Introduction to the United States

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007 at 12:00 am

United States MountainBeing a large country, it is not surprising that United States has a wide diversity of race, culture, and faith. Its chief early influence was British culture, due to colonial ties with the British that spread the English language, legal system, and other cultural inheritances.

Other important influences came from other parts of Europe, especially those with a sizable number of immigrants like Ireland, Germany, Poland, and Italy. Other influences include Native American peoples, West Africa (where most of African-American ancestors came from), and Latin America.

The United States has traditionally been known as a melting pot of cultural diversity. There are many integrated but unique subcultures within the US. The cultural affiliations an individual in the US may have commonly depend on social class, political orientation, and a multitude of demographic characteristics such as race, ethnicity, sex, and sexual orientation.

The American culture, at most, focuses on family values, politics, and conservative morals, in contrast to other cultures that centers on arts or religion. Also, Americans take pride in their own creations. For instance, the Superbowl (an American football event) is much more watched in the US than the World Cup.

In a smaller scale, variations in the majority traditions occur due to class, ethnic, religious, regional, and other groups of people. Cultural differences in the various regions in the United States occur in New England, Mid-Atlantic States, Southern United States, Midwestern United States, Southwest United States, Western United States, and Pacific Northwestern United States. The western coast of the continental US consisting of California, Oregon, and the state of Washington is also sometimes referred to as the Left Coast, indicating its political orientation and tendency towards liberal norms, folkways, and values.

Strong cultural differences have a long history in the US with the southern slave society in the antebellum period serving as a prime example. Economic and social tensions between the Northern and Southern states were so severe that they eventually caused the South to declare itself an independent nation, the Confederate States of America, thus provoking the American Civil War.

Examples of the great variations in norms, values, and beliefs found across the United States can be found in the legal policies of some states. The state of California for instance has passed environmental reforms and regulations rivaling those of Western Europe. With recent legislation California has become the only part of the US with mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emission.

Policy regarding human sexuality further indicated tremendous differences across the nation. In early 2003, 14 US states had sodomy laws, before the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional. Roughly one year later, Massachusetts allowed gay couples to obtain same-sex matrimony licenses. As laws represent a society’s most profound and strictly held social norms and mores, great variations in laws reflect cultural variations as well.