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Myths from the Past American History Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 25th, 2021


A myth may be described as conventional story or a legend that can not be amicably justified or empirically evidenced by facts. Myths are passed from one generation to another and affect people holding them in their traditions, way of thinking and reacting to issues. Gill (2009: Para. 2) claims that myths are part of a group’s cultural identity. According to Clark (2005: page, 3), the modern America has been shaped by a sense of traditions that gained momentum from the onset of nineteenth century.

In trying to relate the development of America and its history several myths have been put across which have been found to affect the lives of Americans in general. Myths are stories that are handed down to people form one generation to another such that the myths are instilled in the peoples mind and often expressed in both the behavioral and cognitive aspects of people in societies.

The three most common myths in America have been examined, together with their possible impact to many men and women in America in the past, at present and in the projected future. First, the myth about America as the greatest nation in the universe is deeply rooted in the minds of Americans in a manner that can be observed across generations. Secondly, the American politics have been dominated for a long time by two parties: the republicans and the democrats. The myth about these two groups is that the republicans are completely different from the democrats. Lastly, the myth about America being the world oldest democracy has been discussed in length by various people trying to refute those claims.

America is the greatest nation in the universe

This aspect has been deeply rooted in the minds of Americans across all the generations from the late 19th century. Being a superpower with highly advanced technology, America is the present symbol of greatest democracy in the world. The late 19th century witness industrial revolution in America and the need for mass production in the industries made people drawn from all races to go to America for the opportunities that were offered by industrial revolution. Over time, America has been a leading industrial nation in the world. In resent times the myth about America being the greatest nation in the universe has been instilled in the mind of people both in America and in other countries. Large numbers of immigrants from other countries have been moving to America in the notion that America offers greater opportunities in education, jobs and career development, etc.

The myth of America being the greatest nation in the universe is not only related to the social aspects, but also to economic and political aspects. America is the wealthiest country in the world; there is no doubt about that. In addition America is observed as the world’s symbol of democracy and capitalism. This aspect has attracted a lot of concern from other parts of the world. America as a superpower has assumed the role as the overseer of other countries operations especially on political matters.

The nations greatness has been demonstrated when the government makes interventions on other countries in terms of military invasions, financial aid etc. In addition, America has made tremendous steps in the technological advancements to be regarded as a great nation. This myth has grown in Americans to believe that being in a great nation, they automatically become great people. Thus, it is the belief of an American to command respect over people of other nations due to this fact. This is also demonstrated in the interventions that America undertakes in other countries acting as the superpower country in the world.

This myth does not go unchallenged. While Americans can claim on the greatness o their nation, a close scrutiny of some socioeconomic aspects deviates from this myth. Some countries are currently challenging the greatness of America in terms of technological advancements, democracy, living standards, military supremacy, etc.; thus it is a myth that has been challenged in the past, at present and also in the projected future. This is evident due to the huge steps being taken by other countries in ensuring that their government offers the best to the citizens.

What effect does this myth implicate to the Americans? The sense of pride in the declaration that one belongs to the greatest nation induces pride to look at oneself as greater than other people in the world while such a claim may be largely untrue. In company of other people from other nationalities, Americans have a tendency to think that they are greater than other people. This may be displayed in places of decision making, innovations, discoveries etc., where other people’s contribution is likely to be regarded as inferior.

Democrats are really different form republicans

For a long time in the history of America, political power has shifted from one party to another. The difference in the two dominant parties in America has grown over long period of time. The myth of ideological differences between the democrats and republicans dates back to the 19th century during the periods of slavery. The rivalry between the two parties makes the southerners to be aligned to the Democratic Party while the majority of northerners are republicans (Corley, n.d, Para. 2) Republicans are seen as representatives of the rich class of people in the society while the Democrats are seen as representatives of the lower class people in the society. According to Richardson (1997: p 6), the differences in the parties ranging from personal, regional and functional differences with the then weak democratic group in late 19th century illustrates the myth of the differences well. To date, these parties stand as the most powerful parties where the political power is shared by the two groups. Although Americans can claim to be enjoying freedom of choice, the myth about the difference between the democrats and republicans has colonized the minds of the followers to force them to think and act the ideas of their parties.

The difference in the ideologies claimed by these two parties shows a phenomenon where people aligned to one party strongly hold their ideologies. The democrats believe that the government should provide all the services to its citizens. Democrats are considered as liberals. On the other hand, the republicans are referred to as conservatives who consider the role of the government not as a service provider but as regulator and overseer of morality.

The effect of this myth to the American people has been the creation of a huge ideological gap between people supporting any of the political parties. In maters of national interest people take the stands of the political parties they subscribe to irrespective of whether they are right or wrong. The republicans who represent the rich people in the society alienate themselves in the social and political grounds such to further widen the gap.

United States of America is the world’s oldest democracy

The democratic and capitalistic nature of the system of administration in America has fostered individual liberty and equality to its citizens. This aspect of equality was brought forward through the struggle for civil rights in the 1860s. After liberation the governments have constantly put measures to ensure the rights of all citizens are observed. As a result anyone feels free to do what he/she thinks is right. The myth about equality of both the black and white Americans has enabled tremendous steps to be made in building peace and unity within the country which was founded on the principles of justice and equal opportunities for all. This has been criticized heavily by various writers refuting the claims that America is the oldest world’s democracy. Fairclough (2009: p. 3) refutes the claims of America being the oldest democracy although various American leaders have publicly claimed so.

The oppression and subjugation of Africans and Native Americans is looked at as a history that enabled to shape the foundation of the nation, whose cast image is a misguided reflection that ignores the exploitation of the poor and voiceless in ancient America. Despite the bitter past of the African Americans passed through this myth tries to wipe out the realities of racial oppression and economic exploitation.

Shelton (2004: Para. 18) explains the myth of democracy which is founded on equality and liberty for all. The myth of democracy defines the government as a government by the people where the supreme powers are helped by the people. The Americans have strongly held the founding fathers of the nation who stood for equality anchored on democracy that has been praised for years. This includes, Abraham Lincoln who is a legendary president of America due to his contribution towards democracy in 1860s. Although Shelton indicates that the perceived reformists and founding fathers had no genuine inclination to fighting for equality, this myth is so deeply rooted in the Americans. This aspect is further supported by Jayaprakash (2009: Para. 3) where he claims that it took almost 200 years after American’s independence in 1776 for a struggle by American nationals to be able to enjoy their democratic rights.

In reality America’s past and claims of being the oldest democracy do not rhyme. Americans have been made to believe this in order to shadow away its effects to the citizens up to date. The Americans who have been instilled this notion of America being the oldest democracy can not comprehend the existence of any form of discrimination in recent times. The liberty they enjoy has been attained through a bitter process of struggle.

Correction of the American myths

Going back in time to correct the myths, the three myths would appear as follows: First, the myth about America being the greatest nation in the world should be erased from the mind of Americans and be replaced with the myth that states that America is a country that ever strives for greatness. This myth would replace the pride in Americans of being the greatest nation in the world and instill in them the notion of working hard to achieve the best. In addition, Americans would stop looking down at other nations as inferior parties in this world.

Secondly, the myth on the difference between the republicans and democrats should be replaced with a myth that, democrats and republicans are just political ideologies that should not create a huge social gap. This myth would help in further uniting the Americans and not to be crones of the parties they subscribe. This could further increase the freedom of choice where citizens will not be forced to think and act in line with ideologies of their parties. Bishop and Cushing (2008: p. 74) show how the party differences affect the day to day lives of Americans in matters relating to watching news, reading newspapers etc. Lastly, the myth about America being the oldest democracy is misleading. It should be replaced with a myth that America democracy is a result of long process of struggle for equality. This myth would help Americans appreciate that the democracy to be realized it takes courage to face the realities of life and to make effort to change things towards realizing equality for all. In addition if such a myth would be adopted by Americans from initial stages, the government’s interventions in other nations would be oriented in a way to help the conflicting parties solve their issues while observing equality and democracy owing to the experience Americans went through in the initial stages.

Works Cited

Bishop, Bill and Cushing, Robert G. The big sort: why the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart. NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2008.

Clark, Michael D. The American discovery of tradition, 1865-1942. LA: LSU Press. 2005.

Corley, Megan. “Review of the Rise of Southern Republican.” Review of The Rise of Southern Republican. N.d. 2009. Web.

Fairclough, Adam. “‘the Last, Best Hope of Earth?’ American Democracy and the Right to Vote in Historical Perspective”. Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. 2009. Web.

Gill, N. S. “What Is Myth?” About.com: Ancient/classical history. 2009. Web.

Jayaprakash, N.D. “World’s Oldest Democracy: The Myth & the Reality.” DV-RSS newsletter: A Radical Letter in the Struggle for Peace and Social Justice. 2009. Web.

Richardson, Heather Cox. The greatest nation of the earth: Republican economic policies during the Civil War. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 1997.

Shelton, Steven. M. “The Puritans and the Myth of Democracy.” Media Monitors Network. 2004. Web.

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