Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The First essay of History 392W

I received an A on the first paper of History 392W. I am overjoyed by this grade. Not only this paper is weigh twenty percent of the final grade, but this course is a high level writing intensive course; in other word, it is not an easy A course. Regardless what the final grade I will receive, I am proud by this paper now.

Developing a Sense of American Identity After Independence

Americans paid much effort to win the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of a national government after the war was not without trouble. However, an even more difficult and complicated issue was how Americans gradually attached themselves to the new nation and how patriotic sentiment increased among American citizens. Among many obstacles and difficulties, were many people’s passion for Britain and the ideological and economic diversity between the northern and southern colonies. These two major problems prevented Americans from forging a common ground.
Despite this fact, the sense of Americanism was slowly developing by mixed factors and forces. The pamphlet, Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, straightforwardly pointed out the advantage and necessity of independence. The Declaration of Independence, a fundamental document of the U.S., guarantees basic human rights to American citizens, which is extremely important for the growth of American legislation, the political system and culture. Moreover, the transformation of the historical figure of Washington into a demi-god image, and the mature ceremonials of the Fourth of July can be considered two outstanding forces that contributed to the formation of Americans’ patriotism.
Although America gained official independence and established a new government after the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), not all the people living in this country were happy to call themselves Americans. Given the fact that almost all Americans were immigrants from Europe, many of them were tightly tied to Europe, particularly with Britain, by either lineage or commercial reasons. For these people, they regarded Britain as a nurturing mother who assisted and protected American colonies since the very beginning. They felt that they were closer to Europe than the land of America and were willing to remain loyal to the British king. Moreover, many people possessed the belief that being dependent on Britain was helpful to maintain their established economic position. They were reluctantly to be hostile to Britain.
Not only individuals, but colonies had the sentiment that they were not a whole. Colonies emphasized sovereignty. They joined into the Union for obtaining larger benefits. If their interests were threatened, they believed that they had the rights to withdraw. Since the economic situation and historical background among American colonies were various, colonies had developed very different characteristics from each other. For example, in early British colonies, Chesapeake was characterized by indentured labor; they were mostly single young men with few families or communities. In contrast, in New England, the main economic feature was based on subsistence agriculture and free individual farmers. There were self-governed communities, in which those immigrants’ traditions, cultures and religions were preserved. Sometimes, prominent conflicts existed among American colonies. For instance, during the War of Independence, some southern colonies hesitated about the war for the reason that war could be a major obstruction to their oversea trade; however, northern colonies insisted on the war, because they could only gain sufficient political rights by the means of war. There was a long way to go for colonies gaining a sense of a whole nation.
Despite the mixed feelings of either decisiveness, reluctance, or fear in respect to independence among individuals and colonies, an independent nation was legally established after the military victory. Furthermore, the consciousness of a new nation and the patriotic sentiment were growing slowly. Along many other causes, the pamphlet, Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, was certainly one of the most influential forces that contributed to Americans’ sense of independence.
In Common Sense, Paine argued for the necessity for America to gain independence from Britain. He pointed out that monarchy of Britain was directly against the concept that “all men [were]…originally equals” (Paine 413); in a monarchy, kings were distinct from the people as “new species” (Paine 409). In contrast, “in America the law is king” (Paine 434). Independence meant that America was made and ruled by their own laws. Also, Paine argued for the commercial advantages if America got independence from Britain. Britain was deeply involved in European wars, and it was a drawback for Americans keeping relations with it. If America was independent, it could maintain neutrality and free trade with all European countries. Then, America would have a larger international market, better economy and gain greater profits (Paine 423). Since Paine’s arguments were logical, forceful and persuasive, not only many Americans who were hesitating during the war would convert by them, but later generations have been influenced profoundly as well.
The small pamphlet, Common Sense, clearly and loudly instructed common Americans about the belief of independence for the first time. During the widespread popularity of the pamphlet, people read it, circulated it, discussed it, and were deeply impressed by it. Slowly, independence evolved into one of the most important principles of American tradition. While individuals shared the idea of independence, they were sharing the same history, future and belief of the country. This particular identity of Americans developed not only from the physical existence of the nation, but from people’s psychological understanding as well.
While Common Sense made a great influence on a popular level, The Declaration of Independence forged a common ground to all Americans from a theoretical and governmental perspective. The Declaration announced the essential reasons that British rule must be overthrown; consequently, it affirmed the legitimacy of the new government. It also provided a theoretical base to establish a new nation by asserting that the “truth is self-evident” that “all men are created equal”; all men possess the “rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (The Declaration of Independence A-3). In other words, it is not a certain group of people, but all the people and the colonies that hold certain equal rights. It made a clear break between the new American government and the British monarchy. The Declaration of Independence created the fundamental belief of America.
There are similarities between these two most influential writings, Common Sense and The Declaration of Independence. Paine argues in Common Sense that requiring equality and independence can be easily understood by common sense because they are not something beyond human nature, but are innate rights that people have. Likewise, “self-evident”, a key term in the Declaration, means these human rights are a natural phenomenon that is neither man-made nor need to be proved by man. More importantly, in comparison with Common Sense, The Declaration of Independence is an extremely important government document. Some people might ignore Common Sense, if they stubbornly disagreed with it. However, nobody could deny the impact of the Declaration. Before the Declaration, many people wavered between the concepts of dependence or independence, equality or hierarchy. Afterwards, a theoretical standard was formally set. These concepts of independence and equality became inseparable from the idea of America. Indeed, The Declaration of Independence contributes to the development of American identity.
America is made up of many beliefs that include not only independence and equality, but patriotism and unionism as well. After the War, Americans had a complicated feeling toward independence; someone showed an indifferent attitude because of their ignorance, or someone felt resentment due to their loyalty to Britain. In contrast, citizens with innate patriotism were rare. As Travers comments in Celebrating the Fourth, “such citizens did not occur naturally; they had to be educated, even indoctrinated, to their positions of civic responsibility (Travers 55). Understandably, Independence Day took the main role to educate people on patriotism. Every holiday has its history and significant implications. During Independence Day, people would particularly evoke the history, conflicts, and accomplishments of the nation. This is a mental process that people’s beliefs could be altered subconsciously. Thereafter, the existence of the holiday itself is a permanent reminder. During that particular day, people, regardless of being active participants or merely spectators, are all impacted by an unusual atmosphere. Independence Day is a way to increase the similarities among Americans. It intensifies people’s patriotic sentiment and the belief of the union.
In addition, the annual ceremonies of Independence Day are a cohesive force to bring people together. All the performances and rituals in the day combine together to become a strong and influential force to shape Americans’ collective memories and patriotic sentiment. For example, the morning bells of the Fourth of July ring all around the land and only within America. When people hear them and realize the fact, they are reminded of their patriotism. In fact, there are many elements in Independence Day ceremonies that take the function of education on the concepts of patriotism and belief in the union. “The final celebrations completed the last step of ‘aggregation,’ confirming the parades, speeches, and dinners that made the participants ‘whole’ --- that is, united” (Travers 54).
National heroes are always an important force in forging a common identity in a nation. In America, too, the transformation of the historical Washington into a god-like national hero supplies a unique symbol of patriotism for Americans to share. First of all, Washington was a military leader who made an extraordinary contribution in the War of Independence. A military hero always represents a powerful symbol, both physical and spiritual. The image of Washington particularly satisfied people’s desire for a powerful figure who could not only lead them to establish a new country, but also to protect them from future difficulties. When such an image of Washington was created, it belonged to all Americans, and became a collective memory for them.
Moreover, many external elements contributed to the development of the image of Washington. Among numerous writings about Washington, Mason L. Weems’ Life of Washington, made the legend of Washington reach its climax. The image of Washington in Weems’ book was vivid and inspiring. Weems depicted Washington as a perfect image with full virtues, including “[Washington]’s zeal for unblemished character, his love of truth, and detestation of whatever was false and base” (Weems 19). Although the truth of the material of Weems’ book was questioned, its contribution to the legend of Washington was doubtless. People continuously read it. The influence of the book was significant. As Daniel J. Boorstin comments in Search for Symbols, what “Weems said was what many people wanted to believe” (Boorstin 345). In America, people wanted Washington to be the savior to hold them together and to provide them with an identity. The image of Washington indeed became a factor to forge a common ground to Americans.
While America was already physically established, the American identity, on a theoretical level, was far from being on a parallel scale. People’s beliefs and emotions toward the new nation were extremely complicated and diverse. Nevertheless, a common ground for all Americans, including national identity, patriotic sentiment, and the confidence of independence, had been formed slowly by mixed factors. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and The Declaration of Independence, principally affirmed the concepts of independence and equality; Independence Day and the heroic image of Washington both served as national symbols to assist people to perceive a collective memory, so they could develop their American identity. Furthermore, on the one hand, the common ground was basically established by those historical factors; on another hand, it was neither fully accomplished, nor unchanged. It is continuously modified by new factors and in turn shapes contemporary generation. From this point of view, the history and the present merged into one.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Met Barry during spring break

Brian and I met Barry this Tuesday, but the most conversation was between Barry and me. Both of us were so happy to meet each other, so we talked a lot. Barry was nice and polite. He talked with Brian, asking him questions, making him feeling comfortable. I called Candy but she said she could not come because she needed to do acupuncture. It was pity.

Barry told me several interesting things happened in his life lately. First, he recently got contact with his six-grade classmates from Facebook. There are fifty-two years that they have not seen each other. Woo, it is amazing. They should have a huge celebration for the reunion. Second, he and his wife are planning a trip to south Asia, including Vietnam, Thailand, and other a few countries. They travel different places in the world every year, which is really a good way to live. Barry wants to go to China but his wife doesn’t like this idea too much. Thus, Barry then wishes that he can meet some Chinese in Vietnam or Thailand to practice speaking in Chinese. I believe he could because wherever in the world there are many Chinese. Third, Barry and his wife are planning to sell their house in Flushing and to buy an apartment in Long Island City. Long Island City is closer to Manhattan than Flushing. Barry said he and his wife go to Manhattan frequently. They want to live in a place where is convenient to reach Manhattan. Also, if they sell the house, they can have more money to travel around. Brian likes this idea very much. He said they set an example for our future life.

I discussed my recent situation with Barry, too. I have accepted by the graduate school in QC. I am registering course now. When I mentioned I received an award and there will be a party holding in my department, Barry expressed that he’d like to join. It is a surprise; I don’t expect that he wants to come. But I am so glad his attitude. Barry is always so kind. I am proud I have such a good tutor appearing on my award party. I wish he will really come.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Woo, Spring break coming

I have a single task during this spring break, a 7 page history paper. It is a tough job but I have to finish it during the break in order to leave more time for myself on final exams. Three days of the break have passed, but I have not started my paper yet. I am too nervous to do it. Maybe the real reason is that the pressure is not strong enough.

Yesterday was a perfect sunny day. My husband and I initially planed to study in the school cafeteria, but later we realized that we just could not waste such a fine spring day by staying in door. My husband suggested going to Rockaway Beach. It was about fifteen miles far away from our place. I though it was a good idea.

The scene of sea was very attractive. We took many pictures on the beach. However, our images did not like good, the strong sea wind making our hair in a mess. On the way back home, we found the sign of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. We stopped and visited it. There are two ponds in the refuge, which were man-made in 1950s, but the water comes from sea tide. We walked around one of the ponds. On the path, we saw a lot of birds on both sides. A kind of bird, which I do know its name, always appears in pair in the grassland. Their images remind us royal lovers, which is amazing. It was a really joyful moment that putting you in the natural world, surrounding by sea, sky, wind, plants, and birds.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

An essay of the cultural Anthropology class that I received an A

The Relation Between Culture and Individual Temperaments

In American society, people are used to the different temperaments between females and males. Women are usually considered emotional and dependent; in contrast, aggressive, independent temperaments belong to men. Many people accept this difference as a natural phenomenon. However, in her book, Sex & Temperament, Margaret Mead studied three primitive societies, Arapesh, Mundugumor, and Tchambuli, in a region of New Guinea. The temperaments of the men and women from the three societies are varied, which contrasts with the idea of fixed temperaments based on sex in American society. Based on her study, Mead argued that individual temperaments are primarily developed by cultural forces rather than biological factors. Her theory not only led people to rethink the development of individual temperaments, but also contributed to the increasing social reforms and feminist movements in American society in the second half of the twentieth century.

Mead’s exhaustive descriptions of the Arapesh’s daily life prove that all the major personality traits of the Arapesh can be attributed to cultural factors. The temperaments of both Arapesh men and women are gentle, unacquisitive, and co-operative. Arapesh babies are cherished by their parents, and are raised up within a warm and loving environment. Babies are always under careful care. “During the first months the child is never far from someone’s arms” (39). It is the first step and also one of the most important stages for the Arapesh to develop their gentle personality. Fathers and mothers give equal attention and care to their children. After a baby is born, the father lies beside the child, and gives the mother advice (32). Fathers’ affection and gentle behaviors not only additionally influence their children’s temperaments, but also are important evidence to prove the similar temperaments between males and females in the society. Moreover, the Arapesh’s belief of “friend and enemy” contributes to their unacquisitive and co-operative temperaments. Because the Arapesh consider family members, relatives, and people in their own and nearby villages as friends, there is comfortable atmosphere for them to do their most daily activities. For this reason, their generous and helpful personality traits are gradually developed.

Although the Mundugumor’s temperaments are completely different from the Arapesh’s, their masculine and aggressive traits are shaped by their particular culture as well. The Mundugumor always live in uncomfortable, harsh and hostile conditions. They distrust others, even the father and son are defined as rivals (170). The Mundugumor children are raised in a cold and unloved environment. Parents dislike children. When a husband finds that his wife is pregnant, he is not pleased (178). Very little babies are kept in a carrying-basket, with little care or body touching. “When a baby cries it is not fed at once” (183). The Mundugumor develop a typically violent temperament that is due to the influence of their parents, relatives, and their society during their early years.

It is important to point out there is no noticeable difference in temperament between males and females in the Mundugumor society as well as the Arapesh society. The Mundugumor men and women are both masculine and aggressive, and the Arapesh men and women are both gentle and co-operative. This fact can be explained by cultural factors, too. For instance, when a baby, either a boy or a girl, is born in a Mundugumor family, he or she is treated harshly. Not only the father, but also the mother does not have a gentle or affectionate attitude towards the baby. The particular culture in this society determines parents’ manner towards raise children. There is only one model of temperaments in this culture. Thus, despite the baby’s sex, he or she gradually develops the same “masculine” and aggressive temperaments.

Unlike the Arapesh and the Mundugumor, but similar to American society, in the Tchambuli, there are different temperaments between opposite sexes. However, the Tchambuli women are dominant and impersonal, and the Tchambuli men are less responsible and emotionally dependent, which are completely opposite from a common American’s point of view. Nevertheless, these temperaments of Tchambuli men and women can be fully explained by their culture and social conditions. The women in Tchambuli are dominant because they possess the economic power. They fish, which provides essential food to all the inhabitants, and they make the mosquito-bags, which is the most important item manufactured in this society (237). In contrast, the men in Tchambuli are good at and work on jobs that are connected to spiritual enjoyment rather than a struggling for live. They are artists that are skilled in many arts (229). They are fond of holding ceremonies. “It cannot be said that in order to initiate young boys the Tchambuli hold a ceremony, but rather that in order to hold a ceremony the Tchambuli initiate young boys.” (229) According to these evidences, the emotional and less responsible temperaments of the Tchambuli men are understood.

The temperaments in the three primitive societies, the Arapesh, the Mundugumor, and the Tchambuli are different not only from each other, but also from American society. Numerous evidences in Mead’s book prove that culture is the most important force in developing individual temperaments. In other words, individual temperaments are not an unchangeable fact, because culture, the soil that temperaments are rooted in, is a man-made phenomenon, which is constantly changing from place to place. Supported by this theory, American women now could argue that it is incorrect to consider that women are innately emotional or dependent creature. When they are unhappy about those assigned temperaments, they have the right to ask change and call for social reform. This theory can be used to justify those social reforms, particularly in feminist movements. Culture and individual temperaments are created by people; thus, they can be altered by people, too.