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We got an op-ed piece about a certain story Americans don't care much about.
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The Story You Will Never Read About In America – Op-Ed Piece
I love a good story as much as the next person. From Thor and his hammer to Gatsby and his criminal ways to Homer and his heroes, a good story resonates with me as much as anything else. I am entertained as I learn something I didn’t know before. I am even left wondering of questions that the writer of the story wishes for me to ask.
It seems you can’t travel far into a culture without getting a story about them. You will never walk into a new place with new people and have them say, “Yeah, we have no stories to tell you. Leave.” You may get the opposite if you go to a new land. Those strangers will tell you of things you never heard of before.
We are born storytellers. We are born to write words. We are born to express our lives here. The common ground we share as a people is not the stories themselves as much as the process behind them. This need to tell of ourselves to others is a need that will never go away.
Here in America is no different. We have embraced many styles of writing over the years since the Revolution. We love a good novel, rather than, say, some poetry. Sorry to all the poets out there. We helped to craft the concept of a short story as it is known today. The books that influence us are The Bible and Shakespeare, and we can’t really get enough of them. We even have a section of writers we all love to read that we now proudly call classic literature. We are a young country, not even three hundred years old, but even we got into the act of telling stories of ourselves. There is one story that Americans don’t tell, and they never will.
America doesn’t have a creation story.
What is a creation story? You may ask. It is a story from a certain culture that explains how the world began, normally with that culture being at the forefront. The Greeks had one with their Olympians, defeating the titans. The Egyptians had one for every major city. Even the Norse and Irish got in on the fun with specific stories about how this world began. The idea is to tell about the beginning of the world with that specific culture in mind.
America doesn’t have that. Why?
The Bible, composed of the Old Testament and the New Testament, has kind of done the job there. Americans have accepted the creation story of the Christian community that is present in the Book of Genesis. Nobody ever really asks about it either. God created the world in seven days, and humans were made on the sixth, and God really likes us over other creatures. Since America is a Christian country, it is only natural for their creation story to be that of Christianity. I’d even argue that America is so Christian that all Americans have to be half-Christian, whether they want to be or not.
The long gap in time between the beginning of mankind and America’s start doesn’t bother many Americans. We take it all in stride. As if the lack of continuous story doesn’t make the claim less credible.
America does have an origin story, which basically describes how a country began. To be clear, a creation story is how the world began. An origin story is how a country began; both are about beginnings but of different ones. We all know this American origin story too. The Founding Fathers beat the British in the American Revolution; George Washington did his thing leading the troops, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, laying the foundation for America’s view on equality for years to come. Last and not least, we then created a new type of government where the man in charge did not have all the power, but the power was in the hands of the people. We all know this. That story is perhaps the most popular story in America today. Everyone knows who George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin are and what they did. Not knowing them is not understanding how America was formed. According to this thinking, the emergence of the musical Hamilton is not a credit to the catchy songs or great acting, but to America’s interest in our past. Americans will never not know of that time period. We value it more than any other.
There is another explanation for the beginning of the world that Americans also accept, alongside the Christian one, The Big Bang Theory; the theory that millions of years ago, a bang went off in the universe, starting everything. This contradiction is not as big of a deal to Americans as one would think because most of us know that one is a religious story relating God to man, and the other is a scientific explanation. They are both right because they are both answering different things.
This contradiction in America is also similar to that of our opinion of capitalism and equality. Americans support capitalism, which is not a system based on equality, which Americans also support. How can this be? Simple, like the Genesis story and the Big Bang Theory explanation, they answer different things. Americans support capitalism because they believe in the opportunity of the self-made man and the rightful distribution of goods based upon a person’s place in the workplace; Americans support equality of all men, that all men have a voice, which goes against the traditional view of monarchies that says a king is more important than the people because we experienced the cruelty of a tyrannical government.
Outsiders and foreigners not assimilated with American culture are confused and upset at this and call Americans stupid to their faces for not knowing more of the world. Americans don’t see themselves as ignorant or dumb because we see ourselves as having an understanding that many in the rest of the world don’t have. We appreciate the intricacies of these contradictions and view them as a part of our life. It’s something that a person can only understand if they live here, I guess. One person once said of Ancient Rome, and I paraphrase, “We shouldn’t wonder how they ruled for so long, but be impressed that they even did.” I say the same thing about America. We shouldn’t fight about the contradiction and hypocrisy in America but be impressed that we made it all work despite it
.Somehow, America answers these contradictions in satisfying ways, and for the most part, if an individual does have a problem with them, those issues are only minor and not a deterrent in American daily life. There aren’t many Americans upset at the presence of two creation stories or of equality in a capitalist market.
Will America ever have a true creation story featuring them? No. I don’t see that ever happening since America is more than comfortable with taking from the Christian one. Most don’t view the story as a factual event either, but as an allegory about God’s creation. Christianity doesn’t mind filling that role either since that helps them stay relevant in the minds of Americans. Whenever the beginning of life is brought up in America, the Genesis story is brought up, which can lead the conversation to be about God. There is also the inherent problem with the Big Bang Theory that Christians are happy to ask, “What created the Big Bang?” Both of the creation stories are very Christian, in that you can’t talk of them without bringing up the religion.
I do want to point out an interesting part of the creation story and the explanation; they are not American-centric. In a time when we are told that Americans are the most self-centered egotistical people in the world, the stories we use to describe that world don't feature us. There is no mention of America in Genesis or Big Bang Theory, and I have yet to see any attempt at revising them. You can’t say that Americans put Washington on the map because they thought it was the center of the world or that we had a divine intervention to one day become a great country. Compared to other creation stories, America does not really feature them, probably because they aren’t ours. The closest America has Manifest Destiny, and that has nothing to do with creation.
Is this a problem for America? No. Not at all. The Romans adopted this very style too. They didn’t have a creation story, and that didn’t hurt their identity. They ruled with the notion that as long as a citizen puts Rome first, then they are fine. America has a similar policy in that as long as a citizen is law-abiding and a good American, then they are fine. The strange thing about this is that being a good American means having good Christian values because of the link I mentioned with the two stories.
America is the home of adopted children of the world. All Americans are outcasts. They are not true enough to be of their own people. The Italians are not Italian enough. The Blacks are not Black enough. The Jews are not Jewish enough. The Irish are not Irish enough. The list goes on and on here. Americans have a hard time embracing this, as many still hold a part of their homeland with them. Most won’t say that they are American, but rather from the land of their ancestor, never once acknowledging that they left that land for a reason and that they have changed their ways so much that those still there may not recognize them as one of their own. America took them in to be new people, to be Americans. As the Statue of Liberty has written on it, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” You can’t say that there is some destiny for America to take over the world or that the pharaoh is God’s chosen ruler. That is not what the country was built on. America created a race of people not by their land but by their rejection from other lands. This could also be why Americans don’t put much worry about our creation stories.
Perhaps it is only right for America not to have a true creation story featuring America, for each American can create their own as they come over here. Being an American means a lot of things, but the most important thing it can mean is that the American has rid their previous identity for a new one in a land that they are free to choose their own path.
We remember the origin story because they did exactly what we are proud of; they stood up to a tyrannical government, and when it came time to form a government, they made one with the people in mind, not the king. By doing so, they gave us a chance to be someone we couldn’t be anywhere else; an American.
America doesn’t have a creation story, and it doesn’t need one. Having one is kind of missing the point.
Nothing here but the usual stuff.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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