July 4th, 2011 | Categories: Stereotypes in General

It is the fourth of July for only 30 more minutes. Today I was lucky enough to view the fireworks over the Hudson River from the window of a skyscraper in New York City in Times Square. I was surrounded by my family.

Earlier today, I was lucky enough to see Takeru Kobayashi in person unofficially break his own World Record for Hot Dog Eating in conjunction with Nathan’s famous Hot Dog Eating Contest that takes place on July 4th each year. Kobayashi devoured 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes. I was surrounded by my family.

The fourth of July is symbolic of America. These events are symbolic of America too. They represent the decadence, selfishness, and materialism of America.

Fire is not used for a practical purpose in the first event I attended. Instead, it is purely luxurious. For show. A demonstration of opulence. Look how we can manipulate fire for our amusement.

Fire, for our amusement.

Food is not used for a practical purpose in the second event I attended. Instead, it is purely luxurious. For show. A demonstration of opulence. Look how much I can keep for myself.

Look how much I have.

These events epitomize the stereotype of Americans as does a recent comment by international soccer player Tim Howard. In his “rant” he essentially argued that the winning team speaking Spanish is not a justifiable reason for the postmatch ceremony events to be announced in Spanish. The unstated premise of Howard’s claim is that everyone should accommodate Americans because we deserve to have everything we want. Tim Howard’s comment feeds into stereotypes of Americans as decadent, selfish, and materialistic. Americans, the stereotype would have it, think the world owes us everything that we have and more. The media is having a field day over Howard’s comment communicating the stereotypes of Americans in every article  about his comments. The two events I took part in today feed into this stereotype as well. Fire and food squandered for no reason other than because we deserve it.

These events are symbolic of something else about America as well. This something is much more positive than stereotypes of Americans let on. To be able to have such abundance suggests that America has enough for everyone.

We have enough fire (to cook, to keep warm, and so forth) and we have enough food (to buy and sell, to eat, and so forth).

We have enough for me and for you. For  my family and friends and your family and friends. We have enough for all the people we don’t know, have never known, and will never know.

We have enough. More than that though. We have plenty. When people communicate the stereotypes of Americans they view this plenty in a negative light. But, there is a positive way to view this plenty as well. A new documentary by Alexandra Pelosi puts the idea of the plenty that America has to offer into this positive light.

Alexandra Pelosi, in her documentary America Through the Eyes of Immigrants shows us what America means to her and what it means to so many others through their own words (America through the Mouths of Immigrants).

I am lucky to be a part of this much plenty. Plenty of fire. Plenty of food. Plenty of family.


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