One of the themes that I think might recur on this blog and to which I don’t have an answer to yet, is to do with my observations of American people whilst living here in the US (I am British and have lived here for one year).
Patriotism is extremely high in the US, there are flags everywhere, my children swear allegiance to the flag every morning at school and many churches display the American flag next to the cross. Yet, despite this and what I can’t explain, is that solidarity among Americans is very low. You see it in their attitude to inequality, which is incredibly high, and how they generally want the the lowest possible taxes. I have never heard anyone speak in favour of using taxes to address inequality. Similarly, the idea of them curbing their lifestyle in order to reduce their carbon footprint – for the sake of others – is never mentioned. I do all sorts of things to reduce my carbon footprint, drive a small car, use my own bags, not using a tumble dryer, and so forth, but I have almost never heard an American Christian mention these, let alone do them.
I am far from perfect, and I know many people in Britain that do far more than me to act in solidarity and for others, but I think it is fair to say that in general British people have a far higher sense of solidarity with each other, and with people across the globe, than Americans do.
There is a famous quote about American churches, that describes Sunday morning as the most segregated part of the week since whites, blacks, latinos, etc all worship separately. Clearly then the church is not a source of solidarity either in America.
I would love to understand why solidarity and fraternity are missing. I can think of one chapter written by David Hulme, a leading International Development specialist, who believes that Comic Relief has had an enormous impact on the way British people think about and have compassion for the rest of the world. I am incredibly proud, as a British person, that the first Comic Relief was held in the USA this year – it is one of our best exports.
I don’t think that alone explains the lack of solidarity, especially in light of the high patriotism, that there is in the US. Any ideas anyone?
I think it has something to do with the distance factor in America which does not exist in such a large scale in England. America is so large that there is a feeling of isolation, pioneer spirit, make your own way – its why Americans when they meet make quick social connections, but not deep ones. It means that supportive communities that do exist are in cities, or tight historical communities. Just a thought
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