Nov 8, 2017 in Sociology

American Values

The term democracy is among the most common terms currently in use under the political umbrella. Through its dimensions of trans-culture, the important concept of democracy in the American form of governance touches on the fundamentals of human life in societies. It is a goal and an ideal that has received international recognition that is based on similar values shared by individuals all over the world, irrespective of their affiliations in politics, culture, social backgrounds, or differences in economies. Every government that takes office in the US ensures that it supplies the right conditions for implementation of rights of citizens to be exercised under environments of equality, freedom, liberty, legal equality and equality of opportunity, tolerance, and respect for dissent, self-reliance and the pursuit of truth. Therefore, there is a need to discuss such values and encourage the future generations to uphold them, although they are evident in the society and running by  the American government.. This paper argues that the six American values are evident in the American system of governance and that they should be encouraged for continuity of the democratic culture for the benefit of all Americans and future generations.

The author Thomas Paine (1776) published the book “Common Sense” that served to highlight the authority of the government of Britain and the Royal monarchy. His work publicly and openly served to ask for freedom and independence for American people. The first article was of the origin and design of government in general, with concise remarks on the English constitution. He explains the role of society and government in the lives of people and the ways it affects their day- to- day life. He portrays society as a positive influence and composition of an individual’s life, while a negative picture of the government is clearly seen from this article. He refers to the government as intolerable and unavoidable evil in a bid to advocate for liberty (Paine, 1776). He refers to the king as a tyrant who uses his power to oppress innocent subjects. He explains how the absolute government takes advantage of the simple citizens causing them to suffer, although they understand where the problem lies (in the system of government) but are not interested to speak out and demand for liberty. The constitution of the time did not favor freedom and liberty therefore someone had to act against it and enlighten the people who were living under oppression of the monarchial system. The system is such that one powerhouse relies on the other meaning none can outdo the other. The king depends on the House of Commons to approve his large spending and the House of Commons, on the other hand, depend on the king to approve the bills necessary for their own benefits. In order to have liberty in America (Paine, 1776), this system had to be changed and as it is evident today, the constitution is of the people and not of the government.

On monarchy and hereditary succession, Paine (1776) talks of the criteria and distinction applied when assigning the role of kings or subjects. He argues that not even religious or natural forces could truly make that judgment (Paine, 1776). Man was born equal and only subsequent circumstance could destroy the equality that existed before.  When a new race of men who are exalted above others emerge and become kings and rulers, liberty is at stake and an inquiry needs to be setup to prevent such occurrence from recurring. Even in the scriptures and the ancient history, kings and rulers did not exist. Therefore, there was no pride involved between nations and this meant no war (Paine, 1776). As the British government ruled over the people of America, they exercised personal and emotional judgments that often resulted in wars and conflicts. Although there were good kings in the British monarchial system, the majorities were bad and left the subjects groaning (Paine, 1776). With liberty, the peoples’ opinion would be considered before acting.

Paine’s thoughts on the present state of America is a clear cry for liberty and in indirect tone tells the European powers (especially Great Britain) to leave the Americans alone (Paine, 1776). He says that America was meant to flourish even if no European powerhouse had noticed her existence (Paine, 1776). He further claims that all benefits America received from Britain were for their own interest and no attachment was intended. Liberty of thought and freedom exists in America today and the trend needs to continue so that such fake alliances do not come to existence ever again. Liberty needs to be exercised without trending on other people’s rights.

It is common to hear the statement “The American Dream” in everyday’s conversation from the media, politicians, ordinary citizens, authors, and other individuals. It is the strong belief that every American has the liberty, freedom, and right to pursue any goal they desire as long as it amounts to a better life. In his speech, “I Have a Dream”, Dr. Martin Luther King (1963) gives a clear picture of the plight of black people living in the US. He spoke of the police brutality, social discrimination and other racially oriented vices. He advocates for legal equality and a fair share or equality of opportunities (King, 1963). His dream was to see all Americans black or white, living together in harmony. He incites demonstrators and encourages them to fight on and not to rest until the day all Americans will honor the precious constitution (King, 1963).

In his letter titled “What is an American”, author Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur (1781) talks about tolerance. He writes of an American being a super breed of many European and far land countries. From other continents, where love was scarce, to a land of plenty and open-armed people whose origin and social history, prejudices, culture and practices are completely different (Crevecoeur, 1781). He talks of a nice social setting where everyone tolerates the other none being exalted over the other. Son marrying a Dutch wife and their brothers marrying French wives or another nationality, altogether bringing about a new generation of people called the Americans (Crevecoeur, 1781).

In respect for dissent, Henry Thoreau (1849) further emphasizes democracy and governance with his article “Civil Disobedience”. It shows a strained relationship between ordinary citizens and a government that is insensitive to the wants of the people. He proposes a system where an individual’s opinion and sense of respect counts in a decision making process (Thoreau, 1849). As he puts it, an individual’s opinion is the sole reason why the system is known as democracy and if it is not implemented then the system should be shut down (Thoreau, 1849).

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1847) wrote an article, “Self-Reliance” that urges the American citizens to embrace the value of being self- reliant no matter the hardship they may be facing. This is an important value since it gives one the ability and morale to reduce overdependence on government and other parties for help. It allows an individual to think for himself without necessarily quoting another (Emerson, 1847). He argues that a man was created to be self-existent and that one can survive without external help if only he learned how to be self-reliant (Emerson, 1847).

Lastly, in the article, “In Pursuit of Truth”, the author of the book “Six Great Ideas” Mortimer Adler (1981) gives a clear definition of a truth and how to progress it. He talks about how mathematicians and historians differ in methods used to arrive at varying formulas but that, eventually, all disciplines use the same method of improving on established truths (Adler, 1981). An individual American should be able to apply such methods in their day -to -day life and even in the running of an office. It is evident that such is happening today and there needs to be a continuation of the same, to carry on the transparency and democratic system of the American government now, and in the future. All the six values need to be embraced and collaborated for the American dream to be achieved.

Related essays