America the Idea Trumps America the Nation State

Arguably, the United States is increasingly becoming what Castells calls the “public sphere.” As immigrant populations continue to grow and thrive, what has become more important is less assimilation than the ability, right and freedom to retain that which is culturally defining. No-one it seems, wants to lose themselves in the notions of being American with it now vague notions of Mom, baseball and apple pie.   Rather, the spirit of Americanism, which facilitates great liberties and opportunities, empowers citizens, protects and upholds civil rights and imbibe each individual with the freedom to wave their flag – is what prevails. What appeals is the preservation of the freedom to retain one’soriginal culture,  that which is “foreign” as evidenced by the fact that even if that culture is intrinsically opposite to American culture and lifestyle (witness the advent of Muslim American, Indian American, Palestinian American) it is preserved, welcomed, cherished.  Of greater importance is the idea of America and what it means to be American rather than the physical boundaries that define the nation state.  Castells’ speaks of “the political/institutional space that is not subject to ay particular sovereign power but that is shaped by …variable relationships between states and global non state actors,” which is exemplified in the US provision of an untouchable space that is protected by the government and the constitution.  One may not be able to fully grasp what it means to be American in a foreign land, but with the help of mass media and communication technology, immigrants don’t have to. They can retain and strengthen the connections to their homeland through a variety of communication and technological tools and services and enjoy the best of both worlds. But what binds new immigrants to America when there is the perception that there is an overabundance of American culture across the globe and that being awash in it may necessitate giving up what makes one happily different? The global communication media system – now expedited by lightning fast technology – facilitates the shift from territirially bound nations to a readily accessible media system with networks.  Interconnectedness within teh public sphere has also resulted in shifts in power dynamic and political power. For example, speaking out against publicly and too vociferously against illegal immigrants has become vastly unpopular and is perceived by some as “unamerican. ” In fact, for a group that formally has no political clout (in that non-citizens cannot vote) politicians prepared to vote for or against stringent illegal immigration laws or reform are tremendously sensitive to voting patterns that may alienate constituents and lead to their unseating. s such has tremeendous clout.   

Indeed, the manifestation of several global issues such as environmental and ecological challenges, global security, protecion of border, food and water shortage have given rise to what Castells refers to as the global civil society. These and other burgeoning issues necessitate joint global effort and the cooperation and political will of states, non-state actors and supra national But it begs the questionof long-term national cohesiveness.  That we are all connected, living up close and personal, sharing this precious space as a result of global media systems and communication technology does not mean we are sufficiently spiritually evolved to truly get along. Now, one finds, communities, neighbourhoods and cultures are willfully, voluntarily segregated, each jealously mining their own plot of land.  Can we all just get along?


About inteltakeover

This blog is written and maintained by of a group of graduate students in the International Communication program at American University's School of International Service.
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