In general, culture is associated with the principle of inheritance. It is regarded as human beings acquire all matters and transmit them from the generation to generation while growing up in the society, including standards of morality, attitudes, perceptions of reality, rules of etiquette, language, etc. According to this definition, it is possible to assume that the US does not have culture at all. The main reasons for it are that this country does not have deep indigenous roots. In addition, its population is not homogenous but international one. Nevertheless, if to regard the culture from the new perspective, it becomes clear that the assumption about the US is not correct. In case of America, it is necessary to examine not the traditional culture created by transmitting of knowledge from the generation to generation but the new variant of it. It can be determined as the “accumulated culture” or “cultural mixture.” The historical analysis of the US reveals that its culture is built from the separate influences received from different groups of population, which are harmoniously connected and interrelated in the modern society.
The Impact of the New World Discoverers on the American Culture
Christopher Columbus was a Genoese sailor and merchant known as the discoverer of the New World. His primary mission was to find the route from Europe to Asia via the Atlantic Ocean. On October, 12, 1492, Columbus and his crew accidentally landed their ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, on the new territory, which they thought was the Indies. During the time between his first voyage (1492) and the last fourth one (1504), Columbus succeeded in claiming the territories of the New World such as Central America, the mouth of the Orinoco River (today Venezuelan territory), and many Caribbean islands for the Spanish crown (Juang & Morrissette).
It may seem that Columbus’s discovery of America has nothing to do with its modern culture. Many researchers treat this event as significant only from the historical and geographical perspective. Nevertheless, when to investigate more closely, it becomes obvious that it has a direct impact on the present situation in America. Firstly, Europeans introduced wheat, grapes, apples as well as horses and pigs for the New World. Thus, these products and domestic animals are common among American modern citizens. Secondly, with Columbus’s arrival, many European diseases were brought in the New World. Illnesses such as smallpox and measles disturb the citizens of America even nowadays (Bennett).
The Impact of the Colonizers on the American Culture
After discovering, America had been a colony of other European countries such as Spain, France, and England for many years. Each of them sought to achieve its own goal in America. For example, the main motive of Spanish and French colonization of America was the economic one. Conquers defined the possibility to mine gold as the main factor that made America attractive to them. In addition, they desired to expand their territories using America in order to spread their religion and cultures. They built churches, sent missionaries, presented the European way of farming, and encouraged native inhabitants to accommodate to their styles of life (Fisher, 1997). Concerning England, economic, religious, and cultural motives were accompanied by the desire to tighten the royal control. King Charles II used colonies in North America to strengthen the control of his initially unstable leadership and pay off the debt incurred during his fight to regain the throne (Schultz).
In general, the cultural influence of colonizers can be mainly noticed at the level of ideas. It was the orientation of American population on the materialistic values. The continuous desire of colonizers to gain profit exemplified for the natives that money was the means to occupy the ruling position. In the modern culture of the US, this impact has turned into the notion known as “American Dream.” With a flow of time, it underwent many transformations. For example, early settlers traveled out West to find a good fortune. Nowadays, it has been gradually substituted by a simple wish based on the materialistic values such as having a luxurious house, car, and life. Modern American Dream is associated with the desire to rise from rag to riches and gain wealth, power, and high status (Hobby). Nevertheless, the main features of the American Dream remain stable. They are perseverance, self-reliance, freedom, and a desire for the better life.
The Influence of the Indigenous Population on American Culture
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Native Americans (tribes such as Apache, Arapaho, Blackfoot, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Comanche, Crow, Navajo, Nez Perce, Pawnee, Shawnee, Shoshone, and Sioux) suffered greatly from Europeans’ arrival on their territories. Colonizers tried to assimilate their religion, language, and customs. Although native citizens understood that colonizing was, in fact, invasion of their lands, they could not stop it, as Europeans had more advanced technique and ways of home keeping. In addition, the great burden brought by Europeans on this land was the reduction of the indigenous population due to death from illnesses, forced labors, and compulsory removal from their territories (Luebering). One of such removal is known as “Cherokee Trail of Tears.” Between 1790 and 1830 because of increasing population of Georgia (new settlers came to find the gold), Cherokee tribe was made to leave their native territory. The native tribe was forced to march a thousand miles with minimal food and facilities. Approximately 4000 Cherokee died due to harsh conditions (Burgan).
On the one hand, the cultural gaining of Native American tribes from Europeans can be defined as a negative one. It can be mainly associated with suffering and the desire to survive. In the ancient times, it was revealed through religious practices. Native American tribes developed many religious rituals which, according to their beliefs, could protect them from the European invasion and discrimination. In the modern conditions of the US, it remains in the form of feasts. Modern Americans borrowed the tradition of magnificent celebrations from the native tribes. There are many festivals in the US which duplicate the traditions of native tribes, including ceremonial dances in decorative costumes, sacred rituals, art and crafts vendors (Hayden).
In addition, the oppression of indigenous population has the consequences on the social level. The U.S. nation is not as united as its ancestors, who could perform the task of consolidation and hence had been destroyed and assimilated by the colonizers.
On the other hand, the benefits, which Native Americans gained from the Europeans, should not be underestimated. Firstly, colonizers introduced metal tools and weapons to Native tribes. Although some of them were quite advanced in agriculture, astronomy, or engineering, they still used tools made from stone, wood, bone, or clay. In addition, Native Americans were provided with different helpful domestic animals such as sheep and horses, which made their life easier (Bennett). All these borrowings play a significant role in the modern development of the US.
The Influence of Slavery on the American Culture
One of the main stages in the history of America is African American slavery. From the historical point of view, many researchers accused Columbus of the introduction of slavery in the New World. Nevertheless, the root of African slavery took its place before the discovery of America. From the ancient times, there were trade routes across the Sahara linking the North and West of Africa. Camel caravans took salt, horses, copper, and other goods to West Africa and brought ivory, kola nuts, gold, grain, and slaves back to the North (Hatt). This trade had been developed for over 600 years before Europeans arrived (Carey & Kitson). However, when Columbus discovered the New World on the other side of the world, it resulted in a great need for slaves to work on the new territories. Europeans brought captured Africans across the Atlantic Ocean (Hatt). They used the method of a “triangle trade.” Ships from England and Europe traveled to the “Gold Coast” of Africa to pick up slaves. Thereafter, American colonists exchanged raw materials such as cotton, timber, and tobacco for slaves. Finally, the ships returned eastward across the Atlantic (Bennett). In general, slavery marked the history of the US from 1619 to 1865 (Marsh).
Although there are no slaves in America nowadays, the cultural impact of it remains. On the one hand, it can be associated with the discrimination of black people. It can be revealed at the level of the attitude towards the blacks in the US. In some aspects, it remains as derogatory as in times of slavery. For example, the police are more likely to suspect and arrest black citizens rather than the white ones. Many of the blacks suffer from discrimination in work places. Moreover, it is deeply ingrained in popular culture that the latter are lower in status than the white ones. That is the reason their lives are not as valuable as the lives of the white Americans. The proof of it is the current tragic event: a police officer killed an African American teen in Ferguson, Missouri, due to the personal negative attitude towards him (Eidelson, Lyubansky, & Malley-Morrison).
Nevertheless, it is necessary not to underestimate the positive impact of the period of slavery on the US. Slavery introduced new citizens for America – African Americans who enhanced the culture with own traditions and skills.
Firstly, it can be noticed in regard to music. Soul music was born in the heart of a black community. Performers of soul music used the upbeat melody as an instrument to promote the black pride and self-awareness concept. In addition, black people gained an opportunity to discuss depressing social and economic conditions and possible solutions for improvement through the texts. Nevertheless, soul music was popular not only in the narrow circles of black people but also in the broad ones. As it was concentrated on revealing emotions, it also attracted the white public. For example, soul music was the main direction of work of famous singers such as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, etc. Popular music, rhythm and blues known as R&B, also was created under the influence of the blacks. It is based on the best achievements of the musical traditions, including rural and urban blues, black swing, boogie-woogie, jazz combos, vocal harmony groups, and club lounge trios. It is necessary to mention that this type of music, due to its aesthetic qualities and danceable characters, attracted not only African Americans but also white people, especially teenagers.
Secondly, Afro-American contribution to the U.S. culture can be found in the field of philosophy. Famous social leader and philosopher of Afro-American origin, Martin Luther King, enriched the American philosophy with a new study of non-violent protest. The biggest achievement of Martin Luther King can be noticed on the example of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the largest civil rights demonstration in the country’s history. The inflammatory speech I Have a Dream of King united white and black Americans. It persuaded the whole world that discrimination would not bring any advantages under any circumstances.
Finally, even regarding leadership, it is possible to notice the positive contribution of the black culture. The current President of the United States has Afro-American roots. Nevertheless, it does not prevent him from achieving success. His curious mind, well-developed mental skills, and broad outlook make the authorities of other countries take his opinion into consideration. In addition, the trait of his character such as respect for all cultures has helped him to achieve an unreal breakthrough. During his Presidency, the US has changed into a state of freedom where everyone is able to reveal his personality.
The Influence of the Revolution on the American Culture
The American Revolution, known as the American War of Independence, started in 1775. It was a war between Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America. The main cause of it was the complainants of the American citizens concerning the way they were treated by the colonizers as they were not given the same rights. In addition, they wanted to take part in the ruling of their country. However, not only simple complaints but also the significant philosophical enlightenment resulted in the beginning of the American Revolution. The famous philosopher, Locke, in Second Treatise on the Government indicated that all people are born with equal opportunities. Consequently, there should be no divine right of sovereignty, typical for monarchy. Locke’s idea of revolt influenced the U.S. society. Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father, used it as the tool to inspire Americans to stand against Britain and King George’s tyranny. In addition, Locke’s theory of equal natural rights was used as the basis for the American Declaration of the Independence. In it, as well as in Locke’s theory, it is indicated that all people have equal rights as to life, property, and liberty (Wootton, 1996).
The cultural impact of the Revolution and the following Declaration of Independence is significant.
Firstly, it can be noticed at the level of ideas. Americans have gained their dignity and the feeling of national pride. In the conditions of modern life, it can be noticed in their respectful attitude towards the celebration of Independence Day (4th July). It is the national holiday which is associated with parades, fireworks, carnivals, barbecues, concerts, and family reunions.
Secondly, literature has undergone the significant transformations under the impact of the American Revolution. It has reflected all the changes and new ideas. The new American literature (literary works created after the Declaration of Independence) is associated with the topics of the independence, national identity, importance of the freedom, human rights, and equality. The poetry of the revolutionary time is also highly expressive, dynamic, and solemn. It calls for the radical actions and inspires the changes and creation of a new, separate country. Without doubts, the leading poets of that time (e.g. Ph. Freneau, Ph. Wheatley, Th. Paine) managed to evoke the national awareness, amplify the national spirit, and persuade people of the need to form a new state (Byam et al.).
Finally, the revolutionary years have left the reflection on the style of American leadership. In particular, they have provided the American society with positive examples of leaders to follow. One of them was Benjamin Franklin. He is known as a scientist, writer, journalist and editor, speaker and political leader who took an important part in the declaration of the US and carried some of its essential laws and rules into effect. One of his peculiar features is the enormous humanism and philanthropy as well as the desire to create an independent country which could preserve the human rights and confess human equality (Finkelman). The same is true in the relation to Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was a person of the Enlightenment and, correspondingly, valued its ideas above all. He strongly emphasized on the importance of human rights and equality. According to him, if a country does not establish the fairness and laws to protect all its citizens, it has no future. Some of his main concepts found their reflection in his pamphlet A Summary View of the Rights of British America, in which the author expresses the ideas of liberty, prohibition of slavery, and freedom of religious beliefs (Bailyn). His bellefs find a great support among the population even in modern America.
The Influence of the World War II on the American Culture
World War II was one of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century. It is estimated that almost 40, 000,000 – 50,000,000 soldiers were killed during this conflict. Moreover, the number of wounded soldiers exceeds these figures ten times (McNeese). It evolved in Europe as a result of the aggression built into the national socialist German regime under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler (Hixson). Although the US was not geographically bounded to the territory, on which military actions were held during the Second World War, it could not remain apart.
At the beginning of the war, the American President, Franklin Roosevelt, chose the strategy of non-direct fight. In particular, the US provided the democratic countries with financial and material support but did not involve in the battle directly. For example, in 1941, to save Great Britain, which was on the verge of collapse, the Congress provided it with lend–lease aid. In addition, President Roosevelt held the meeting with Churchill, in which they created the Atlantic Charter – the general support of democratic aims (Hixson). Nevertheless, the situation significantly changed when Germany expressed the direct aggression towards the US. On December 7, 1941, Japan without any permissions attacked Pearl Harbors, Malaya, and the Philippines. The US could not remain silent and declared its involvement in the Second World War on December 8 (Burgan).
The U.S. experience in the World War II could not leave the American culture unchanged. Firstly, it created the image of the US as the protector of democratic values in the world. It can be noticed on the example of the U.S. relationships with the Soviet Union in the post war period. The American strategy was determined by the main idea of deterrence of communism and its spreading over the world. The US strongly believed in the harm of the communistic ideas and principles. Being a quite powerful nation, the US considered its main objective in the protection of the equal human rights all over the globe (Hixson). Secondly, the success of the US in the World War II as well as recovery from the Great Depression created the idea of “Great Society” in the minds of American citizens. It encouraged people to gain profound education as well as to work on the improvement of social conditions of life (Hixson). It caused the creation of a strong middle class, which was the basement of American culture nowadays.
The Influence of Modern Peculiarities of Life on the American Culture
Nowadays, the US is known as an international country. This means that different nations coexist in America. According to the data from the 2013 ACS, the U.S. the number immigrants takes 41.3 million, which is equal to 13 %, of the total U.S. population of 316.1 million. Nowadays, U.S. immigrants and their US-born children account for approximately 80 million people. This number is equal to one-quarter of the overall U.S. population (Zong & Batalova). The top five countries from which the permanent immigrants come are Mexico (14 %), India and China (7 % each), the Philippines (5 %), the Dominican Republic (4 %), Vietnam and Cuba (3 % each), and Colombia, South Korea, and Haiti (2 % each) (Zong & Batalova). In addition, it is necessary to take into consideration the great amount of refugees, which find the asylum in the US. In 2013, it was defined that their number was 69,909. Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Burma, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cuba, and Bhutan were the primary countries of nationality for refugees (Zong & Batalova).
Moreover, there are many people of different nationalities living in the US illegally. DHS’ Office of Immigration estimated that 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants resided in the United States in 2012, compared to 11.5 million in January 2011 (Zong & Batalova). Unauthorized immigrants are from Asia – 817,000 (7 %); Europe – 455,000 (4 %); Africa – 317,000 (3 %), and Caribbean – 225,000 (2%) (Zong & Batalova). Top five countries of birth of the illegal residents are Mexico (58 %), Guatemala (6 %), El Salvador (3 %), Honduras (2 %), and China (2%) (Zong & Batalova).
Due to the great diversity of the nationalities of residents, the US is enhanced with various cultural influences. For example, concerning Muslims’ impact, it it obvious that they have provided American culture with their religious traditions. Nowadays, it is possible to find mosques almost in every city. The European impact is mainly associated with business ethics. It is the common practice for modern American businessmen to follow the European standards of production such as to pay primary attention to the protection of the environment, safety and privacy, consumer health, and the minimization of free-market distortions resulting unfair trade practices.
The impact of China on American culture also cannot remain unnoticed. Americans have borrowed from Chinese people the cuisine (e.g. “sweet and sour pork”) and herbal medicine. In addition, they have been affected by the practices of feng-shui. It is one of the modern trends among the U.S. youth. In addition, the multi-national population has the positive impact on the development of education and industry – the essential elements of the culture. The majority of immigrants indicate that the main reason of their arrival to America is the desire to gain profound education as well as job. Consequently, the US has been changed into the brain center of the whole world, which is provided with the best professionals. According to Kauffman Foundation of entrepreneurship and education research group, almost 350 out of every 100,000 immigrants create a new business every month in contrast to 280 out of 100,000 native-born U.S. adults (Crane). The bright example of it is Sergey Brin, the U.S. resident of Russian origin. He graduated Ph.D. program at Stanford, where he met Google co-founder, Larry Page. Their collaboration provided the creation of the most famous Internet search-engine, Google, in 1998 (Crane).
The Influence of American Culture on the World
Nevertheless, the U.S. culture is not only the result of different influences but also the source of the impacts. American culture is strong enough to bring the changes into the reality of other countries. It is possible to notice on the example of India and China. The citizens of these countries are responsible for the enrichment of the American market by 10% and 20%respectively (Schultz & Jain, n.d.). Their markets are overloaded with American products such as gadgets (Apple and Samsung), fashionable clothes (Nike, Adidas, Gucci, and LV), and food (Coca Cola, McDonalds, Snickers, and Nescafe).
In addition, it is difficult to find people in the world who have not watched Western films with famous Hollywood actors and actresses. Moreover, American pop culture is the object of worshiping for the young people of different nationalities. For example, the death of Michael Jackson was mourning on all continents. It was the great loss not only for the U.S. society but also for the whole world. The other pop icons of the U.S. society, which extended their influence to the global scope, are Madonna and Britney Spears. Their worldwide concerts are the traditional things. In different countries, they have the circle of fans, which is increasing at the breakneck speed.
The overview of the US helps to define the face of American culture. It can be described as the cultural mixture. American culture is the “dish” made from ingredients such as European discoverers, colonizers, indigenous population, black people, revolutionaries, experience of the World War II, and international community. On the one hand, it may seem that mixture indicates American culture to be unstable. Many people compare it to the house made from the paper, which can be easily destroyed under the influence of wind, fire etc. They explain their position by the traditional understanding of culture, which is regarded as the treasure transferred from the generation to generation. As the US does not have the uniting factor such as common ancestry, it cannot have a stable culture. Nevertheless, it is not the correct assumption.
In case of the US, it is necessary to go beyond the traditional frames of the definition of culture. This country has provided a unique example for the world regarding the way to build the strong idea of cultural identity from the various “pieces of puzzles.” The proof of it can be noticed in the U.S. relationships with other countries. As American culture has the power to influence other countries, it is evident that it has enough power to save its identity. That is the reason American culture is the unique notion, in which different cultural impacts are interconnected and interrelated in the strong unity.