Where did you come from & is it coherent where you want to go?

ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN STAUFFER

With great interest, I read the article UP IN ARMS — RIVAL U.S. Nations.  For many years I have tried to understand how social opinion and culture develop.  The CNN/Fox news cycle does a great job expressing views that may challenge our own.  It is easy to compare one’s personal perspectives against the media espoused values of CNN or Fox.  

That we have all developed within different historical contexts is obvious and potentially profound. In any case, we do not develop without background and context that supports the formation of our values and aspirations.  We are not fully defined by this history, but it contributes greatly to how we feel and how we process value issues.

My family history is Appalachian and I grew up in a Far West “nation”.  My college and graduate education and more than two decades of my work life was Left Coast. In relatively recent times, German and Swiss immigrants added context to my personal cultural history.  As with many Americans, it is a stew, but I believe it does have a specific taste.

Though I feel fully functional in the Left Coast nation, my comfort is in the Far West and I do share Appalachian national values.  Though the author Colin Woodward emphasizes his narrative is focused on the dominant culture and not the individual within the “rival nations”, he provides a context we may use as individuals to consider our personal philosophies and values.  

If our interest is personal growth and understanding, we need to consider where we want to go and what we want to achieve.  Since the concept of “integrity” is defined by individual integration and coherence, we need to challenge where we want to go by considering from where we have come.  The question is does this value grounded opinion make sense in terms of our personal direction – or does our personal direction make sense in terms of our values?

The resolution of these questions should have a significant impact on our ability to act consistently and coherently.  These are basic matters for us to consider.  The personal choice is whether we wish to consider them.  If we do not, we may never understand.

 

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RIVAL U.S. Nations  

Copied from Tufts Magazine Homepage

Up in Arms

Last December, when Adam Lanza stormed into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with a rifle and killed twenty children and six adult staff members, the United States found itself immersed in debates about gun control. Another flash point occurred this July, when George Zimmerman, who saw himself as a guardian of his community, was exonerated in the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Florida. That time, talk turned to stand-your-ground laws and the proper use of deadly force. The gun debate was refreshed in September by the shooting deaths of twelve people at the Washington Navy Yard, apparently at the hands of an IT contractor who was mentally ill.

Such episodes remind Americans that our country as a whole is marked by staggering levels of deadly violence. Our death rate from assault is many times higher than that of highly urbanized countries like the Netherlands or Germany, sparsely populated nations with plenty of forests and game hunters like Canada, Sweden, Finland, or New Zealand, and large, populous ones like the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. State-sponsored violence, too—in the form of capital punishment—sets our country apart. Last year we executed more than ten times as many prisoners as other advanced industrialized nations combined—not surprising given that Japan is the only other such country that allows the practice. Our violent streak has become almost a part of our national identity.

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