American Clichés

If President Obama truly wanted to rid the world of Republicans, it would be very easy for him to do so. In fact, he could accomplish the feat within 60 seconds. All he would have to do is change parties. If Barack Hussein Obama actually joined the party of Lincoln, the active membership therein would be quickly reduced to one. Every other Republican in America would scatter like a cup of rice in a tornado. It’s ok. You can laugh because you know I’m right about that. Relax. President Obama won’t be switching sides politically within the next 50 years, which is a key point of this particular column entry. I want to cite some of the American clichés circulating in your home, workplace, and/or social settings.
You remember clichés from English class, right? Just in case you need a refresher, a cliché is defined this way by Dutch Sociologist Anton C. Zijderveld: “A cliché is a traditional form of human expression (in words, thoughts, emotions, gestures, acts) which – due to repetitive use in social life – has lost its original, often ingenious heuristic power. Although it thus fails positively to contribute meaning to social interactions and communication, it does function socially, since it manages to stimulate behavior (cognition, emotion, volition, action) while it avoids reflection on meanings.”
In other words, clichés sound catchy but mean nothing. As it relates to clichés, the truth is optional – not mandatory.
In the United States of America, we hear clichés all the time on television and on radio. We see clichés every day in the newspapers and all over the internet. Clichés are infused in everything from commercials to documentaries, from movies to short films, from music videos to news programs.
A common American cliché is: “I want my country back.” As if your country was somehow stolen while you slept – or perhaps was kidnapped and is being held hostage by some nameless, faceless enemy. Did you misplace your country like someone misplaces his or her keys? In today’s toxic state, such an innocuous-sounding phrase actually has hostile intentions. Some Americans want a return to the time when black folks had to vacate the city limits before the sun went down. Other Americans long for the days when a woman’s place was either in the kitchen or in the bedroom. Yeah, that was back when a man’s home was his cave… err, castle. I meant castle. An unenlightened few wax poetic for the by-gone era when Hispanic people were relegated to farms and groves. Wait. That’s not past tense… that’s present tense. Guess what? I want my country back, too. In the land I love, the American dream still exists. In my country, hard work + faith + family values = success. You would love where I’m from. You should come visit for a spell.
Another American cliché: “We’re number 1!” That certainly used to be true. Being numero uno was once America’s calling card. There were very few things the United States of America wasn’t the very best at. Our athleticism. Our work ethic. Our economic prowess. Our military might. The quality of our goods and services. Our educational systems. Our infrastructure. Our system of governance. There was a time in the not-so-distant past that if America sneezed, the entire world caught a cold. No more. An American education ranks 25th globally in 2015. American exceptionalism as it relates to our goods and services is not nearly what it once was mainly because our elected officials don’t view them as such, or treat them as such. Remember when the U.S. of A. led the way? Things change.
One of the most insidious American clichés is “NObama.” Good people, it’s been over 6 years. Mr. Obama was elected. Mr. Obama was reelected. Are you telling me that his political enemies haven’t come to terms with him in the Oval Office yet? If not now, when? Members of the extreme right like to compare the president to Adolf Hitler. Riddle me this: Where are POTUS’s death panels? Where are his concentration camps? Where are the reeducation centers (read: hard labor prisons) for anyone/everyone foolish enough to criticize him? None of those three things exist. Has President Obama taken away all your guns yet? No, he hasn’t. Has Sharia law been instituted throughout the US? Nope. Did Obamacare bankrupt America? Absolutely not. Conspiracy theorists repeatedly refer to the president as a dictator. Clearly, they don’t know what a dictator is. Dictators eliminate their citizens, not empower them. They usher in change by bullets, not by ballots. Get this straight – just because you don’t like the man, it doesn’t make him evil.
The final, uniquely American cliché I’ll mention today? “America is the greatest nation on earth.” There’s far too much poverty, crime, discrimination, cynicism, and indifference for Americans to reasonably make that claim. The United States of America once held that title, and could reclaim it again in the future. But presently? I’m not so sure.
America is like a middle-aged man who talks about how handsome and popular he used to be way-back-when. That middle-aged man who loves to relive the glory days when he was the star quarterback leading his high school football team to state championships decades ago. He matters now just as much as he mattered then, but he’s forgotten that. Our nation is in the same position. It’s past time we reminded ourselves – and each other – that episodes of American courage are needed. Not American clichés.

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