Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 3, 2015

What Does It Mean To Be American?

Filed under: immigration — louisproyect @ 1:46 am

When you understand what it means to be a real American, then you can see that most Cubans are real Americans, where most Floridians are not; that most Mexicans are real Americans while most Californians are not; and that many immigrants will never be real Americans, though probably most always were. If this essay makes no sense to you, then you are sober in your delusions, for I am drunk in my insights. Insight knows itself to be particular, whereas delusion imagines itself to be general. This separates Carlos Castañeda from John Ashcroft. If you don’t like my icons, then pick your own, just make sure they are real, like Crazy Horse and Noam Chomsky, instead of fakes like George Armstrong Custer and Henry Kissinger. If this rant makes any sense to you, then you are capable of seeing that the America that will survive into the 22nd century, in peace and security, is as remote from the America of George W. Bush as that of Mark Twain was from J. P. Morgan’s, or Kurt Vonnegut’s was from Richard Nixon’s.

via What Does It Mean To Be American?.


  1. An American is someone who asks himself what an American is. Other inhabitants of the world are simply what they are, no questions asked. They’re not exceptional, thank God.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — June 3, 2015 @ 4:20 am

  2. A Tale of Two Conservatives:

    Conservative A: Told me to “leave America” because I didn’t like American Sniper and I don’t “support the troops.”

    Conservative B: Told me I was “too American to understand the satire in Charlie Hebdo.”

    So I remain divided about whether or not I’m really an American.

    Comment by srogouski — June 3, 2015 @ 5:07 am

  3. Would love to hear your take on the Laura Kipnis situation in light of the Vampire Castle piece.

    Comment by Mountain Hughes — June 3, 2015 @ 6:07 pm

  4. 1.) Professors sleeping with undergrads is almost always a terrible idea.

    2.) But there doesn’t need to be a law against it.

    3.) The old rules banning relationships between students and faculty who have an ongoing academic relationship were fine. The new rules are unenforceable and will do nothing but create a culture of snitches.

    4.) There might be more to the Laura Kipnis affair than just an opinion piece. But online “journalism” is so bad these days it’s difficult to get a sense of the basic facts.

    Comment by srogouski — June 3, 2015 @ 8:28 pm

  5. Peter Byrne,

    I don’t think that’s true at all. Certainly in Britain there’s no lack of discussion about what it means to be British. Particularly in relation to immigrants, refugees, Muslims (or more precisely widespread racist attitudes towards them); membership of the EU; and Scottish independence. That’s just three of the issues that are especially prominent right now, but the question of “Britishness” (or “British values”, or the “national interest”) is unavoidably related to virtually any political issue: war, nukes, ‘austerity’ (IE: the richest getting richer, everyone else being made poorer), human rights, etc, etc.

    And as far as I can see, this appears to be the case in most, if not all, countries. So, no, Americans are no more exceptional in that than in anything else.

    Comment by John — June 4, 2015 @ 12:13 am

  6. John:
    Of course I oversimplified. Three lines! But it’s very recently the English got into the game, wondering, for instance, if they had the right flag. Can you imagine that happening in the U.S.A.? Scotland’s move for independence has warmed up the issue. A question arose. If Scotland’s MPs were going to vote in Westminster and also have their own parliament, why couldn’t the English have their own parliament, excluding Scots? The answer was another question. Who exactly are the English? But this ripple of curiosity has come very late in the imperial hangover. In the U.S.A the self-questioning– almost always leading to self-approval– has been endemic. See Emerson and Whitman. This is not to detract from Manuel’s piece that I enjoyed and hummed along to. As for being exceptional, you are right, all nations feel it to some degree. Luckily, though, they are not in a position to make it the basis of a foreign policy that has turned a good part of the world into a war zone.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — June 4, 2015 @ 5:50 am

  7. Basically, being “American” is something that exists mostly in rhetorical tropes, like being “Chinese” or being “Muslim.” The reality is pretty far removed, whether we are talking of Super-Nationalist-Patriot definitions or Axis of Resistance definitions.

    Comment by mui — June 4, 2015 @ 2:30 pm

  8. A party of United Statesers wound up at a theatrical performance in Siberia. Their appearance and demeanor attracted the attention of a child, who asked her mother who those funny people were. “Hush,” said the mother: “they are Americans, and we must pity them. They have no language of their own.”

    Comment by Pete Glosser — June 5, 2015 @ 10:17 am

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