s curling.  In fact, mom makes some hastily put together meals because along with working all day and evening university classes, there is not much time available.   All family members attempt to visit weekly their grandparents who live in an assisted home of their choice, where they feel free to express their individuality.

Perhaps the most significant proof for my belief that our society encourages individuality when it does not result in harm to someone is that while more and more homosexuals have been openly living together and been married in some States and in places abroad, President Obama has now given his approval to homosexual marriage.

References

Barry, J.  Andy Williams—Born Free Lyrics.  Retrieved May 22, 2012, from http://www.Lyrics007.com/Andy%20Williams%20Lyrics/Born%20Free%201.

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