Poli-ticks

Are there beliefs and values that define American culture?

By Arlene Violet
Posted 8/1/19

Pretend for a moment that you are from Mars (or in the case of women, from Venus). You have arrived in the United States of America. You have traveled around the country for 30 days, watched the …

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Poli-ticks

Are there beliefs and values that define American culture?

Posted

Pretend for a moment that you are from Mars (or in the case of women, from Venus). You have arrived in the United States of America. You have traveled around the country for 30 days, watched the news, listened to talk shows and read newspapers, visited social media, and talked to this country’s citizens. Could you name at least 6 principles that bind all Americans together in a report back to your Martian colleagues?

Go ahead. Stop reading this column. Make a list instead. Try to come up with a half-dozen truisms that TODAY we ALL (ok, an overwhelming majority) hold sacred in American society and would die to protect. Now, not just some of us, mind you, but all of us who would put everything on the line to protect this in America.

If you have succeeded in doing so, you certainly don’t need to read any farther, whether it took you 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days. In fact, you could do a big favor by listing them in the comments section. If you couldn’t come up with an unbiased list then this column is for you, for you see, I couldn’t come up with the list after musing about it for a week. I think I could have done so 20 years ago in about 20 minutes.

I think I know what cultural values I want to be on that list. Every single one of them, however, is under attack. I worry, therefore, about the commonality in this country. Maybe "Worry" could be universal but it probably doesn’t count since we probably don’t have agreement on what we should be worried about.

Will this country be the "United" States in another 20 years? I can’t see how it will be. “Us” vs. “them” has become the mantra. When Irving Berlin wrote "God Bless America" sung by Kate Smith (who is under attack today for some racist song recordings she made), he wrote what was supposed to be a spoken introduction:

“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea (editor’s note, World War 1 in 1918; revised in 1938)
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair
As we raise our voices in solemn prayer.”

Free and fair today? Do common words like freedom; equality and democracy have a common meaning anymore? Do Americans agree that The United States is that shining city on the hill, a beacon of hope and/or for whom? The answer to that last question is evident when discussing immigration.

Now, the cop-out here is to shrug the shoulders and declare that it is impossible for everybody to agree, so end the discussion. There’s one problem with that approach. If “We the People” no longer share a common goal, idea, or even a national dream together and we slice the ties that used to bind us we will, in fact, be torn apart as a nation. Anger will continue to replace honest discourse. Part of the country will excommunicate the other part. Unless we can stop the communication and common ground crisis enveloping this country we are headed for a permanent separation. That Martian report would be a disaster.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.








Arlene Violet

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.