Posts tagged with "american culture"

Op-ed: Embracing A Culture That Cherishes Traditional American Values

 

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed are solely of the writer. Warren Smith received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BYU, a doctorate in technology strategy from the Harvard Business School and currently owns JETS: Japanese-English Technology Services in Durham, New Hampshire. He wrote this piece for the Deserter News. 

 

 

While I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. John Armstrong that we must find a kind of patriotism that permits goodwill toward all people, I worry that this op-ed misses the point entirely about what “nationalism” is and is not (“Patriotism vs. nationalism in a Mormon context,” Oct. 10).

While Latter-day Saint teachings caution us against “nationalism” in terms of narrow-minded and ignorant tribalism, which is nothing more than an “us-versus-them” high school rivalry on an international level, it would be equally wrong to ignore the realities of America’s exceptional contribution to the world in terms of systems and technologies that have lifted untold millions (billions?) from literal starvation and abject poverty into relative well-being, and wrong to ignore the fact that the American impact on the world has been a reflection of our historic “American culture” where “culture” is defined as a predominant set of shared values and not superficial cultural markers such as tastes in food and entertainment, etc.

Space does not permit me to define the key aspects of the historical “American culture,” but it is what has enabled America to feed the world, create industry and infrastructure in nations around the globe, and to become by far the world’s largest humanitarian contributor as well.

It must be noted that even the oft-condemned American pseudo-Colonialism has resulted in the creation of infrastructures and systems that set the foundation for the success of many countries in post-Colonial independence, and this has been ultimately a blessing for the very countries that some would argue have been “exploited” by the American system.

Is it toxic “nationalism” to believe that America has (had?) a culture that is superior to most, or perhaps all, other cultures? Before that question can be answered, we must first ask whether it is possible for one culture to be better than another. The easiest way to address this is to ask if there such a thing as a “sick culture.” The answer is a resounding “yes.” The most cursory reading of scripture shows how cultures — not “races” or “nations” — can go through cultural changes that bring misery, where repentance — as a society — brings joy.

Much closer to home, any sociologist who dares can point to subcultures — and I do not mean races or classes — that are statistically characterized by chronic poverty, disregard for education, willing dependency on public assistance, rejection of parental responsibilities, involvement in crime (with concomitant incarceration), embracing of an exploitive drug culture, hatred of law-enforcement, perceived victimhood, vilification of others, and the like. Clearly, such a self-reinforcing set of values is a “sick culture.”

I am not arguing that a traditional Fourth of July celebration is in any way superior to, say, a French Bastille Day celebration, nor that hamburgers are superior to dim sum. On the contrary, these are merely superficial preferences. But there is a set of values that have defined, traditionally, the “American culture,” a set of values that is under extreme attack at present — values such as preferring liberty over security, embracing traditional virtues, belief in the market system, taking responsibility for one’s self and responsibility to care for friends and neighbors personally and not leaving it to the government, commitment to family values, freedom to succeed or fail, etc.

While, of course, in some form or other these values are found in other countries and cultures as well, if a rejection of “nationalism” somehow maps to a rejection of the traditional American culture — and value system — and, perhaps more to the point, of the responsibility that America has borne for the last 70 years in leading the world in lifting people out of hunger and poverty through being a beacon of industry, democracy, and free market competition, then this rejection is a decidedly bad thing.

While I completely agree that any definition of “nationalism” that involves hatred or dehumanizing of individuals of other nations or cultures is fundamentally wrong, I wholeheartedly embrace the view of “nationalism” (which is rightly called “patriotism”) that cherishes the American culture, acknowledges the unique role America has played – and must continue to play – as a force for good in world history. It would be tragic to abandon this “nationalism,” or patriotism, just because there are also some individuals (such as in Charlottesville) who embrace “nationalism” out of hatred or ignorance.

The bottom line is, despite the existence of hateful and ignorant people, for those people who can rise above petty enmity, embracing positive “nationalism” is a decidedly good thing, and I call upon all Americans to defend the values that have made this country great, and invite all people, American or not, to share in our traditional American values.

 

NABJ New Orleans: A Significant Moment In America’s Journey In A City Full Of Culture And Black History

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

New Orleans can easily be described as America’s secret gem. Despite the havoc caused by Hurricane Katrina and the negative portrayal of a city plagued by violence, New Orleans stands alone in all its glory, people, culture and revelry.

This year, the National Association of Black Journalists congregated in the historic city, part of the group’s annual convention and career fair. America’s racial turmoil, like the most recent incident in Charlottesville, VA, makes the destination for the gathering a unique one that highlights who we are, what we’re capable of and what we continue to stand for as Americans and NABJ members. The struggle for equality and a more just country isn’t over but neither is our resolve and determination to fight bigotry with education, success and the most powerful armor man has against hate; Love. And, New Orleans has plenty of love, history and black culture for the greater mission to improve our world and American culture as a whole.

The Big Easy, as the iconic and beautiful city is nicknamed, was the perfect complement to highlight NABJ’s work and the people that come out to support it. People like, Roland S. Martin, Charles Barkley, Harris Faulkner, Dr. Jeff Gardere, Nyja Greene with CNN in Atlanta, Tracey Rivers with Fox 26 News in Houston, and many other prominent black figures. And, even the presence of arguably the most unpopular black woman in the White House, Omarosa Manigault, couldn’t overshadow the power of the event in a city full of life, talent, charm and charisma. And, how fitting and telling of the group’s importance, growth and impact that even Facebook joined the convention this year to recruit talent for its own innovative work across the globe.

In our current state of aggressive and divisive nationalism, New Orleans was the perfect backdrop to mark black progress in America. Black folks, specifically those that call the Big Easy home, have come a long way as a people. In the repugnant face of racism and discrimination, to a natural disaster that changed the lives and demographics of the city; New Orleanians are overcoming everything that has plagued their journey with music, food, revelry, an organic entrepreneurial spirit and a potent dose of American culture. Nevertheless, it’s clear to see, especially thanks to an administration fueling anti-American values that the civil rights movement is far from over, making NABJ’s mission and work more important than ever.

Jazz or Jass as it was first spelled, was born in New Orleans, making dancing and singing in the streets to great local bands simply a cultural norm. From Bourbon Street to Frenchman Street, the city cradles its patrons like moths uncontrollably drawn to light, despite all the effects that comes with merrymaking, and an alcohol and drugs infused atmosphere. However, there’s more than the music and revelry to talk about. The local artists on the streets hawking their goods like, Alex Lee Calacuayo, add a certain essence to the bright beautiful colors that is New Orleans and its people. Food venders, like Mr. Joe’s Island Grill—unlike some other cities in America—take a great deal of pride in what they prepare and offer. It’s a constant party that hits you all over, from your dancing feet to your mouth full of the best food on the planet. And, none of it takes away from the cultural significance that is New Orleans.

A significant perspective of NABJ’s presence in the Big Easy is the story of Palmer Park, which according to, New Orleans Historical, was named after a staunch supporter of slavery and segregation; Benjamin Parker. The white’s only park was the scene where during the Jim Crow era, during a 1924 speech, “Shreveport Mayor Lee E. Thomas, challenging Senator Randsell for his seat, drew loud applause when he accused the senator of signing a letter supporting a black man for a federal job; the mayor’s allegation sought to condemn the senator’s egalitarian gesture. Similar racism could be seen in reaction to a 1934 incident. Residents nearby the park and civic organizations complained about an unlicensed shoe shine stand, “Sam’s Shine Parlor,” which appeared in the park. The stand, aimed at people waiting nearby for the bus to Kenner, was originally chained to a tree in the park. The black vendor’s chair was removed. White vendors, like the man who sold hot tamales, were allowed in the park.”

Despite a long and arduous journey plagued with racial prejudice black people in America are still standing, and still working towards their own prosperity as our collective American values instills in each and every one of us. And how fitting that after all these years and racial turmoil’s, NABJ is still working to bring organizations together that recognize the importance and value of diversity in the work place, especially in media. We represent the spirit of Sam’s Shine Parlor.

The country is changing. New Orleans is going through it too, especially following the mass public upheaval brought on by Katrina. Walking the streets of the city you can still hear folks talk about all they’ve lost during the August 2005 storm. The breaking of the levees didn’t just spill massive amounts of water covering the city and destroying lives. Some argue that it also washed away a great deal of its culture and fast-tracking gentrification. Even so, the city full of charm with one of the best American accents you’ll hear is still thriving. And a large reason for it lies at the feet of the local population that make a living in the streets, where a great deal of the city’s booming tourism industry can be seen and deeply felt. New Orleans is not just beautiful; the Big Easy is the epitome of what we recognize as the birth of American culture.

 

Defining American Culture And Identity

By JEANETTE LENOIR

 

America is one of the most diverse countries in the world, making defining American culture a difficult task to undertake. Considering the many traditions Americans from all walks of life adhere to, pass down, recognize and celebrate, one would be hard pressed to capture all that she encompasses and constitutes. Nevertheless, the University of Michigan took on the challenge and came up with 101 characteristics that define American culture.

The “Melting Pot” has been a fitting description for as long as the question of her identity has been pondered, but thanks to the break down, specifics have been added to our cultural description. Since her independence 241 years ago, America has steadily evolved into a more perfect union representative of the many facets of the world.  People from all walks of life can adequately represent what it means to be an American.

As the world turns, including our own democracy, we decided to post this question to various Americans in New York City and other parts of the state: How do you describe American culture? As you’ll see, the question wasn’t easily answered…

 

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Thoughtsgiving Can Be The Prerequisite To Thanksgiving

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Since 2010, a small group of people have been gathering at a local pub to celebrate a new tradition. It takes place on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, at The Green Onion in Utica, NY. Utica College Professor and Artist, Steven Specht, is a founding member of this new holiday and says it’s a time to reflect and be thoughtful about the world and the issues impacting its people, before moving on to the big feast of Thanksgiving. The new tradition, marking its 6th year this time around, is called Thoughtsgiving.  Specht and his fellow co-founders, Brad Emmons and Jason Denman represent some of the rare individuals in central New York that are actively working to bridge the cultural and social gap that keeps many people that call this region home, segregated.

It’s no coincidence that CNY continues to be rated one of the most segregated areas in America by multiple organizations like the U.S. Census Bureau, Brookings Institute and CNY Fair Housing, Inc. A 2014 report by CNY Fair Housing found that when it comes to equality of opportunity based on race and ethnicity, the area is one of the worst in scoring in the country. The report also found that, “Access to community assets is unevenly distributed geographically and across racial and ethnic groups. There are significant disparities in median household income and poverty levels between residents of Syracuse and residents of the surrounding towns and, within the City of Syracuse, significant differences exist in median household income and poverty by race and ethnicity.”

Nonetheless, Specht and his supporters aren’t deterred by the figures that reflect the cultural and social status of CNY, or the uphill climb to bring about a more well-balanced and healthy community. The group, despite its small size, is making local head waves and inspiring others to reach across whatever divides them. To soften hearts and minds and build the bridges for that desperately needed human connection and thoughtfulness that seeks to heal a community still licking old and new racial wounds. Thoughtsgiving may be a new tradition and celebration of thoughtfulness with only a handful of members, but the mission behind it is tried and true. Showing consideration for the needs of other people never gets old.

1952 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Albert Schweitzer, captures the spirit behind Thoughtsgiving eloquently with this quote: “Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come.”

 

2nd Annual Cultural Showcase At Fort Stanwix

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

The 2nd Annual Cultural Showcase at Fort Stanwix brought out many different folks from around the Mohawk Valley region with diverse backgrounds and cultures. Organizers say the event is not only aimed at celebrating America’s diverse culture, it is also a welcoming ceremony for new Americans who now call upstate New York, home.

 

 

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15th Anniversary Of The 9/11 Attacks

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

The 9/11 attacks that brought down the iconic World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon and causing the death of nearly 3,000 people, is being remembered ceremoniously across the nation. It’s been 15-years since that awful day altered the course and culture of our nation and subsequently, the world, especially the Middle East. From the on-going war against terror, The Patriot Act, immigration policies, to the boom of U.S. intelligence gathering through a number of surveillance operations. Greater precautions to ensure the safety of Americans have been instituted in the wake of the attacks.

Whether the steps go far enough or violate human rights is still a topic of contention and debate among politicians and the average citizen. Nonetheless, the lessons of that tragedy are still being learned today. The consequences of it are not only visibly apparent, on this particular day, it cloaks the hearts and minds of many people like a heavy quilt made of sorrow and pain.

 

 

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Suriname Day In Queens, NY

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

Most people who hear the name Suriname will likely ask you where the country is located. Suriname is a mystery to a lot of ordinary Americans despite it bordering Brazil; the country just about everyone on planet earth knows and loves. Understandably, Suriname does not project ideas of Fantasy Island, sandy beaches with blue water type of get away destination for tourists. However, when you get to know this unique place, its people and culture, you’ll wonder why the rest of the world always asks: Where is Suriname?

Despite it being a relatively unknown location in South America, Suriname is celebrated every year in Queens, NY. Sranang Dei or Suriname Day just marked its 40th annual celebration in Roy Wilkins Park. The event is typically held in early August. This year it happened on the 7th.

Our nation, currently going through a very sensitive period with issues like police brutality, racism and divisiveness amongst its people, it is calming to know that America is still beautiful, still unique and still the great melting pot of the world. We celebrate culture, all cultures, despite what you may hear in main stream media, and Suriname Day fits right into our identity as Americans.

Suriname, located on the northeast coast of South America, can also be seen as a melting pot of cultures and people. The country is made up of immigrants from India, Indonesia, the Island of Java, Japan, China and Africa just to name a few. The indigenous population of Arawak and Carib Indians, although small in number, represent a large part of Suriname’s culture and identity. And although I loathe the term, Maroon, (due to its origin) this group of former escaped slaves also call the interior of the country home, and also represent the heart of Suriname.

Suriname Day brings all these people out for a day of celebration and togetherness. It’s also a great opportunity for them to enjoy traditional foods, games and music. What is special about this celebration is that it takes place right here in the great state of New York. And, you certainly don’t have to be Surinamese to come out and enjoy the festivities. These are the traditions and customs that bond us as one nation of people. This is American Culture.

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