Mixer: American identity, deconstructed

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friday mixer bannerAmerica means many things to many people.

Our nation is an amalgam of ideas from myriad perspectives. And those perspectives often get drowned out in a sea of ideology and noise (see: cable news).

This week, Zocalo Public Square, along with the Smithsonian, is asking what it means to be American. With essays and exhibits ranging from the patriotic to paternalistic, from purple mountains to brown ditches and plateaus.

On the Mixer this week, Joe Mathews, California Columnist for Zocalo, joined me to talk about their efforts to chronicle what Americans – born and/or bred – feel about the country and its values.

I also want to take a more journalistic view of this topic, and talk a bit more skeptically about the things that used to define us as Americans that seem to be waning, such as:

-Voting: 23% turnout in the last Los Angeles mayoral election

-Civil rights protections: Ferguson, Missouri and African-Americans who feel targeted by police

-Manufacturing: the loss of jobs in a country that defined production during the Industrial Revolution

Finally, America is known, of course, as a melting pot. But it’s also thrust its tentacles (and values) into societies around the world.

We’ve melted into other nations as well.

Is that good or bad?