Opinion » Columnists
Author`s name Ольга Савка

The American Way - 24 January, 2006

The American Constitution was written by brilliant wise men who sought to create a civil document for all times, and at the outset, that, was the "American Way"

“The American way” is possibly the catchiest tried and true maxim of all American cliches. It is most often used by Americans in fond reference to matters which make them proud, and there are many, but when these same words are spoken by non Americans, their meaning sometimes takes on a different twist, one which was not intended by the fathers of American lexicology.The American Way

There are some implied suggestions in the use of this expression which may carry many secondary meanings, such as:  "This is the way we do things in these parts", or "Doing things our way is how we got here in the first place and we are not about to change." or simply, "Don't tell us what to do."

Too often, "The American Way" becomes confused with an equally popular saying "The American Dream", which in reality is what “The American Way" was intended to provide in the first place. We must then narrow the distinction between those two catchphrases and a third, "The American Way of Life", the provider of philosophical balance in this equation.

The world moves too quickly today to spend time trying to understand the "American Way of Life", since in that particular life cycle there is a suggestion of having attained a level where contentment overpowers additional greed and ambition. The American Dream, somehow appears to be an unattainable mythical goal often based on the realities of the more fortunate than ourselves.

Americans prefer things to be  "Big", "Large", and that appears to be a major area easily identified with the watchword the "American Way", and merits our first honorable mention. No other nation in this world is in the running for this honor, and we can only ask ourselves how all those countries could be so wrong.

Cars are a case in point. Everyone knows that large cars are the exclusive carriers of important political figures. How can anyone, therefore, feel important in a car designed to reduce the use of gasoline, a dead giveaway that your American Dream has not arrived.

Of course, no society can survive without trucks that can block the width of a football field, limos that can provide for the simultaneous weddings of quintuplets, and utility vehicles that can scale mountains.

While all European countries such as England, Germany, Italy, France, Russia as well as South American states such as Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, in fact most countries of the world, have adopted sports that are best played by athletes of normal corpulence. American sports thrive on the coverage of activities such as Basketball, Football and Pro. Wrestling, whose mammoth sized participants appear to have descended from the elusive Incredible Hulk.

While the immortal artist sculptors of Greece and Italy were content to whittle away large blocks of marble, in America they immortalized a few Presidents by carving up a mountain, and are in the process of repeating the honor for everybody's friend and role model, Crazy Horse.

This fascination with size is exclusive to the "American Way" but it does not and should not of itself disturb anyone's sleep unless we throw in a second "American Way" fetish, the "Very Large" number of weapons stored in homes within easy reach of young people, a right and tradition however heartily endorsed by these words from David Koresh "That's just the American Way".

There is, however, a third "American Way" mania which interplays, and that is the American love-in with TV and movie violence. Surely no one will argue that it is omnipresent, but defenders of entertainment violence argue that there is no solid proof that it begets real time violence. It should perhaps be pointed out that advertisers nationally are not reluctant to spend millions of their dollars for a few moments of influence on behalf of their product, and yet they would have us believe that the accompanying 45 minutes of uninhibited violence has no influence on their viewers?

"Live and let live" is how author Catherine Marshall summarizes all "American Ways" and that seems to cover a wide range, but Senator Lieberman favors "Litigation" as the favorite "Way" of Americans, and George W. Bush, when asked, added that "High energy consumption" in his view is an important aspect of the "American Way". Polls suggest that most people's quick response to this question is simply: "Freedom"

The American Constitution was written by brilliant wise men who sought to create a civil document for all times, and at the outset, that, was the "American Way". They could not anticipate that ultimately their fine work would be restructured through many subjective amendments and twisted relentlessly in its interpretation for ideological and political considerations.

A recent addition to the gamut of "American Ways" is this  Administration's license to bend reality and laws where it suits their needs, and make it sound righteous. Consider that  they went to war against the Government of Afghanistan, their partners-in-arms in their repulsion of a Soviet invasion, they declared war on Iraq, and are in a constant on-going war against terrorism. All the administration officials and supporters refer endlessly to the word war, war, war. They take prisoners and twist truth to its very foundation by postulating that there is no war, therefore there are no prisoners that merit the protection of the Geneva accord, they are in reality "Enemy Combatants" and will be placed in modern day dungeons. To the rest of the world, this does truly represent the new "American Way".

This view is further exemplified by the reluctance of the administration to recognize the reality of civilian casualties. They are, they would have us believe,"Collateral Damage" a term which in their neo-barbarian minds makes all the dead children disappear.

The political system in the U.S. was originally conceived so as to provide checks and balances between the representatives of the people, the Administration, and the judicial. That was the original "American Way". Somewhere along the road, this became less of a priority, and the Representative factions, Congress and the Senate, which the original founders had intended to be the dominant force, became rubber stamps to Presidents from their own parties. This has overboiled into the judicial appointment process so that the "American Way" checks and balances that the founding fathers had thoughtfully put in place are now ripped to shreds by the pervasive self-indulgence of subjective ideological interests.

The "American Way" and the American dollar are never too far apart, and nowhere is that more pervasive than in U.S. politics, whether before elections or after. Parts of this problem are currently front-page news, though we feel reassured, as we have been told that this time, the foxes will definitely punish those among them that ate the chickens.

The cause of freedom is the pervasive American answer when the "American Way" is being challenged, and that is of course a worthy cause. Too often though Americans equate freedom with Democracy and Democracy is not freedom when it is compelled. Is it really freedom when people are not free to choose which freedoms they would sacrifice?

There will always be a distinct "American Way" as there will always be a distinct "Muslim Way", "Christian Way", "Chinese way", and the list goes on. Is it even remotely possible however that lasting peace could be anticipated while dogmatists continue trying to impose their "Ways" on other nations? cultures? tribes? religions?

Paul Forest

Burlington, Vermont    

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