University of Wisconsin–Madison

America

In the Keywords Essay “America” by Kirsten Silva Gruesz, the term America is defined a few different ways. It can be used to describe physical location, but moreover it is used to define ideals that we as a nation hold. America was built on shared values as opposed to shared ancestry. Some of these values are ones like “Freedom, Liberty, Democracy” (17). For a long time, merely saying the word America has invoked a feeling of freedom and pride for inhabitants of the country. The word America has also been described as representing sameness, as opposed to recognizing the differences in backgrounds that exist due to mass immigration to a land that was already inhabited. Instead of representing the vast diversity of the country, the word “has generally been used as a term of consolidation, homogenization, and unification…” (20).

In the book Little House on the Prairie, the idea of America seems to follow this definition. The Ingles parents, particularly the mother, are scared of the Native Americans whose land they take over. Their idea of America seems to be rooted in racism, as if a solely white America is the best America. They don’t recognize the value of diversity and would rather see the Native Americans wiped out than peacefully coexist with them or leave them the land that is theirs. This creates an image in Laura’s mind of America being the land of opportunity, but only for white folks. They also seem to highly value freedom and independence, as they are shown to be a self-made family, somewhat detached from society.

In the hit TV show The Office, season 7 episode 10 is called “China”. In this episode, the boss Michael Scott debates with one of his employees, Oscar, about how America might “beat” China. Michael appears to flail in his arguments and it looks as if Oscar has won. Out of nowhere, Michael makes a passionate speech about how two very different people can freely have a conversation about their country without it being a problem. This is where the definition of “America” in the episode seems to somewhat contradict parts of the Keywords essay. Wherein “America” used to represent homogenization, Michael points out the differences between the two men. He argues that the diversity of America and how different people can come together to have a critical conversation is what makes the United States unstoppable. He does share some views that are very similar to the America described in the Keywords essay. As previously stated, America was built on shared values, including freedom, liberty, and democracy. The bulk of Michael’s speech hinges on the fact that they are free to do what they want. “I am talking about freedom! About choice!” He clearly sees that the idea of freedom is a key factor when describing America. Although he may have his unfortunate moments, this boss understands what actually makes America thrive.

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