Essay, 8 pages (1900 words)

America the beautiful is changing

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Americans believe they live in a beautiful country. There are many advantages to living in America, such as having a secure government, a controlled military, a judicial system that works, breathtaking landscapes, cleanliness, and the many freedoms that are granted to citizens in the U. S. Constitution. America became a rising power early in its life, allowing for these benefits. Although the United States of America is one of the great world powers, and perhaps the most supreme, its economic practices are driven toward the idea of spending and consumerism and the population’s values have become entirely reconstituted since its founding.

“ My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing; land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from ev’ry mountainside, let freedom ring! ” (Comissiong 11). Every American, perhaps, is familiar with this song. “ My Country ‘ Tis of Thee” is a widely popular song taught to children in elementary schools, sung at commemorative military ceremonies, and played before national celebrations. The song, like America’s national anthem, the “ Star-Spangled Banner,” is a patriotic representation of America, created by an American for Americans with an intention of inspiration and pride.

From the very days of the founding of the country, Americans have been extremely patriotic. After winning an almost impossible battle against Great Britain, American patriotism has been strong. The line “…the bombs bursting in air” from the “ Star-Spangled Banner” represents the cannons firing in celebration of the victory of the American Revolution. These songs condition Americans to believe that their country is a magnificent one. Thoughts such as these have led to a belief of supremacy (Comissiong 11). Earnest Beginnings Turn the U. S. into a Leading World Power.

The powerful spirit of the First and Second Great Awakenings – a series of revivals in the late 1700s and early 1800s that took place across the country to motivate Americans to reawaken their religious vigor – demonstrates that Americans were devout Christians who were willing to restructure their lives around religion. Family and community life was, at the time, based in Christianity. Certainly, Americans held religion in high regard. In the early 1800s, Americans began settling the Louisiana territory. By mid-century, they were following the path of Manifest Destiny into savage, untamed lands that had never before seen the bottom of a white man’s shoe.

During this time, Americans were rough, tough, and accustomed to the wilderness. With an agrarian economy, homesteaders settled in the Great Plains to cultivate land and to raise corn and other crops for their livelihood. As the Industrial Revolution boomed in Europe, it also reached the United States. America exported steel, raw materials, corn crops, and other materials that made it wealthy and open for business with foreign countries.

Industrial businesses thrived. One in particular, the Carnegie Steel Company, even topped British steel production in the early 1900s (Duiker, William J. and Jackson J. Spielvogel 498). America was becoming a mighty power, but it was unbalanced. The North and the South were growing and developing, but their ways were divergent. The North, which had a booming industrial economy, contained railroads and was the center for business and commerce (Duiker and Spielvogel 497). The South, on the other hand, was completely agrarian, and its main crop was cotton.

The little farming done in the North consisted of more than cotton. Thus, the North and South progressed at different rates, and the South’s use of slavery as a way of life added conflict to the matter. The two regions of the United States could not continue with a slow economy in the South and a booming economy in the North. The outbreak of Civil War in 1861 was costly and devastating, wiping out 2 percent of the American population (Lapsansky-Werner, Emma J. , et al. 258-263). By the late 1800s, America was an economic giant, a world power.

At this time, America was also expanding its territory and industrializing its power. The imperialistic nature of a new country set its place in the world, and it was respected. “ At the end of the nineteenth century, the United States began to expand abroad. The Samoan Islands in the Pacific became the first important American colony; the Hawaiian Islands were next” (Duiker and Spielvogel 498). The earnest start of the United States of America shaped the growth of an expansive empire that thrives today.

Still, there is no doubting the fact that America is changing and has been over the past two hundred plus years. The America of 2012 is one in which consumerism dictates the local and national economies, supporting both advantages and disadvantages to the global economy and our Earthly future. Economic Strengths and Weaknesses in a Global World. The purpose of Gary Shapiro’s Forbes article, “ Is America the Greatest Country in the World? ” is to provide evidence that despite its problems, America is indeed a great nation.

Conversely, Todd Leopold’s CNN article “ We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1! We’re… Uh… Not? ” strives to give examples of statistics that show that certain areas of America are in decline. The articles focus on American economic and business practices. While both articles mention America’s “ entrepreneurial spirit” (Leopold 2 Shapiro 2), they do not perceive it in the same way. The World Bank ranks the best countries for business, (Leopold 5) and puts the United States in 10th place in the overall category of “ best for business.”

At the same time, Shapiro disregards statistics, suggesting that American innovation in business makes up for the poor ranking because of innovative companies like DreamWorks Studios and Apple (2). In the field of education, Leopold (5) suggests that the American education system has a low regard for teachers. Leopold quotes Diane Ravitch, who believes that “ there’s a youth culture that’s very disobedient […] and everybody blames the teachers. […] [Y]ou have a lot of parents that are not particularly responsible either” (5).

In contrast, Shapiro (2) suggests that there are problems in the United States’ education system, but he emphasizes that America has a large, more diverse population than most other countries, which hides the number of high achievers. He quips, “ Indeed, China sends 160, 000 of their youth to American schools” (2). While Leopold’s CNN article focuses largely on statistics and rankings, and it compares the United States with other countries, Shapiro’s Forbes article is less technical and based more on opinion, yet it has statistical backup. Leopold’s perspective on American decline appears more cynical than Shapiro’s.

For instance, Leopold’s perspective on American business practices concludes that countries like Germany are more globally equipped for business than the United States, and that America’s exports are not up to par (5-6). Conversely, Shapiro claims that America is a nation of innovators, leading the world in the fields of music and biotechnology, among others (2). Concerning education, Leopold (6) suggests that there is a lack of respect for teachers in America, and Shapiro, (2) suggests that the United States has a phenomenal, effective education system. A Consumer’s World.

Consumerism plays a giant role in Americans’ lives today and dominates the local economy. There is not a single store in America without shelf upon shelf stuffed with… well, stuff. Myriads of brands cover store walls, giving Americans the freedom to choose what brand of hair supplies, sausage – even plastic bags – that they want to purchase. Some of these things are necessary, such as food, but others are not. Today, it seems that everyone must have a SmartPhone of some sort – be it an iPhone, an HTC, or Droid – and if someone doesn’t have a SmartPhone, they are out of “ the loop.”

Americans’ lives are consumed with being up-to-date with every single piece of property they own. They must have the latest, greatest, and largest of everything. From fashion to housing to technology, Americans are in a race to acquire the best. Zygmunt Bauman explains, “ It is the level of our shopping activity and the ease with which we dispose of one object of consumption in order to replace it with a “ new and improved” one which serves us as the prime measure of our social standing and the score in the life-success competition” (1).

True, consumerism was not always so dominant in American society, especially during the Great Depression of the 1930s, in which Americans conserved as much as they could to preserve their lives. It wasn’t until after World War II that consumerism truly took effect. Common household supplies were the most desired items to purchase, as they provided Americans with a way to modernize their homes and make people more comfortable because they now had more leisure time (“ The Rise of American Consumerism”).

Some of the most common supplies to be purchased were refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and television sets. Consumerism provided a way for Americans to demonstrate their patriotism. A good, progressive American family invested in spending on household supplies because they could. The war had caused incomes to increase, which was a huge development after the Great Depression (“ The Rise of American Consumerism”). Today, consumerism generates jobs (Sunami, Christopher 1) and pollution (Fox, Louis). Former U. S. president George W. Bush told Americans the day of the 9/11 tragedies that they should ease their pain and “ go back shopping” (Bauman, Zygmunt and Jerome Roos).

Shifting Values. In her journal “ Is the New Morality Destroying America? ” respected author Clare Luce mentions a universal morality that includes honesty, integrity, and charity. There is also a universal immorality, among which lying, dishonesty, and hypocrisy are the opposite of universal morality (4). In America, beliefs about what is right, what is wrong, or what is socially acceptable have been changing over the decades.

Luce goes on to suggest that traditional Christian values of charity, compassion, and consideration for others, have long been engrained in American society. Sadly, they are fading as more time goes by. Today, there is a very strong “ Me” mentality, especially among young people. Part of this is due to the fact that young people are developing an identity and have a distorted perception that everything is centered on them (Rathus, Spencer 64-70). Luce discusses this situational aspect of morality; one person will owe their actions to their situation, while they judge another’s by basic, “ relative” morals.

In other words, what is right behavior for one person is not for another. Those who demonstrate the “ me” mentality tend to justify their actions based on the circumstances of the situation (Rathus, Spencer 293-294). Luce goes on to say that this is called “ the New Morality” (1). In a democracy such as America, the people decide who is going to lead them. They elect officials based on their integrity and on how closely the candidates’ ideals are to their own. Therefore, the elected official is a representative of the people that chose him.

Luce voices that it takes effort on the part of a people to maintain an honest and moral government to take care of them, because ultimately, who and what they vote for decides their country’s fate. Americans have been relatively lax about making this effort (5). Luce notes that Americans value politicians’ consideration for the disadvantaged more than their courage or honor, (4) which echoes early Americans’ Christian values. It is obvious that in America, values have been changing over time.

Although the values of Americans have been changing since the country’s founding, the “ universal morality” is reflected in modern society and is integrated into modern life. The original Christian foundation still stands, but it is not entirely the same as it once was. Consumerism at its start was a symbol of American prosperity; today it is a means by which to gain power – the more, the bigger, the better. America is still a powerful and magnificent country, but it is not perfect. It is, indeed, a beautiful country in the midst of change.

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