Tag: American culture

Book Review: The Dark Double: U.S. Media, Russia, and the Politics of Values

Kevin Doremus | @k_doremus

Academics and policymakers from the realist, liberal, and constructivist schools of thought debate the motivations of Russian foreign policy.  Andrei Tsygankov in his latest book The Dark Double: US Media, Russia, and the Politics of Values makes the argument that the tension between the U.S. and Russia is the result of historical, cultural, and political differences.  The book analyzes how U.S. media presents Russia as a “dark double” and a villain in the international system.  According to Tsygankov, the U.S.-Russian relationship is an example of how negative perceptions of the other can lead to competitiveness.  He expresses concern that cooperation between the two powers is unlikely until both recognize and respect their differences.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Dark Double: U.S. Media, Russia, and the Politics of Values”

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Childish Gambino Inaccurately Portrays American Culture

By Casey Ward | United States

The new music video by Childish Gambino (AKA Donald Glover) is all anyone can talk about. Across America, news outlets are praising how different and courageous the new music is. In the video, you can see references to cultural issues like mass shootings and historically racial tensions. With all of the people raving about what the video means it is nearly impossible to find someone with an opinion other than “oh how rebellious and deep.”

The first voice that I heard calling Mr. Glover out on this new video was Maj Toure of Black Guns Matter.

After seeing Mr. Toure speak out about the video I contacted him to discuss this issue further. Mr. Toure commented that to Mr. Glover’s credit, the cinematography was great, especially for one take. However, people are tired of being portrayed in a negative light.

In Mr. Glover’s video, the assumption is that America is filled with violence and guns are at the heart of it. This just isn’t the case for a majority of gun owners. On average there are 9,289 homicides using a gun but there are nearly 111,000,000 gun owners making only .008% of gun owners violent. Coupled with people interjecting what they believe the video meant just makes the entire situation negative towards your average gun owner.

The content of the video is not actually that good, because Mr. Glover used so many different topics. It appeared he could barely finish one reference before starting another. This leads to people being lost and constantly distracted leaving the references unexplored and unexplained.

This leaves many people wondering, where is Mr. Glover? Since Mr. Glover seems absent from the conversation as to follow the same suit as every celebrity that has taken a similar route. Say something controversial, start the conversation, win an award, and then move on from the issue. Celebrities merely accept their award and fade out of the discussion until the next time ratings need a boost. Another issue is that in the video Mr. Glover reprimands other creators for using violence to sell their art.

Instead of criticising others for their use of violence to get views while in the same breath using that exact tactic as a “prop” you should set an example. Talk is cheap especially in today’s world and as Mr. Toure put it, “The true power is galvanizing people, solve the problem instead of just talking.” The real issue with the video is the vagueness of it all, it’s not that deep since he does not actually go into anything specific but instead repeats issues everyone already knows about.

To conclude Mr. Glover did a good job as far as art goes… but as for being deep or controversial about America and its culture, the entire video is a failure.


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America is Less Culturally Free than it Realizes

By Ryan Lau | United States

In American politics today, Republicans and Democrats dominate the national stage of conversation. More often than not, media and government crush dissenting ideas, and this is not surprising. In fact, it makes perfect sense that those in power would not cede that power to anyone else. However, it appears that in America, the issue with the two party duopoly runs much deeper than a simple government power. In fact, coercion and violence are both big parts of American culture. The alleged land of the free does not practice their principles, in the political realm or in its society.

A Coercive Start

As young as infancy or early childhood, many American children learn the principles of coercion. This comes through many of the traditionalist, “sit down and shut up” mindsets that both schools and parents practiced. Specifically, the old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” is highly detrimental to the American public. By nature, children will learn from figures of authority, and will imitate those figures in an attempt to learn from them. A psychological fact, this is not necessarily good or bad. Instead, it is entirely dependent on the lessons that they learn before they reach an age where they can think more for themselves. Yet, the lessons and examples have much to be desired.

An Assault of Adolescence

Moving into adolescence, free thought begins to become more prevalent. However, free thought, just like coercive thought, is not necessarily good or bad. Rather, it depends on the messages that it brings. In these critical years to a child’s development, they often associate with increasing levels of coercion and violence. Now, this is not to say that every teen will develop violent tendencies. However, it turns out that such violence and coercion spread like a plague.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics about the epidemic of teen violence. In their study, they looked at data involving both threats and action, and the stats were horrifying. For instance, one in every twelve teens made a threat to use a weapon against another each year. Thirty percent of all teens were either bullied, or were a bully. Though many schools have taken action in recent years against this coercive culture, it is not enough.

In fact, the prevalence of these acts may, if anything, be increasing as social media use also rises. Recently, the American Journal of Public Health conducted a study about the causes of teen violence. It showed that adolescents are far more likely to commit a violent act or crime if one or more close friends had done so. Specifically, they were 183% more likely to have hurt someone badly enough that they needed medical attention, and 140% more likely to have pulled a weapon on another. This is not a culture of true freedom, as freedom requires that each individual has a  negative right to liberty. By using violence in such staggering numbers, American teen culture shows it has little in common with freedom at all.

Violence: An American Way of Life

Unfortunately, it appears that these violent tendencies simply do not go away with age. Killing in America occurs 87 times every day. The violent crime rate in Washington DC exceeds 1% of people annually. Battlefields in Afghanistan often see lower casualty rates than a typical day in Chicago. It simply baffles me how people can call America the land of the free, how they can worship the alleged culture of freedom. In reality, a culture of freedom is one that protects the rights of its citizens.

Consequently, it must recognize the importance of life, liberty, and property. Yet, American culture does none of these. Clearly, life and liberty are irrelevant to many Americans. But the extent of the violation of rights goes far beyond this, and applies to every voting, law-abiding, taxpaying American. By supporting politicians who start wars and impose unjust taxes upon citizens, Americans are, in their own way, supporting violence. By following laws which require them to pay services to a government which will do the same, they are supporting violence. Yet, they often brush this off with a casual excuse about society and its traditional function.

Thus, cops, criminals, and almost everyone in between are guilty of such violence. In doing so, they contribute to the culture, furthering its grip on this country. Surely, the “land of the free” truly has a long way to go in order to live up to its name.

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The Ever-Changing Meaning of Patriotism

By Willie Johnson | USA

If a nation is defined by the patriotism of its citizens, the United States is in dire straits. Today’s political climate has changed the very definition of patriotism, giving the term new meaning as time progresses and modern controversies stack up. Anti-authority sentiment and fierce dedication to home soil take hold in the Revolutionary Era, but today, criticism of the government and respect for military service has come to dominate American ideas about patriotism. Current attitudes are, for the most part, a healthy byproduct of patriotism, but pride for one’s country should spring from the early idea of love and enthusiasm for home.

The classic idea of patriotism first came about at the birth of America itself, but the kind of blind loyalty in many forms that it advocated remained a constant aspect of American culture until very recently. Religion has always played an important part, too, with many Americans holding their dedication to God above all earthly leaders while still maintaining respect for the government. While pride for home and country is the physical focus of patriotism, God is the spiritual focus. Worldly problems pale in comparison to unquestioning acceptance of religion, so it is clear why so many patriots cling to it tightly. The blind dedication also manifests itself in those who choose to cling to their principles unto death as a way of supporting their nation. In this case, being a patriot is living by the beliefs and values that America was founded on, allowing it to dictate the way life itself is lived. Although this is only one definition of the word, it has been influential on American culture by shaping the morals of generations of Americans. None of this is to say that patriotism should mean unconditional allegiance to authority, however, as dissidents are patriots under the classic definition too. While the founding fathers stuck close to their faith and principles, it is obvious that they were all dissidents of the highest order—they went against the authority of the British Empire, after all. There will always be some form of malevolent authority to oppose, and if done correctly, such action ultimately benefits the nation. Being patriotic has been characterized by these traits for most of American history, but unique new issues have changed and even called many of these beliefs into question.

Modern Patriotism has distinguished itself by adapting to current issues such as race relations, political divides, and military affairs. Today, being patriotic is primarily about the military and veterans in the eyes of many Americans; because service in the armed forces is widely considered as one of the greatest sacrifices to the country a person can make, it is held up by many as the paramount of patriotism. To those who define patriotism by military service, disrespecting the United States is disrespecting its veterans—an issue that has recently come to a head in the wake of the controversy surrounding the act of kneeling for the national anthem. For some, however, a patriot is someone who actively goes against their government to stand up for the personal freedoms of citizens. Although such behavior can be a good thing, extreme anti-government activity often does more harm to the nation than good. In this instance, patriotism has been skewed to fit the anarchist leanings of certain individuals who claim to support it. Even worse is the purely superficial view of patriotism that many Americans hold; the “patriotism gap” that seems to exist between our two major political parties is, for the most part, simply a contest of showiness. Being a patriot should not be about who waves the bigger flag, but rather who is willing to uphold the values of the nation. Million-dollar jet flyovers at football games and other examples of extravagance are good for hyping up a crowd, but should not be the embodiment of patriotism. Modern times may have cheapened the meaning of that it is to be a patriot, but in all examples, certain values shine through that gives hope for the future.

While the modern focus on superficial values like military service or contempt for government divides the nation, its original, unfettered form remains to hold all Americans together. For me, patriotism means dedication to values (whether they be religious or moral) and a healthy lust for liberty, free from the flaws of destructiveness and vanity. Attitudes are bound to be changed by crucial events and the passage of time, but the past does not have to be forgotten.