Cho: Culture in Cultureless America

By Joon Cho

America has no culture. This young country formed on the heels of revolution during an 18th century rebellion against the then-superpower England and has transformed greatly since those days of tumult. Now, America is often labeled as a “melting pot,” despite controversy around the title. Today, America has become a destination for a myriad of immigrants from a variety of different countries, and consequently of different cultures. The United States serves as home to an extreme variety of individuals. Each person contributes to the amalgam of cultures prevalent in America, none of which is “American,” but all of which help constitute the makeup of America as we see it today by adding their cultural backgrounds to the abundance of cultures spread across the country — many of which we fail to fully appreciate.

There is no such thing as truly “made” in America. Things are derived from differing cultures around the globe. It may seem that the only original American ideas might be the hamburger or fried chicken — both of which have done little but permeate obesity and heart disease throughout the country. Most of the ideas and materials deemed American actually hail from Europe due to the prevalence of early European immigrants who flocked to this country. They took relevant ideas from Europe and applied them to America — whether that be food, art or manufacturing. This same idea applies to those cultures from Asia or Australia or Africa: America has also taken their ideas and applied them to its collection. A prime example of this is foreign food. Cultural cuisines having exploded in the past few years — various foreign restaurants can be seen lining cities and towns across the country.

This is not to say that America has not contributed to innovations around the globe. In fact, America has often bettered ideas originally derived from other countries and cultures, developing them to be more efficient and sophisticated. Nonetheless, these cases are few and far between, and few of those cases are completely American contributions. Instead, America’s primary means of innovation is through its immigration and the variety of cultures it brings in. The intellect of immigrants has supported America’s advancements throughout history, and perhaps made up for the lack of domestic minds to assist America’s innovations.

It seems ironic that the U.S. is currently attempting to limit immigration when the majority, if not totality, of its most innovative ideas stem from its immigrants. It is ironic that, in a cultureless country, we cannot see the influence of the variety of cultures that inhabit this country. In order to maintain America’s supposed dominance, it needs to maintain immigration and promote the inclusion of foreign minds and workers. This has proven to better the country by adding to the amalgam of cultures. Otherwise, America will be severely circumscribed in its ways by failing to acknowledge the role that the various cultures play in its innovation and development. Simply put, we need to better appreciate the mix of cultures prevalent in America.

[email protected]