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Reflections: Our American way of life

Our American way of life
By William L. Bulla

Recently, while writing my "Reflections" column about our nation's 235th birthday, I became intrigued with other issues reflecting on our nation's history. One of these is an expression many people have used over the years. The "American way of life" is an expression that refers to the "life style" of people living in the United States of America. In reality, it is something very simple and the words were written down for us more than 200 years ago by Thomas Jefferson, who gave us the most accurate definition that is just as valid today as it was then.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
As we look around us today and see so many life styles in America, we may ask ourselves, "What is the American way of life?" It can mean something different to each and every one of us.
The simplest way to explain it is to say that we are people that uphold a strong belief in personal freedoms, and in such a belief people are free to do as they please. The freedoms we have are many and widespread, and in such, our way of life differs from any other place in the world.
We even differ from ourselves on a regular basis. You may find that no two groups of Americans are the same. Each holds its own ideas and views, each has a chance to explore them, and live in perfect harmony with one another. So, in essence, one could not explain the "American way of life" without having a thousand different answers.
The American way of life is an expression that refers to the lifestyle of people living in the United States of America. It is an example of a behavioral modality, developed from the 17th century until today. It refers to a nationalistic ethos that purports to adhere to principles of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." It has some connection of American exceptionalism and the American Dream.
During the time of the Cold War, the expression was commonly used by the media to highlight the differences in living standards of the populations of the United States and the Soviet Union. At that time, American popular culture broadly embraced the idea that anyone, regardless of the circumstances of his or her birth, could significantly increase his or her standard of living through determination, hard work, and natural ability. In the employment sector, that concept was expressed in the belief that a competitive market would foster individual talent and a renewed interest in entrepreneurship. Politically, it took the form of a belief in the superiority of a free democracy, founded on a productive and economic expansion without limits.
Look at the freedoms in America and compare them with some of the restrictions in so many countries. America's founding fathers, those people who way back around 1776, came up with the tenets by which future Americans might live were wise men indeed. What they wrote and brought into law has stood the test of time.
There is a sense in which the "American Way of Life" celebrates the merits of unconstrained freedom in life, uniquely free of any responsibility or constraint. Repeated advocacy of "freedom", by politicians and interest groups, can be understood in this context as offering freedom from any responsibility to others, or to the planet. No wonder the "American Way of Life" is so uniquely attractive to many in other countries. Any implication that freedom has a price is then considered unacceptable -- except to the extent that those imposing any constraints on this freedom should be condemned and treated as dangerously hostile to a God-given right.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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