First, we must have clarification on terms such as culture, identity, and cultural identity that leads us to American cultural identity and its elements. Culture is a very difficult term to define. “It has over a hundred definitions.” (1) To give a simple definition and not to be confused with the hundred definitions, we can define culture in the following way: culture reiterating the customs, practices, languages, values and worldviews that define social groups such as those based on nationality, ethnicity, region or common interests.
Identity is another term that we must know before understanding cultural identity. “The condition or character of who a person is or what he is.” (2) The best way to define the term identity is an answer to the question who am I? We can say that identity is about our self-perception and perception of others. There are different types of identity according to the different ways of categorizing the aspects. Personal identity, social identity and collective identity are the most recognizable. “The concept of collective identity refers to a set of individuals with a sense of belonging to the group or group. For the individual, the identity derived from the collective is part of their personal identity ”. (3) The master forces of collective identity are nationality, ethnicity, religion,
Cultural identity is the identity of a group, culture, or individual to the extent that one is influenced by one’s membership in a group or culture. So cultural identity is a collective identity.
American cultural identity can be defined simply as the sets of values, norms, and beliefs that make Americans American. Collective identity does not conflict with personal identity as each American has their own identity, while Americans generally have a specific collective identity by which they are distinguished from the British people.
Talking about the elements of American cultural identity is difficult, because there are many elements that make it up. To count some of the most important elements, I go for the following.
The English language is one of the elements that, in my opinion, has shaped the American cultural identity. It gives Americans a feeling of British origin and a feeling that the language their ancestors spoke was English like them and I think it makes them think of their Anglo-Saxon origin. The English language, as most Americans speak, has had a major influence on shaping their collective identity.
The idea of egalitarianism or equal opportunity constitutes the second element of American cultural identity. This feeling that we all live in a land of opportunity, while others do not, and we all have a chance to live, has integrated Americans as a whole.
• Exceptionalism and nationalism
The idea of exceptionalism has instilled in Americans the mind throughout history and, as a result, has made them think that they are unique and special people living in a land of opportunity. They believe in American Dream and they think they have had the opportunity to live on this earth and not on other people. Americans believe that they and they alone are exceptional and this idea gives them a sense of a nationalistic point of view. Being a patriot is a very common symbol of being an American and has a lot to do with exceptionalism and nationalism. As an example, the US flag. USA It is considered a national symbol and a symbol that integrates all Americans into one whole.
Liberalism is unduly the most important element of the American cultural identity. The idea of liberalism in the United States is as old as in the United States, where according to the US Constitution. USA People are free to work, love, live, travel, etc. as long as they respect each other rights. Liberalism limits the influence the government has on the personal lives of citizens as well. When people see that they are free to choose what they want under the umbrella of liberalism, they feel that they are Americans and they recognize themselves as Americans.
Individualism has had a great impact on being an American. It has a puritan background. Individualism has aided the creation of property and what is called privacy. Property in the United States is of great importance and gives the owner a sense of why he feels American because he is seen as a result of living in the United States and believing in American beliefs. Individualism is not just about economic terms like property. In terms of culture, cultural individualism is the idea that all Americans see themselves as an individual where the idea of Americanism comes from.
Pragmatism, like individualism, has a Puritan origin. Americans work hard to achieve their goals. The question “What are you doing?” is a very common question in American culture. It means that working hard is a very important factor among Americans. Americans work very hard and always think about the results by underlining the tools with which they can achieve ends. According to the multicultural American context, pragmatic ideas that reject any absolutism became very common because “instead of believing in absolutes, these concepts are believed to be changing and depend on the context in which they are being discussed.” (4)
To conclude this article, we can say that there are many elements through which Americans recognize themselves. A person is called an American when he believes in American beliefs, norms, and values wherever he lives in the United States or not. That is, the term “Americanism” makes sense.