The concept of American culture as “Western Civilization”

The retrospective view of human history shows that it has always been a moving and mixing of peoples caused by different reasons. For centuries, the intervention of cultures grew reciprocally. Because of this process people now have mixed cultures and many intercultural conflicts. The United States is a great example of a pluralistic society made up of many different cultures and nationalities. It is a nation that is composed by of people who came here from around the world. In the 20th century, after new immigration laws were enforced, two opposing trends became obvious: the one state that America is multicultural; the other claims that America is monoculture.Ishmael Reed, a popular and well-known African American literary figure, represents and strongly argues in favor of the first tendency. In his article, “America: The Multinational Society,” written in 1988, he states that the time has come to review the old-fashioned concept of American culture as “Western Civilization” and to give it a new definition as multicultural. It seems even the tone of Reed’s essay, happy and welcoming, supports the author’s confidence in his point of view and celebrates “multiculturalism.” Ishmael Reed describes mixing of cultures in the United States as “a cultural bouillabaisse”. He confirms that America is mixed up of a lot of different ethnicities, and all of them feel free and comfortable living together, by referring to several episodes from everyday life. One of them, the exhibition of African and Afro-American paintings with mythological symbols and images in a local McDonald’s restaurant show the blend of different ethnicities alongside with the blend of the ancient and the modern. In addition, the author gives us some personal examples, such as his traveling to Texas where, sitting in the plane, he heard the taped voice in two languages: English and Spanish. According to Reed, most of the breathtaking conflicts and disagreements between people of different backgrounds are created by the media. They do not exist in real life. Many scholars still consider it as Western, which is incorrect, in Reed’s opinion. He rejects the concept “Western civilization” itself. “Western civilization, then, becomes another confusing category,” writes Reed. He proves that Western civilization has never been monolithic because it has a lot of borrowings from other cultures and even such notable and remarkable people as Beethoven, cubists, French paintings, and so on, were influenced by other cultures. To prove his argument, Ishmael Reed tells us of the Puritans. Puritanism is a culture that originated in the North-Eastern part of America and, according to the concept of “Western Civilization,” they are known to be our “founding fathers.” The representatives of “Western Civilization” idealize these people as honest, hardworking, faithful, and moral people. Nevertheless, estimating the contributions of the Puritans to the establishing of a great industrial society, the author also shows us a different side of these people. He portrays them as mean and barbaric people who exterminated the native Indians and killed their own children for disobeying their parents. Describing the Puritans, Reed wants to show readers how the old definition for the American culture is nothing to be proud of and is based on a lie. On one hand, the Puritans contributed a lot to the establishing of a great Industrial society but, on the other hand, they did not recognize and excluded any other cultures by destroying them. Unfortunately, the same attitude continues in our days. That is why people need to realize that the concept of America being referred to as “Western Civilization”, or “Civilization created by the people from Europe, as if Europe can be viewed in monolithic terms” is wrong, and can bring terrible consequences for people of different cultures. The other author, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., represents the second trend. In his book, “The Disuniting of America,” he criticizes “multiculturalism”. He wants to see American society as “one people”. As well as Reed, Schlesinger describes America as a nation made up of different cultures and ethnicities. “We have always been a multiethnic country”, writes the author. He also traces back the creation and evolution of the American culture.Both authors speak in unison about the uniqueness of American culture. Schlesinger quotes the French author of the 18th century who said: “Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men.” If Reed describes blurring of cultural styles in America as “a cultural bouillabaisse”, Schlesinger names it “The melting pot”. Moreover, Schlesinger admits the healthy consequences of new immigrations laws. He is against racism and discrimination of minorities and salutes the recognition of achievements of those groups, which were subordinated “during the high noon of Anglo dominance.” Nevertheless, the author is threatened by the fact that dividing the country along different cultures, idolizing of ethnicities, and welcoming group separatism will lead to very bad consequences. “Group separatism crystallizes the differences, magnifies tensions, and intensifies hostilities.” According to Schlesinger, America has always been a country where many different cultures get along together without any serious visible problems due to their assimilation to American culture, values, laws, customs, and beliefs. Schlesinger conveys his concern of the dangerous tendencies to single outan ethnic culture, to raise its self-esteem because, according to him, it leads to group separatism. Schlesinger uses the word “cult” to express this negative attention to “ethnicity” placed before “unity”. He calls the disputes over “multiculturalism,” “political correctness,” and the attacks on the “Eurocentric” curriculum in education “hullabaloo.” He wants the nation to understand that these disputes are destructive; they undermine the foundation of the American culture: “And if separatist tendencies go without stomping them, the result can only be fragmentation and tribalization of American life”. ArthurSchlesinger ties his theory with latest events on the globe. His point is clear:” Ethnic and national conflict are far more than ideological conflict-is the explosive problem of our times.” Examples follow: The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Nigeria, India, and many others. Is there any way to settle these national crises? The answer is positive. The author is optimistic; he believes that “historic forces” and life itself will correct this situation. New generations of immigrants belonging to different cultures, races, religions, and ethnicities, which were born here, consider themselves as Americans. There is a strong tendency of intermarriages and blending among people of different backgrounds. Also, in opposition to Reed, Schlesinger views Europe as “the unique source of the liberating ideas of democracy, civil liberties and human rights.” He disagrees with people who represent Europe as a source of all evil in this world. He points out that those people forget that those cultures they belong to are not perfect, as well. Cultures consist of people who have many flaws and deficiencies and commit many crimes. However, it does not mean that those cultures are bad. People must analyze and correct their mistakes to not repeat them in the future.As we see, Reed and Schlesinger share the same vision of American culture as multicultural society where all cultures are mixed up, and they both concern about the future of this country. The differences between the articles lie in the approach. Reed’s approach is more scientific, on a theoretical basis. He criticizes the attempts to apply old labels to the new type of culture, and to simplify the complex phenomena of the American culture. Schlesinger’s approach is more matter-of-factly he ties theory with the latest events that are breaking up nations because of national and intercultural problems. America was tested for unity, strength and beliefs. The terrorist attack conceived and executed by inhuman fanatics made all Americans feel the same pain, wrath and grief. All Americans felt that they were one nation even more than before. At this time everybody shared the same feelings, which did not depend on your race or your cultural background. I think there is onething that unites all these articles and my opinion. It is that America is a unique multicultural country that unites numerous cultures and ethnicities living together that love America and chose it as their homeland. Even though people wear different clothes, speak different languages, and follow different religions, all of them still belong to one huge and glamorous society and culture. Finally, all these cultures represent an American society and an American culture.