Writing at The American Conservative, Emile Doak explains that even though America is a young nation, with an underdeveloped culture, those cultural practices Americans do have should be cherished as pieces of the “American idea.” He writes (abridged):
This past weekend, there was a wedding some 4,000 miles away that nonetheless captivated the American psyche. Across the country, bars opened early, women donned ornate hats, and talk shows gossiped about every detail of a quintessentially British tradition. Yes, the bride was American. Yes, the ceremony indulged more modern accommodations than any of its regal predecessors. Yet despite these moves way from tradition, the spectacle remained unmistakably British. It reflected the culture, tradition, and mores of a specific national identity.
But what are these cultural elements? In his 2009 hit “It’s America,” country singer Rodney Atkins, not exactly an expert in the finer points of the “American idea,” nonetheless provides a clearer understanding of American identity than many constitutional scholars do. Throughout the song, Atkins sketches a view of America based on a list of cultural practices:
Driving down the street today I saw a sign for lemonade
They were the cutest kids I’d ever seen in this front yard
As they handed me my glass, smiling thinking to myself
Man, what a picture-perfect postcard this would make of America
It’s a high school prom, it’s a Springsteen song, it’s a ride in a Chevrolet
It’s a man on the moon and fireflies in June and kids selling lemonade
It’s cities and farms, it’s open arms, one nation under God
The Norman Rockwell-esque picture painted by Rodney Atkins shouldn’t be taken as prescriptive for America’s cultural ills. After all, lemonade and Chevrolets don’t exactly constitute the thickest of culture. But perhaps that’s the point. Ours is a young nation whose very genesis was a repudiation of established tradition, so it’s wholly unsurprising that the United States would have a thin culture. Yet if we care about our home, if we want this to remain “the land we love above all others,” we must preserve these seemingly trivial, uniquely American practices. They are, after all, what make us American.
Read more here.
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