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Globalizing Americana: Part 20 – American Normativity and the American Way of War

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American Normativity and the American Way of War

In this, the third installment on American normativity, I will discuss the spread of Americana through the media and suggest that non-Americans are also vested in Americana. Our depictions of American culture through the Internet, movies, novels, and video games represent Americana abroad. Specifically then, I am discussing the notion of being vested in Americana through the expansion of American media.

The difficulty, however, in discussing the complications in the rapid spread of American culture throughout the world, affects both non-Americans and Americans living abroad. There is certainly lots of research to be done describing the transmission of culture over the Internet, or even the conception of the Internet as culture, but the particularities of that investigation are not at the heart of my interests.

My concern, here, is to identify how the spread of American ideals and practices influence specifically non-Americans; that is, how does the influence of Americana reshape cultural practices abroad? First, to answer this question requires that I offer an example of an American practice that has spread abroad, which was beneficial, detrimental, or inconsequential in its cultural influence for exclusively non-Americans.

Next, I will have to demonstrate that the influence of this practice has specifically reshaped the existing practice, and finally describe any tendencies to assume traditional practices, that is, original practices prior to American influence.

Being a Gen-xer, which is roughly classified as those individuals born between the early-to-mid 1960s and 1980, I am a product of the Vietnam War, two wars in Iraq, a Cold War, a war on drugs, war on terror, a looming war in Afghanistan, Columbine, Vtech, Pac’s murder, Biggie’s murder, Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and the list goes on.

I am a product of war, and everything that I perceive informs me of war. The life of every Gen-xer is undeniably influenced by this incessant and inescapable proclivity to war. Seemingly, Americans are always postured, always ready for war.

Our fascination with post-apocalyptic society, which is reflected throughout our culture with movies like the Matrix, novels like The Watchmen, and I am Legend does, in my opinion, surface as a manifestation of the guilt of having bombed Japan. To my knowledge, Japan is the only post-apocalyptic culture on the face of the earth, and yet we are the ones terrified of the big bomb, the ominous red phone, mass extermination, and life after destruction.

There is, however, life after destruction. But it is so much harder to build than it is to destroy. Granted, I am not suggesting Americans are only good at war, but it may be our best export. It may be the very thing that non-American’s associate with America.

It would be an interesting study to travel abroad and asks thousands of non-Americans about their favorite American movies and characters in movies. If you are a non-American, stop reading for a moment and ask yourself that question. Who is your favorite character in an American movie? What is your favorite American movie?

Is it Rambo, the Terminator, Dirty Harry, the Predator, Jason, Freddy, Jigsaw, Agent Smith, or Cobra Commander? Is it Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Psycho, or Apocalypse Now? I love all of these characters and all of these movies. I was raised on violence. I was acculturated in violence.

Not into movies? What about video games? Do you like Halo, Call of Duty, or Gears of War? Do you like first or third person shooters, assassination, or seek and destroy? I love all three. I love all of these. I am a product of my culture, of Americana, and I am fascinated by violence. But my fascination has taught me that it is all a very slippery slope. My research over the years into the greatest mass killings known to man always ends in either war or genocide.

During the Cold War of the 1980s, for example, it is widely known that the United States government, fearful of Soviet expansion, subsidized extremist groups to combat the Soviets. There is a remarkable paper titled “The American Way of War through 2020,” which I so fortunately stumbled on in researching for this section of the analysis. It is a must read for all political enthusiasts.

In this paper, there is a rather large disclaimer that the views expressed within the document do not represent the U.S. government, as it is published on a .gov page. Its purpose is solely for discussion point, which is exactly my intention.

In the most insightful quote in the document, an unknown author writes, “Where the applications of this American Way of War may take place in the future is unknown. North Korea, China-Taiwan, India-Pakistan, and Iran, as well as various internal conflicts, are places that threaten war. Would all these cases still be threatening come 2020? The greatest unknown is how the Global War on Terror may proceed and how this American Way of War applies to it,” (pg. 3).

Clearly what struck me was the phrase, “American Way of War.” There is a particular method of war, of engaging the enemy that is uniquely American. In “The American Way of War through 2020,” the role of the Afghanis in stopping Soviet expansion is discussed, which is particularly interesting to this analysis because it is suggested by President Obama that Afghanistan is currently presenting a serious military threat to the United States.

The Internet and the blogosphere are the places to discuss these issues, as suggested in the disclaimer to “The American Way of War through 2020.” Is America exporting violence? Are we masters of war? What is the global perception of our military actions? These questions cannot be answered by Americans; not even Americans living abroad. They must be answered by non-Americans if Americans are to assess a true global perception of our conduct.

Arming and training non-American groups, especially extremist groups, can be the most difficult military tactic one can execute. If we train others in the principles of an “American Way of War,” then they fight like we fight and think like we think. But people aren’t pets; their loyalties sway. If they no longer find allegiance with the United States of America, one can rest assured we will have successfully trained our own enemies.

Now is the time to discuss these issues. There is no need to prolong the discussion any further. Do non-Americans view American culture as a violent culture? Are we viewed as warmongers? What do non-Americans believe about our treatment of prisoners? What is the global perception of the American way of war?

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About Jason J. Campbell