36.13: Come To America! Wait, No! Not THAT Part! And… Ignore the European Qualities…
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Farmer James pushes that America is wonderful, and America is here to help. Whatever the world is going through, whether you’re “a wretch who wanders about,” working and starving because Europe has no food for you, or just a European traveler who happens to stumble across America, America has a place for absolutely everybody. You can become something out of nothing here, in “this great American asylum” (Crevecoeur)! It does not matter where you came from, either. You could be “English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, German” or Swedish, and you are still welcome in America. The best news: when you cross the boarder, you are instantly American.
The biggest key elements to remember when learning how to be an American are as follows: first, obey the government. The government is what brought you to America after all, with their promise of freedom and happiness. Feel free to be yourself, but make sure you follow laws, because laws are what keep people together and sane enough to function in normal society. Second, you will need to work extremely hard because nothing is free here. You must love your job, because your job puts emphasis on who you are and what you are good at. For example, if you live near the water, you must learn to love fishing, stray far from land but be extremely sociable, and learn to love transporting the goods you spent hours working for. “Europe has no such class of men”; American men are more devoted and fierce (Crevecoeur)! Third, feel free to practice religious freedom. But make sure you understand that other people are practicing different religions. But don’t ever specifically point out that they are practicing different religions, as you do not want to be rude because everyone believes in God. Oh, you must believe in God. Teach your children to believe in God. But remember! There are different religions out there, and for the citizens of America, “religious indifference” is one of their characteristics (Crevecoeur). Fourth, remember that society is important. Those people who live in the woods, those hunters… animalistic. They are so far from the government and the other people, they “appear to be no better than carnivorous animals of a superior rank” (Crevecoeur). Remember that Americans need structure, law, government, and community to avoid turning into what the hunters have become. Men are not designed to be alone like that. However, those kinds of people do not represent America. But America is for everyone! Except the hunters. And those who have denied proper civilization. But if you visit the American museum for tourists… I mean, for those “who would wish to see America in its proper light”, you will see how we overcame the struggles of what America was before us, and how we have changed completely for the sake of progress (Crevecoeur).
Okay, my sarcasm is over. But that is exactly how I read this text. I read this as “America is for everyone, besides these specific people. America has some definite bad parts to it, but just look the other way and focus on how good we are doing over on this side!” I understand the fierce need for patriotism and why he wants to hype America up so badly, but it takes him such a long time to get to where America started. Even still, when we get to the letters about slavery, he feels the need to apologize profusely to the reader and explain how he needs to get what he saw off his chest. But even still, when he is done explaining America’s history with slaves, it is justified that “slavery cannot be so repugnant to human nature… because it has been practiced in all ages” (Crevecoeur). He then goes onto asking the reader what a civilized society really is, and in a passing comment he mentions how there is evil in every society. I am having a hard time believing this man has anything of value to say, as it just sounds like someone trying too hard to be patriotic that he is willing to overlook how they got to that point. He also at one point does mention that when a European comes to America for a new life, he will be seeing everything he is already familiar with. I got to thinking: why is that important to this text? Why would he be hyping America up so much, just to say that Europe has all the things America already has? Are Americans and Europeans really that different? If a European enters America and becomes a citizen, aren’t they exactly the same person as before? So would America not be made up of Europeans? There’s absolutely nothing different! It’s ravings from a man who did not like Europe, but loved the fact that he now had a fresh start somewhere else.
I know I have been ranting, so let me conclude this by saying I am now thinking that there is no real tradition of American literature. If the Letters were raving about how no one from America is actually American, but people from completely different parts of the world, then those people would have written books. They would have ultimately traveled back and forth between their home country and America. There could have possibly been books published in both countries, or books published about another country besides America. American literature does not have one solid tradition; it is a mix of everyone, everywhere, and everything. But that is what makes America and American literature so great; the fact that it accepts everyone.