De-Americanizing American Culture

America has commonly been referred to as a melting pot, defined by Merriam Webster as âÄúa place where a variety of races, cultures, or individuals assimilate into a cohesive whole, a process of blending that often results in invigoration or newness.âÄù The melting pot, then, would insinuate combining cultural history to create a new, livelier, superior culture. Merriam WebsterâÄôs definition does not mention anything about tolerance, anything about preservation, anything about the richness of protecting many unique cultures. It seems, instead, to be more of a puree approach. American culture embraces the world by quickly consuming it, bleaching away tradition and streamlining effectiveness to produce a high-speed environment for adaption. In a global culture, being American holds certain privileges as well as limitations. America is a society that thrives on fast-paced efficiency, the quick fix and good deals with little sustainable value. America is stereotyped as a war-loving, selfish bully, a wasteful child, with just about as much intellect. America is a slew of culturally displaced individuals âÄîa group of people that is distant from each other in a community that has become less communal. The culture that surrounds us is one that submits itself on the individuals that try to become âÄúnaturalized.âÄù What these individuals are unaware of is that the process of naturalization is defined as Americanization. Merriam Webster states that Americanization is the process âÄúto bring (someone or something) under the political, cultural or commercial influence of the United States.âÄù Who says America has a better culture? Who says English is a superior language? Who says American values are sounder? America does. But American culture does not evolve, it consumes. America has not taken on a second or third or fourth language or even encouraged the practice of anything but English. We have not adapted to the metric system; weâÄôve ignored it. Our culture doesnâÄôt like change, especially if it inconveniences us. âÄúAmericanizationâÄù means making things easier on America. Our culture is full of ignorance. On one occasion at the Olive Garden, I ordered âÄúBruccetta,âÄù perfectly pronouncing the âÄúkâÄù sound and both tâÄôs. âÄúBruce-ket-ta.âÄù The waitress chomped her gum at me and flipped her highlighted, curled quaff, blinking dumbly into the vacant air. Then she raised the pitch of her voice and said, âÄúActually, itâÄôs pronounced âÄòbrew-shet-ah.âÄô âÄù I suppose, however, she never learned the true pronunciation, so I canâÄôt blame her; she didnâÄôt know. In fact, itâÄôs hard to place the blame on anyone because culture is something weâÄôve inherited. WeâÄôve grown up ignorantly privileged in America. We donâÄôt even realize how difficult it must be for those that try so desperately hard to âÄúbeâÄù American, to âÄútalkâÄù and âÄúdressâÄù and âÄúfeelâÄù American. We need to stop reinforcing the stereotypes. Mainstream television, microwavable food and pop culture shouldnâÄôt be the staple of our society. Culture is about music and theater and the arts and literature and cuisine and heritage and family. The only way we can enforce cultural enrichment is to decide what defines culturally rich, to address the necessity for awareness in our society, to take away American ignorance and embrace diversity. If we do not embrace globalization like patchwork, and resist the smothering forces of Americanization, we are going to stifle the flame of a diverse cultural identity. We need to step out from behind our fences and meet our neighbors. We need to listen. We need to look inward and realize that what needs changing is America, and we need to accept it. Ashley welcomes comments at [email protected]