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America's Cultural Mindset

That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and acquisitiveness; that practical inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things...that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil...these are traits of the frontier....

Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, 1893

Without the western, America would be a cipher, a land that casts no shadow. The West is our garden of eden, transcribed and spun by Hollywood into the western, our national Bible.

Deanne Stillman, "Riding Into Film History," LA Times, 3/7/04


America's advantages are obvious to everyone. Its disadvantages are less obvious. Here's my analysis of our predominant cultural mindset, which I call the cowboy or John Wayne mentality.

How America's values originated and evolved:

Native vs. non-Native Americans:  a summary   America's original sin.
America's cultural roots   From the Bible to the Wild West frontier.
Manifest Destiny = America's pathology   Suffering from "the peculiarly American version of Christianity."
A shining city on a hill:  what Americans believe   Bringing the light of civilization to the world.

America's predominent ways of thinking:

America's exceptional values   The self-proclaimed greatest country in history.
Straight shootin' with the Duke   America's icon, the man who represents us, for better or worse.
America the warrior society   Defining ourselves as the toughest, manliest dog in the pound.
Victor or victim:  our new national anthem?   "Dominate," a heavy metal song and national attitude.

How America's cultural values manifest themselves:

Defining great American literature   "The central theme in the American drama has been race...."
Highlights of the US report to the UN on racism   Racial discrimination persists despite our efforts.
Outside the so-called ethnic box   Are minorities balkanizing America?
Stereotype of the Month contest   How we see Indians exemplifies our superficial thinking.
Quotes on Native stereotyping   The insidious effects of being treated as a caricature.
The harm of Native stereotyping:  facts and evidence   It isn't just "political correctness."
Violence and terrorism
Violence in America   Analysis, sources, examples, and solutions.
Why white boys keep shooting   What happens when we don't get our way.
Terrorism:  "good" vs. "evil"   How 9/11 polarized America into "us" vs. "them."
Intolerance and hate
Right-wing extremists:  the enemy within   Klansmen, neo-Nazis, Christian patriots, and more.
Brotherly love, American style   The terrorist attacks revealed America's bigotry and xenophobia.
The last refuge of a scoundrel   Repression and censorship in the name of "patriotism."
Greed and selfishness
Libertarianism = anarchy   Conservatives want the power to rape and pillage America.
Corporate culture:  rotten to the core   Business executives lie, cheat, and steal to get ahead.
Are taxes "theft"?   Citizenship means paying your fair share of society's costs.
Political and economic control
Globalization:  exporting the American way   "The world must learn that what we say, goes."
Globalization according to Gilligan   Our desire to remake the world is evident in everything we do.
Technology vs. Native values   Computers and other technologies help cement Western rule.

What to do about America's cowboy culture:

Culture and Comics Need Multicultural Perspective 2000   Recognize that our cultural values are pervasive.
PEACE PARTY, a multicultural comic book featuring Native Americans.  (What else?)

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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