Jump to content
Red Alert

What is wrong with America

Recommended Posts

I think you'll find if you look at it statistically, they have a population of over 200 million and rising, ours is a lot smaller....essentially, things like that happen here too...just not as often.

 

 

Also, if you want to get into a conversation about WHY they have guns? why they like guns and why they use guns? you are going to have to go a very long way back (I mean colonial history for them....for example, a Georgian article exclaiming how great they were with guns, is a case in point).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think you'll find if you look at it statistically, they have a population of over 200 million and rising, ours is a lot smaller....essentially, things like that happen here too...just not as often.

 

 

Also, if you want to get into a conversation about WHY they have guns? why they like guns and why they use guns? you are going to have to go a very long way back (I mean colonial history for them....for example, a Georgian article exclaiming how great they were with guns, is a case in point).

Things like this don't happen here. We don't have licenses to carry concealed guns in supermarkets.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is wrong with America is that it is full of Americans and their right to bear arms. Sadly many of them seem to think that this gives them the right to shoot anybody they like. I am sure if Charlton Heston was still alive he would insist that the 2 year old had a right to bear arms.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few years ago I spent some time in Seattle. You could buy a gun in a supermarket. Whilst dropping off my friends kids at school there was a sign at school that said no guns beyond this point. WTF?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I go to America about once per year on average. In general, I'm a fan. I love the people over there, and am always infected by their optimism, intelligence and cynicism in relatively equal measure. If I had to give an answer to the OP, I'd say it's a lack of unity leading to a great deal of distrust. It has arguably been like that from the start.

 

Jumping on the right to bear arms for a bit. What conceivable reason would you need to bear arms? The constitutional amendment is framed so that it protects Americans' rights to rise up against a tyrannical government. I don't really buy that as a modern day justification. Opposition toward the government is too fractured to ever get itself into a position where it forms a legitimate, organised militia aimed at overthrowing the establishment. If peaceful movements like Occupy are suppressed, harassed and moved on, I really don't fancy the chances of anyone who wants to go toe to toe with the US Government, especially since Homeland Security was setup.

 

I think we can safely say that gun ownership isn't about the eternal vigilance of citizens, ever ready to overthrow that pesky government if things get out of hand. It's more about a basic distrust of your fellow man or perhaps more accurately, a reflection of what you think you'll need if your fellow man decides not to be so friendly. Former boss of mine had a basement full of weapons. Taught his son to shoot before the lad hit his teens, along with the principles of responsible weapon ownership.

 

Setting my stall out, I'm not a fan of the proliferation of firearms at all. I've been on enough dodgy nights out to know that if guns were as accessible in this country as they are in the US, the headlines would be more about the strain that Friday nights out were placing on morgues than A&E. It's the sort of thing that turns a fisticuffs incident into a murder, and a curious toddler into an unwitting committer of matricide.

 

The famous line that the gun nuts trot out whenever guns are involved in a tragedy is "Guns don't kill people. People do.". That statement sits on very shaky ground in light of this incident.

Edited by pap

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Things like this don't happen here. We don't have licenses to carry concealed guns in supermarkets.

 

Perhaps you should ask Andy Murray or any of the kids from Dunblane murdered by the gun-obsessed paedophile that shot up their school.

 

We have the same laws as they do. It is simply because we interpret ours differently....Specifically "the right to bare arms within the confines and parameters of the law".....Pap, that law came out long before their revolution and as I say, it's more about the interpretation of it; we could interpret it to mean exactly the same thing here but we er on caution and generally don't mind it being overruled by whatever law we contrive.

Edited by Hockey_saint

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The tragedy is that they buy guns to protect their family and instead one of the kids gets hold of the gun and accidentally shoots their sister / brother / mum or the parents shoot each other during a row. Not in isolated instances but in a ratio of something like 15:1 of domestic shootings over stranger shootings. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9715182

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I lived in FLA for a few years in the 80's . I've always liked a few bevys and found it safer for low level alcohol type violence than the uk. Never saw much trouble and always felt safe even if totally polluted . Worked in a club for a while and we had no trouble at all, the doorman got no aggro even when turning away blokes with no Id . There never seemed to be the edge I've found on some nights out in this country. Now obviously my drinking habits and nights out are minor issues compared to shootings and the like, but the point I'm making is it's not a violent country overall. It's just that certain areas are horrendously unsafe for some and obviously the amount of guns and access to them , is horrific . It's very easy to say " take the guns off them" , but it's harder to do in practise. For many it is a human right , it stands for more than actually owning a gun. It stands for the citizen against government . They will not give up that right anymore than they'll give up the right to free speech . Try as you might you are never going to change that.

 

Americans get a raw deal from some over here. I found them to be warm, friendly and good company, with pretty much the same arsehole %'s as Brits. So I would say in reply to the question posed, there's not a lot wrong with America .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not a lot wrong with the U.S that us Brits will see. Agree very friendly country and doesn't appear the same simmering anger witnessed in many situations here.

However there is an unhealthy divide and imagine most of us will never visit the poorer parts. The survival of the fittest/American Dream is great for some but still many don't have a realistic opportunity to break out from their poverty.. I may have been too influenced by The Wire though.

Mid-South folks are so friendly but so uninformed about world generally - sweeping generalisation I know but they have no idea that Europe doesn't have same level of gun crime and think that is to our detriment that restrictive legislation doesn't make us as 'free' as them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry if the question was worded incorrectly. I didn't mean I have anything wrong with American people and I am sure it is a lovely country in some parts its just all too often we see something like this.

 

The Dunblane Massacre has been raised here but to me that just shows that the only real notable incident is now 18 years ago. Wikipedia tells me there have been 49 different school shootings in America that have resulted in fatalities since 1996. I know it is an impossible situation really, people carry guns because other people carry guns. That will likely never change, but there must be a tightening up of the laws so that people don't carry loaded guns into shops while out with the kids.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On one level this issue may illustrate the perils of a written constitution that evolves too slowly to reflect changed circumstances. On a deeper level the issue may well be one of where best should power lay in society. Government in a modern democracy must of course reflect the will of its electorate to some degree, but it seems to me there is a invisible line to be drawn somewhere that marks the border between where it becomes desirable for society to be led from the 'bottom up' or the 'top down'. It may well be that because this great nation was founded in a historic distrust of unrestrained executive power the USA has therefore evolved to become constitutionally incapable of finding where that invisible line should be drawn. Perhaps the best democracies have a touch of 'meritocracy' about them the US lacks - too little paternalism is as dangerous as too much.

 

Can it be that the nub of the matter is that the United States is the first nation on Earth where a noble effort to avoid the old tyranny of kings has resulted in a new tyranny of the masses evolving instead? A great many Americans (including their current President) can see quite as clearly as we do that their gun control legislation is a utter insanity in todays world, but in a society where a paranoid mania for upholding a individuals 'rights' (be it to the famed 'pursuit of happiness' or to 'bare arms') has become more important than a persons wider responsibilities to their fellow citizens the voice of the sane can be drowned out in a sea of fear and ignorance.

 

The US has developed a highly atypical constitution that allows for not only the executive branch being chosen by the electorate but also much of the judiciary, public prosecutors and even local law enforcement officials too. Crime will alas occur in any society, but in such a system it is inevitable that elected officials must react - or more to the point overreact - to every screaming headline on the TV news if they want to keep their jobs for long. The end result of this inbuilt need to pander to all the fears and insecurities of the electorate is the nation state the USA has become today ... its jails overflowing, its streets echoing with the sound of gunfire. A country that even its many admirers must admit is not a little dysfunctional in some regards.

Edited by CHAPEL END CHARLIE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem is the Christian Right and the GOP.

 

Any movement that puts the right to bare arms above the right to healthcare is fuucked up. Any country that allows creationism to be taught along side evolution is fuucked up.

 

I lived in Florida for a couple of years and loved it and I've been back the States many times since but I've no wish to ever return.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Can it be that the nub of the matter is that the United States is the first nation on Earth where a noble effort to avoid the old tyranny of kings has resulted in a new tyranny of the masses evolving instead?

 

No. America has been run by and for the elite for the last forty years.

 

The masses don't mean shít in terms of policy creation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Presidency may (remarkably) have resided in the hands of two extended families for many years now ... but one of America's key problems may be that the archetypal 'most powerful man in the world' has surprisingly little real power to influence the nation that elected him.

 

This lack of leadership - or is it a unwillingness on the part of the US people to be led - is my explanation for the situation the US finds itself in today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The famous line that the gun nuts trot out whenever guns are involved in a tragedy is "Guns don't kill people. People do.". That statement sits on very shaky ground in light of this incident.

 

That line used to come up at the dinner parties I was invited to in sleepy Sumner near Seattle. I used to respond that it is much easier for people with guns to kill other people. I also used to point out that there is no threat from marauding native Americans escaping the reservations and attacking them any more but they seem fixated with their right to bear arms. One very pleasant lady explained that she had here pappy's old rifle in the attic and wouldn't give it up without a fight. Not that she ever used it for anything of course.

 

One of the problems with Americans I have found is the fact that very few of them have travelled extensively - some even not outside their own stateline. I brought a girlfriend over about 10 years ago and suggested whist she was here that we also visited Paris via the Eurotunnel. She had no idea where Paris, France was in relation to the UK (or the UK in relation to anywhere else other than "it was a hell of a long way from Seattle."

 

America is still a relatively young country by European standards and gained superpower status very quickly. There is still a Wild West approach to many situations - ride into town, shoot it up, ride out again. My uncle fought with the 8th Army in Italy and said they were more worried about the American artillery than they were about facing the Axis troops.

 

I have had some lovely trips to the States and made some good friends there. I nearly ended up living there 10 years ago. Like someone said I mostly felt safe there (apart from one time when I found myself in Central Park after dark) and it has a lot going for it. What does worry me though is that it allows complete fruitcakes to arm themselves to the teeth with all kinds of very dangerous weapons and that supposedly very intelligent people argue that these people have a perfect right to own those weapons.

 

It is far easier to kill someone with a gun than with say, a knife. Heck, even a 2 year old could do it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think you'll find if you look at it statistically, they have a population of over 200 million and rising, ours is a lot smaller....essentially, things like that happen here too...just not as often.

 

Years deaths by gunshot:

 

USA: 10.3 per 100000

UK: 0.25 per 100000

 

Strangely enough, the largest category in both countries is suicide.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Disappointing stat, but I spose we probably trounce them in the death by pills, head in oven, or jump in front of train statistics

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That is utterly fantastic.

 

Great clip! I was in Washington state at the time of the Iraqi war. I took my friends kid to get some ice cream. While waiting in line the guy behind me heard my accent and engaged me in conversation. He hated the French because they had bailed out but loved us Brits as we were "in this together." He was with his boy who I'd say was no older than 10. They had just been out to buy some new ammo for their guns. When I asked why he said with a very straight face that if the Iraqis landed in this very small town a few miles SE of Seattle, then he was "going to take them out." I assume he meant kill them rather than take them for ice cream. I toyed with the idea of trying to explain to him that the chance of on Iraqi invasion of the NW seaboard of the USA was highly unlikely but in the end thought better of it and just said, "cool." He then wanted us to go to the parking lot to look at his guns and ammo. I thanked him but declined his kind invitation and wished him and his boy well.

 

I relayed this story to the people I was staying with and their friends and they all laughed but then admitted that they were all armed with guns and ammo at home.

 

Still, it worked though clearly because up to now the ragheads have not invaded the Seattle suburbs!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Disappointing stat, but I spose we probably trounce them in the death by pills, head in oven, or jump in front of train statistics

 

I particularly like the jumping in front of a train way to go. Not only is it quick for the victim but causes a massive mess and inconvenience for others to deal with once you are gone. A great f*ck you way to go!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Less than 10% of yanks own a passport. Apparently.

 

Adding to the inward-looking part of the debate

 

Bowling for columbine is a good documentary. More so when Charlton Heston tries to justify their right to bear arms

 

It's up to them really.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Perhaps you should ask Andy Murray or any of the kids from Dunblane murdered by the gun-obsessed paedophile that shot up their school.

 

This makes the opposite point to the one you think it does. As a direct result of Dunblane, there is now a ban on handguns in the UK. What people are calling for is the US to do the same.

 

Speaking statistically, this might be useful:

UK firearms deaths per 100,000 people is 0.25

US firearms deaths per 100,000 people is 10.30 .... that's FORTY-ONE times the UK figure

 

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I particularly like the jumping in front of a train way to go. Not only is it quick for the victim but causes a massive mess and inconvenience for others to deal with once you are gone. A great f*ck you way to go!

 

As a senior railwayman on a number of rural lines in Kent, my father was one of those called out to disentangle the sliced and mangled body parts of suicides from under the trains. He was also often one of the first on scene, and was almost always confronted with a deeply traumatised train driver. We knew one or two drivers who never stepped into a train cab again.

 

So it's not a 'great way to go', and I'm not sure why you'd want to inflict that kind of harm - or 'massive mess and inconvenience' - on others who've done little else to you other than provide a service.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Less than 10% of yanks own a passport. Apparently.

 

Adding to the inward-looking part of the debate

 

Bowling for columbine is a good documentary. More so when Charlton Heston tries to justify their right to bear arms

 

It's up to them really.

That 10% figure isn't true at all. You also need to take into account the size and scale of the US, compared to say the UK and the proxiity of interesting and different places we have to visit near us compared to if you live in the mid-west of the States for example. Edited by Sour Mash

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm pretty sure he was joking, verbal

 

I was indeed but appreciate that with your experience Verbal it was not in the best taste. I used to know people who worked in a kiosk at South Hampstead tube and would regularly tell me tales of how some poor people had to clear up the mess after a track suicide. I also went to school with someone who climbed over the train roof on a BR service only to be hit by a bridge. His friends ran back up the track from the next station and what they found was not pretty.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe a case of too much too quickly, although as it was colonised by millions of Europeans maybe we have something to answer for?

 

On another note, apparently the vote was very close as to whether the national language of the US would be English or German. Perhaps we would be living in a very different world now if the vote had been for German!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think you'll find if you look at it statistically, they have a population of over 200 million and rising, ours is a lot smaller....essentially, things like that happen here too...just not as often.

 

 

Also, if you want to get into a conversation about WHY they have guns? why they like guns and why they use guns? you are going to have to go a very long way back (I mean colonial history for them....for example, a Georgian article exclaiming how great they were with guns, is a case in point).

 

A bit over 200 milllion yes, say 320 million or so. Third most populous country on the globe now. Half of them with guns or even a quarter that makes a lot of guns. The US is still a very fearful society, probably because Neo Conservatism wants it that way. Guns make you safe from some imaginary threat although obviously not from a nutter with a gun or a 2 yr old girl either. Half of the problem is that many with guns aren't...how to put this...very bright.

Edited by Window Cleaner

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Maybe a case of too much too quickly, although as it was colonised by millions of Europeans maybe we have something to answer for?

 

On another note, apparently the vote was very close as to whether the national language of the US would be English or German. Perhaps we would be living in a very different world now if the vote had been for German!!!

I don't think that vote ever happened.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That 10% figure isn't true at all. You also need to take into account the size and scale of the US, compared to say the UK and the proxiity of interesting and different places we have to visit near us compared to if you live in the mid-west of the States for example.

 

This is the thing that ****es me most off when it comes to clichés about Americans. English people making out we are so much more sophisticated than yanks because of the passport numbers.A passport many only use to go to turkey, Costa del sol , Majorca or another holiday resort . How many Brits would have a passport if they didn't need one to travel to Europe , particularly at £90 odd a go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is the thing that ****es me most off when it comes to clichés about Americans. English people making out we are so much more sophisticated than yanks because of the passport numbers.A passport many only use to go to turkey, Costa del sol , Majorca or another holiday resort . How many Brits would have a passport if they didn't need one to travel to Europe , particularly at £90 odd a go.

 

Exactly - a better question would be "how many europeans have travelled outside of Europe?" Same with the statement that many Americans havent been outside their own state - how many brits/french/spanish etc havent been outside their country? - quite a few (and the majority of US states are significantly larger than the UK)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is the thing that ****es me most off when it comes to clichés about Americans. English people making out we are so much more sophisticated than yanks because of the passport numbers.A passport many only use to go to turkey, Costa del sol , Majorca or another holiday resort . How many Brits would have a passport if they didn't need one to travel to Europe , particularly at £90 odd a go.

 

Exactly - a better question would be "how many europeans have travelled outside of Europe?" Same with the statement that many Americans havent been outside their own state - how many brits/french/spanish etc havent been outside their country? - quite a few (and the majority of US states are significantly larger than the UK)
Exactly that. A Brit going to Greece or Spain or someone from Mid-West USA going to Florida for example, not a huge difference at the end of the day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

you are right sour mash

 

the 10% thing is something that is regularly spouted about.

in 2012, 36% of americans had valid passports..according to their govt figures...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lots of lazy generalisations about Americans as though they're one homogenous mass. Some of the smartest best educated people I know are American. Yes there are some thick, insular dinlos - but theres some on this forum too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Exactly - a better question would be "how many europeans have travelled outside of Europe?" Same with the statement that many Americans havent been outside their own state - how many brits/french/spanish etc havent been outside their country? - quite a few (and the majority of US states are significantly larger than the UK)

 

Most of the people I know (and I appreciate it is a small sample) have been to the Americas, Australia and Asia as well as many countries from Europe. When I was last in America I was better travelled in America than many of the Americans I met let alone the rest of the world. There is an old saying, travel broadens the mind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was better travelled in America than many of the Americans I met let alone the rest of the world. There is an old saying, travel broadens the mind.

 

How does that explain your posts then?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think that vote ever happened.

 

In the 1830s, a story began to circulate in the US press that German had almost became the official language of the newly founded US—the motion apparently defeated by only one vote. Actually, to this day, America does not have an official language—not even English. The story— now known as the Muehlenberg legend—was mostly fabrication, but it did have a kernel of truth.

 

In 1794 a group of German-speaking immigrants petitioned the House of Representatives to have laws and regulations published in both English and German to facilitate integration and political participation. It was this request that was rejected 42 to 41. Some say that ironically, the decisive vote was cast by Fredrik Augustus Muhlenberg, the first German-American Speaker of the House—though records show that he diplomatically abstained. But what if there was an official language, and what if back in 1795 the US had said wir sprechen Deutsch?

 

The dealings of the young American republic with Europe during the first half of the 19th century were shaped mainly by negotiating their position vis-à-vis France and in relation to Britain. Prussia had a trade agreements with the US but that was about it and the Habsburg empire was looking east rather than west. There was no real German dimension to the Louisiana Purchase nor to the War of 1812—how could there have been, when Germany was not even a unified state yet? In fact, during the first half of the 19th century, by speaking German, America would probably have changed the history of central Europe more drastically than its own development at that time. After all, in the movement for unity and liberalisation, sparked by the Napoleonic Wars and culminating in the 1848 revolutions, language was a crucial ingredient for the German lands. A German-speaking republic across the sea could have provided a powerful point of reference in political debates as well as in questions of national identity.

 

Back in America tensions were mounting over slavery and the rift between north and south was growing deeper around the middle of the century. Had German been the official language, the large German communities of the midwest could have turned their weight into political presence and a third regional block might have diffused the situation. Furthermore, particularly in Missouri and Kansas, the strong anti-slavery sentiment among German immigrants could have made a difference during the late 1850s. These areas saw the prelude to the Civil War with violence erupting over the question of whether slavery should be allowed in states that newly joined the union. But German immigrants were not able to make their voices heard nationally—partly because their language barriers limited them to local politics.

 

After the Civil War and with German unification in 1871, the two nations eyed each other across the Atlantic with a mixture of rivalry and mutual fascination as they both strove to carve out their position on the world stage against the mighty British empire. However, it is unlikely that a common language would have softened this competition.

 

The 20th century saw the German language become closely linked to cruelty. This started in the First World War and the US passed legislation to ban German classes from schools and German music from concert halls. The anti-German sentiment was so strong at this time that dachshunds were stoned in the streets of New York. Therefore, had German been America’s national language, it might well have been abolished in 1917. On the other hand, Germany’s propaganda effort to keep America neutral could have been more effective had it been accessible to the masses. Contemporaries complained about what they saw as an unjust advantage for British propaganda due to language. Had the US stayed out of the Great War, the effect on developments in Europe and the world throughout the 20th century and beyond would have been enormous.

 

Today, 50m Americans claim German descent. Sometimes there is German heritage in what seems most American. Walt Disney draws heavily on German fairytales and numerous US-state hymns use German melodies. The pretzel and the hot dog and the hamburger are German imports, as are Santa Claus and the Christmas tree. Nineteenth-century German immigrants brought gymnastics clubs, kindergartens and the PhD. When Jewish-Germans and other German emigrants were forced out of their country during the Second World War, they too left their mark on American culture and society.

 

Philosophers of language argue that our mother tongue affects the way we see and understand the world. Would American pragmatism have worked in German? What about the particularities in the Anglo-American interpretation of freedom, liberty, republicanism or even culture? Could the world deal with a largely German-speaking movie and music business? And finally, could the “awful German language” (Mark Twain) ever be a lingua franca like English is today?

 

Language has always been a key feature of German nationalism and imperialism. If the US had chosen German as their official language, from early on, it would have ideologically strengthened Germany’s position in Europe—for better or worse.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's called 'Freedom' and 'Liberty' but like most things they carry a price tag.....I for one wouldn't swap them for the world.....I would ask 'What's wrong with Britain?.....Surrendering those huge chunks of Liberty and Freedom over the last 50 years as meekly as you did...

 

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"....Benjamin Franklin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lots of lazy generalisations about Americans as though they're one homogenous mass. Some of the smartest best educated people I know are American. Yes there are some thick, insular dinlos - but theres some on this forum too.

 

Are you saying that we cant form an opinion about America and Americans because we don't know them all? Surely we base our perceptions on what we think we know? I agree that there are many smart and well informed Americans. The issue with America is that it is the most powerful nation on the planet at the moment and their foreign policies affect us all - for better or worse. I don't know if there is any truth in the rumour that George W Bush did not have a passport at the time he was elected as President but if so I find it more than worrying that the man with his finger on the button hadn't been out of his own back yard. I would also argue that for such a large and powerful nation, they have managed to elect some very poor people to lead them. It must bother you that the role call of Presidents includes the like of Regan and Bush as well as Lincoln and Kennedy?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Are you saying that we cant form an opinion about America and Americans because we don't know them all? Surely we base our perceptions on what we think we know? I agree that there are many smart and well informed Americans. The issue with America is that it is the most powerful nation on the planet at the moment and their foreign policies affect us all - for better or worse. I don't know if there is any truth in the rumour that George W Bush did not have a passport at the time he was elected as President but if so I find it more than worrying that the man with his finger on the button hadn't been out of his own back yard. I would also argue that for such a large and powerful nation, they have managed to elect some very poor people to lead them. It must bother you that the role call of Presidents includes the like of Regan and Bush as well as Lincoln and Kennedy?

 

Never mind that the vast majority of US presidents are of english/anglo-saxon descent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In the 1830s, a story began to circulate in the US press that German had almost became the official language of the newly founded US—the motion apparently defeated by only one vote. Actually, to this day, America does not have an official language—not even English. The story— now known as the Muehlenberg legend—was mostly fabrication, but it did have a kernel of truth.

 

In 1794 a group of German-speaking immigrants petitioned the House of Representatives to have laws and regulations published in both English and German to facilitate integration and political participation. It was this request that was rejected 42 to 41. Some say that ironically, the decisive vote was cast by Fredrik Augustus Muhlenberg, the first German-American Speaker of the House—though records show that he diplomatically abstained. But what if there was an official language, and what if back in 1795 the US had said wir sprechen Deutsch?

 

The dealings of the young American republic with Europe during the first half of the 19th century were shaped mainly by negotiating their position vis-à-vis France and in relation to Britain. Prussia had a trade agreements with the US but that was about it and the Habsburg empire was looking east rather than west. There was no real German dimension to the Louisiana Purchase nor to the War of 1812—how could there have been, when Germany was not even a unified state yet? In fact, during the first half of the 19th century, by speaking German, America would probably have changed the history of central Europe more drastically than its own development at that time. After all, in the movement for unity and liberalisation, sparked by the Napoleonic Wars and culminating in the 1848 revolutions, language was a crucial ingredient for the German lands. A German-speaking republic across the sea could have provided a powerful point of reference in political debates as well as in questions of national identity.

 

Back in America tensions were mounting over slavery and the rift between north and south was growing deeper around the middle of the century. Had German been the official language, the large German communities of the midwest could have turned their weight into political presence and a third regional block might have diffused the situation. Furthermore, particularly in Missouri and Kansas, the strong anti-slavery sentiment among German immigrants could have made a difference during the late 1850s. These areas saw the prelude to the Civil War with violence erupting over the question of whether slavery should be allowed in states that newly joined the union. But German immigrants were not able to make their voices heard nationally—partly because their language barriers limited them to local politics.

 

After the Civil War and with German unification in 1871, the two nations eyed each other across the Atlantic with a mixture of rivalry and mutual fascination as they both strove to carve out their position on the world stage against the mighty British empire. However, it is unlikely that a common language would have softened this competition.

 

The 20th century saw the German language become closely linked to cruelty. This started in the First World War and the US passed legislation to ban German classes from schools and German music from concert halls. The anti-German sentiment was so strong at this time that dachshunds were stoned in the streets of New York. Therefore, had German been America’s national language, it might well have been abolished in 1917. On the other hand, Germany’s propaganda effort to keep America neutral could have been more effective had it been accessible to the masses. Contemporaries complained about what they saw as an unjust advantage for British propaganda due to language. Had the US stayed out of the Great War, the effect on developments in Europe and the world throughout the 20th century and beyond would have been enormous.

 

Today, 50m Americans claim German descent. Sometimes there is German heritage in what seems most American. Walt Disney draws heavily on German fairytales and numerous US-state hymns use German melodies. The pretzel and the hot dog and the hamburger are German imports, as are Santa Claus and the Christmas tree. Nineteenth-century German immigrants brought gymnastics clubs, kindergartens and the PhD. When Jewish-Germans and other German emigrants were forced out of their country during the Second World War, they too left their mark on American culture and society.

 

Philosophers of language argue that our mother tongue affects the way we see and understand the world. Would American pragmatism have worked in German? What about the particularities in the Anglo-American interpretation of freedom, liberty, republicanism or even culture? Could the world deal with a largely German-speaking movie and music business? And finally, could the “awful German language” (Mark Twain) ever be a lingua franca like English is today?

 

Language has always been a key feature of German nationalism and imperialism. If the US had chosen German as their official language, from early on, it would have ideologically strengthened Germany’s position in Europe—for better or worse.

Yes, but the official language was never going to be German as you originally posted.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, but the official language was never going to be German as you originally posted.

 

Why so pedantic? My point was it could have been which is borne out in the article. Lighten up mate, it is New Year's Eve!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

View Terms of service (Terms of Use) and Privacy Policy (Privacy Policy) and Forum Guidelines ({Guidelines})