I grew up on the wracks of soviet society, in times when socialist ideology was no more able to resist new movements in the world and communist ideals burst like a soap-bubble. The time came to become different after a long and disruptive period during which there were no individuals, but a soviet nation with the same opportunities as well as the same ideas and way of thinking. I purposely avoid the term “equal” because equality presupposes freedom of choice that failed in soviet regime. Any difference, no matter what sphere - is it a dress or a thought -, was considered to be malicious and alien. There was no other way of living, no bad or good, right or wrong. Just one way that should be accepted as the only one possible.
At that time I never thought of being different. I was happy having the same dress as my neighbours and doing the same things during summer holidays as my class-mates though we were at different places. Those who somehow differed were bad foreigners. But they were very rare guests. And we were happy about it as well. Then, there were Americans who were for me more than different, like an alien from different planet. Actually they were taboo.
Like two different poles, two countries, one of which with the freedom of choice and the other without any choices at all.
Later, when the evolutional development of the mankind and its revolution spirit made the walls fallen and the old borders melt (though new one arise) the ideals of freedom and pursuit of happiness inspired the minds all over the world. The history of America showed - being different makes happy. And the world turned to America. This country got an image of an ideal place to live in because it offered freedom of being different. So what are or who are the difference makers in America? And what holds a national community together?
Attempts to define the nature of American society often begin with a quotation from Tocqueville’s 19-th century masterpiece “Democracy in America”:
“The political activity that pervades the United States must be seen in order to be understood. No sooner do you set foot upon American ground than you are stunned by a kind of tumult…..It is impossible to spend more effort in the pursuit of happiness.”
It is remarkable that a book written over 150 years ago about a people principally rural, Protestant, and Anglo-Saxon (as well as enslaved African American) is still quoted to describe the urban, industrial and multicultural nation. It is common knowledge that the USA is a nation of immigrants and that the metaphor “melting pot” contains individuals from a variety of different cultural backgrounds. However, the essence of imigration has always been assimilation into common American society. Being fully American, as the United States defines its citizens, does not presuppose an ancestral linkage to the nation or to its religious traditions. All Americans, including the native born, are assumed to be Americans by choice. Mark Patcher, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., argues that “a passion for choice is the engine”. It is the active mode of freedom and assumes not only the freedom from political or economic restraints but an opportunity to select from a rich menu of possibilities.
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- M.A. Natalia Brouwers (Autor), 2005, The Right of Being Different, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/145190