Lee Greenwood, a song writer, describes the emotion involved inAmerican self-perception in a song by saying, “I’m proud to be an American. Forat least I know I’m free. ” Freedom is the founding pillar of the American self-perception.
Self-perception is the culmination of how one views oneself. Otheraspects which make up American self-perception are wealth, power, and thepursuance of happiness. Self-perceptions, whether confined to the individual orconfined to an entire country, usually leave out negative aspects such ashypocrisy. When dealing with the perception of a country, the true image of asociety comes from self, or internal perceptions, combined with the externalperceptions from other countries. The foundation of American self-perception is freedom.
Freedom of speechand movement are virtual institutions in the United States. Such freedoms ofspeech and movement are outlined in the United States Constitution. Americansbelieve the constitution sketches the “American Dream” which is having a family,money, and the freedom to pursue happiness. Every American will stand by theline derived from the Constitution, “All men are created equal. ” In actuality,the constitution outlined the freedom for rich white landowners to achieveunchecked power and wealth. At the time of the framing of the constitution,blacks were slaves thus all men were NOT created equal.
Women were equallyexcluded from the constitution as suffrage wasn’t even a consideration at thetime. The only class groups which the American Constitution outlined freedom forwere wealthy European immigrants fleeing their own land for such reasons astaxes. After such movements as Suffrage and Civil Rights, all Americans weregranted individual rights of freedom thus approaching equality. The American self-perception of living a life of virtual completefreedom parallels the American stand on its’ belief of democracy. Americansfeel that a democratic government is the only possible administration which canbe deemed acceptable in today’s world system. Such a deep rooted belief indemocracy instills a fear and dislike of any other form of government.
Look atAmerican policies towards the Soviet Union after the second world war. TheAmerican enemy image of the Soviets was that of a populace of evil and cleverpeople who pushed their form of government upon weak nations all over the world. The base of Soviet fear was based and strengthened not on fact but a fear of theunknown. The American response to the Soviets was to contain U.
S. S. R throughpolitical and military interventions in countries where there was a possibilityof the formation of a communist government. American intervention dominated thewestern hemisphere as a bipolar world system arose with the United States in thewest and the Soviet Union in the east. By using extensive intervention, theUnited States turned incredibly hypocritical as they were pushing their form ofgovernment upon smaller, weaker countries which were dependent on American aid. This is no different than what the “evil” Soviet Union was doing in the easternhemisphere.
Also by forcing American government style upon other nations, theUnited States was restricting the choice and freedom of independent states. Thisthreatening of choice contradicts the American belief that every country shouldbe democratic. Again another form of hypocrisy has occurred in American self-perceptions and beliefs. Other nations view America slightly differently than what the Americanself-perception details. Let’s take the Polish perception of Americans.
Eversince the Polish Solidarnosc movement of the late 1980s, America has been thereto lend a helping democratic hand. Help from the United States come in theforms of economic aid and increased trade. For the United States, a democraticsphere of influence in a former Eastern Bloc country was considered to be aprized possession. To Poland and the Polish people, America was doing more thanhelping democratic reform, they were trying to mold Poland into a mirror imageof the United States just as the Soviets tried to mold Poland into a miniatureSoviet Republic.
This overbearance of American help borders on imperialism. Suchoverbearance which disturbs the Polish people is the recognition of suchAmerican holidays as the Fourth of July. All over Poland, particularly in Warsaw,extensive news coverage of American Independence Day spans the entire daythrough such mediums as television, radio, and newspaper. Poles view this asAmericans having a superiority complex. While the general consensus all overPoland is that help from America is a godsend, Many Poles agree that theintermingling of American culture with Polish culture is unacceptable.
Neverhas the US ever extended another country such equal treatment. A large sectionof the Polish population views Americans as wealthy and powerful on thepositive side, and imperialistic and egotistical on the negative side. The American true image is comprised of more than self-perception. Howother countries and cultures perceive Americans is a important part of what ittruly means to be an American.
Americans see themselves as free and righteouswhile other countries like Poland view Americans as ethnocentric. What manyAmericans fail to see in their self-perception is, that intermingled withintheir beliefs and practices, hypocrisy. Hypocrisy dominated the Americancontainment policy of the Soviet Union in the Cold War era. As Americans werecondemning the Soviets for pushing a communist government, Americans themselveswere pushing democracy in weaker, dependent states.
To find the truth of what itis to be American, you must combine other countries perceptions into your own,otherwise you will only achieve half the truth. Category: History