What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Explore : individualism

Ideas

Why Americans Think Managing the National Budget Is Like Balancing the Family Checkbook

The Myth That Average Citizens Hold the Reins of the Economy Stems from 18th-Century Morality Tales

Unemployed men queue outside a Chicago soup kitchen in 1931. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Joanna Cohen
December 18, 2017

Americans are forever being urged to do things that supposedly will jump-start the economy, protect jobs, and raise the fortunes of Wall Street. Politicians and pundits implore consumers to “Buy American,” so as to help U.S. workers and keep the trade deficit low. Or to hit the shopping malls—even if it means taking on more debt— while still somehow finding a way to balance the family checkbook.

What’s striking about these demands is that the responsibilities and obligations of American consumers …

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Identities

The “Crying Indian” Ad That Fooled the Environmental Movement

Behind the '70s Anti-Pollution Icon Was an Italian-American Actor—and the Beverage Industry

Iron Eyes Cody presents President Jimmy Carter with a Native American headdress in the Oval Office in Washington on April 21, 1978. Cody also gave Carter a Native American name, Wamblee Ska, which he said means “great white eagle.” Photo courtesy of Peter Bregg/Associated Press.

By Finis Dunaway
November 9, 2017

It’s probably the most famous tear in American history: Iron Eyes Cody, an actor in Native American garb, paddles a birch bark canoe on water that seems, at first, tranquil and pristine, but that becomes increasingly polluted along his journey. He pulls his boat ashore and walks toward a bustling freeway. As the lone Indian ponders the polluted landscape, a passenger hurls a paper bag out a car window. The bag bursts on the ground, scattering fast-food wrappers all over …

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Ideas

America Is More of a Club Than a Family

Our Ability to Opt in—or Out—Defines Our National Character

America Is More of a Club Than a Family

By Claude S. Fischer
September 22, 2014

Over the course of the last 15 years or so, there’s been an explosion in the number of charter schools around the country. According to the latest figures (from 2012), some 2.1 million students are enrolled in schools run by private groups awarded public money.

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