American Culture

After reading the essay written by Randolph Bourne on “Trans-National America,” which does feel dated in some areas while reading. Although, Bourne talks about the failure of ‘melting pot’ where no one is forced to melt into the American culture. One way where the essay feels one hundred years old but is still relevant to the current situation that states, “It is not to fear the failure of democracy. It is rather to urge us to an investigation of what Americanism may rightly mean. It is to ask ourselves whether our ideal has been broad or narrow—whether perhaps the time has not come to assert a higher ideal than the “melting-pot” Surely we cannot be certain of our spiritual democracy when, claiming to melt the nations within us to a comprehension of our free and democratic institutions, we fly into panic at the first sign of their own will and tendency” (1). In my opinion, Bourne was looking for a redefinition of Americanization. Also, all the values, debates that are political and/or social are to be surrounded with multiculturalism. A personal example of adopting culture flavors was when I moved from India to America. I had to learn about the American culture, music, sports team, where to do grocery shopping and all that which helped me fit into the American culture and being in school.

In the essay it talks about how concurring the American culture does not mean one is Americanized, “It does not mean that they have been really Americanized. It means that, letting slip from them whatever native culture they had, they have substituted for it only the most rudimentary American –the American culture of the cheap newspaper, the “movies,” the popular song, the ubiquitous automobile. The unthinking who survey this class call them assimilated, Americanized” (4). It is true that our roots remain the same, but we change ourselves to blend in the American culture, so we don’t look odd. As I did have the advantage of coming to a country at the learning age of 12 years old studying in middle school, it was acceptable to make mistakes and learn from it then having to struggle.

Similarly, Bourne’s statement on “We act as if we wanted Americanization to take place only on our own terms, and not by the consent of the governed” (1). It shows that being in a new country in new place having a different cultural identity with its base from another country, wanting to become American. As coming together with differences are allowed to co-exist. I also think that freedom played a role back in 1916 and is still relevant in today’s date. As it mentioned, “If freedom means the right to do pretty much as one pleases, so long as one does not interfere with others…treatment of the invading hordes” (3). I think back then it was allowed to practice any religion, culture, holidays, and being able to speak (freedom of speech) was given. The freedom topic is still relevant today because both the dominant group as well as the minority group practice freedom of speech, religion, and whichever culture we want to perform. Few times in the essay, it felt like Bourne was sending a message that immigrants are coming to America in search for freedom. For example, Indian immigrants are not forced to go to temples every Sunday but have the freedom to go whenever. As immigrants we also know that certain rules and regulations have to be followed whether it is to follow traffic rules or going to temple, we know the advantages and the disadvantages for the situation. As Bourne in the essay says, “…qualities should be washed out into a tasteless, colorless fluid of uniformity” (4). This quote mentions that no matter however we assert the American culture, we fail to melt (to be powerful as one, one should melt together). Bourne points out that this should not happen, as it is a result of cultures mixing together without any fusing. He also thinks that one should stop looking for ‘American’ Culture as our focus should be mixing of cultures as the cosmopolitan ideal. He believes that handing the un-done work for the next generation can bring a new light towards the culture that we share. He states, “It is not what we are now that concerns us, but what this plastic next generation may become in the light of a new cosmopolitan ideal” (2). This is relevant today because he referred in the 1900’s informing about the next generations bring light with the mixed culture. “We are not dealing with static factors, but with fluid and dynamic generations. To contrast the older and the newer immigrants and see the one class as democratically motivated by love of liberty, and the other by mere money-getting, is not to illuminate the future” (2). Bourne’s point of view between the old and the new immigrants were to believe that both are looking for the same thing. Though, the common thing between the two was the cultural allegiance towards the homeland to which Bourne mentions English snobberies, English religion, English literary styles... and the American cultures carries nothing but the name with certain rules within government and its lifestyles.

In the end, Bourne essay does seem dated. The essay talks about many topics in which his point of view is dated but still relevant in today’s date. American culture has a lot to offer to the immigrants and Bourne’s point of view, its multiculturalism makes it unique from other countries. The focus is to live together, not assimilate one. That is forcing to understand and be inside the American culture, which is not what Bourne states.