American Culture

A Taste of Christmas

One of the things I love most about our country is that it is not a state built to give expression to a particular “nationality” in the sense that swept the world like an plague in the 19th and 20th centuries. Our country shares a set of political ideals and cultural touchstones, but it is also a glorious mix of different traditions which we, as a nation of immigrants, have brought with us and continued to develop here.

In honor of which — and because it seemed to me that perhaps we could use a “getting to know each other” thread around here — I take the liberty of cross posting the following from my personal blog:

The feast of the nativity of Our Lord has traditionally been a time for feasting and the gathering of family and friends. And since taste and smell are powerful hooks for memory, many of us have intense connections to various Christmas foods and drinks. The other holiday here in the US which is heavily food-centric is Thanksgiving, yet with a few familial variations, the Thanksgiving food palette is pretty well defined. Christmas food traditions, however, are pretty various.

→']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

What Is Middle Class

When one reads 19th century British literature, one of the constant sources of tension is as to who is “a gentleman”. As used in this context, it was a term that applied not merely to manners and honor, but to economic status. A gentleman was not “in trade”. He did not have “a job”. He might own estates which he oversaw, though if he actively worked them his case became much weaker (“gentleman farmer” was more often a term of dismissal as approbation.) He might be a clergyman or a doctor (but not a surgeon — cutting flesh and sawing bone was not manual for a “gentleman.) He might be a military officer. But generally to be a “gentleman” one was expected to live off one’s investments and devote one’s time to either society or unpaid accomplishments. Many accomplishments in fields ranging from literature to philosophy to economics to science during the time period were the work of “gentlemen” who pursued these fields as “hobbies”.

I don’t think this was necessarily a good or healthy attitude towards work, but it’s interesting to me that in the modern US we have nearly diametrically opposed social/economic prejudices. The idle rich could not be more scorned, and it is the object of everyone to claim membership in the “middle class” and ideally to claim “working class roots” as well.

→']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Is Religion the GOP's Downfall?

Everyone seems to have their own idea of what it is that the GOP lacks these days. Kathleen Parker seems to think that the big problem is its lack of a columnist with the prose style, intellectual rigor and cultural sensibilities of a Maureen Dowd — and in her most recent Washington Post column she tries to fill that void. [HT: Cranky Conservative]

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

→']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

What Makes Music American?

Tito and Donald have instituted a worthy tradition of posting music on the weekends here at American Catholic, and so as the weekend winds to a close I thought I would attempt by own contribution to the genre, though with a characteristically analytical slant.

I’m not sure how it is that one can say that a piece of music “sounds like” a particular country. And yet some pieces of music very clearly have a regional tone. For instance, Vaughan Williams orchestral music simply sounds like English countryside.

While I don’t think I could describe what it is that makes something sound American, the following are some of the most American-sounding pieces of music that I know of.

Jerome Moross received an Oscar nomination for the score he wrote for Big Country, the outstanding 1958 western staring Gregory Peck, Charleton Heston and Burl Ives.

The movie itself is very much worth watching, and the score is one of my favorite movie scores. This video illustrates the main theme with scenes from the movie.

→']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Lead Us Into Temptation: American Materialism

To speak of American “materialism” is…both an understatement and a misstatement. The material goods that historically have been the symbols which elsewhere separated men from one another have become, under American conditions, symbols which hold men together. From the moment of our rising in the morning, the breakfast food we eat, the coffee we drink, the automobile we drive to work–all these and nearly all the things we consume become thin, but not negligible, bonds with thousands of other Americans. — Daniel J. Boorstin

What’s wrong with American culture? This question has become prominent in Christian circles as the moral course of the United States becomes more and more frightening. The answer, in one respect, lies in the materialism of the American people. This is not materialism, in the philosophical sense, where all that exists is matter and one denies the existence of God — though that sort of materialism easily establishes this second sort. This materialism is the fruit of avarice and greed. It’s a common mentality — we’re all guilty of it — that we don’t really care about things per se; we know who we are without our possessions. Our sense of self is not bound to the material world. Of all the so-called “-isms” of our time, none has ever been more misunderstood, more criticized, and more relevant than materialism. Who but fools and the occasional nutty libertarian rise to its defense? It’s safe to say that while materialism may not be the most shallow of all the “-isms” plaguing the world, it certainly is among those that have triumphed.

→']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

The American Identity Crisis

Now that America is post-Election 2008, the news media and political pundits — as well as both the Democratic and Republican parties — busy themselves with a host of questions. What went wrong? What went right? What could we have done differently? How can loss ground be made up in the 2010 Midterm Elections and again in the 2012 Presidential Elections? In many ways, people are baffled by the outcome of this election. A few people claimed that there was no way Barack Obama could win as he is the most liberal candidate to run for the United States’ highest-ranking office. Obama not only won, he carried the three major swing states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida and topped it off by turning Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia from “red” to “blue.” Clinton made the argument in the primary season that no Democrat since 1916 has made it to Pennsylvania Avenue without winning West Virginia. Obama didn’t carry West Virginia. It isn’t conclusive yet, but it seems that he even loss Missouri by a small margin — a state virtually no president (except one) has made it to the White House without winning for over a century.

→']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .