On this Veterans Day 2016 many social scientists, myself included, are asking ourselves what it means to be “American” and whether this meaning changed on 11/9. Is an anthropological perspective of understanding, compassion, and inclusion still normal?
Lived experience in any human society is shaped by a complex interplay of cultural factors, especially its norms:
- “Typical patterns of actual behavior as well as the rules about how things should be done” (Welsch and Vivanco 2016:265. Asking Questions About Cultural Anthropology).
In times of political upheaval our norms can be challenged and/or reinforced. In the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, some of our most fundamental norms of acceptable behavior were challenged and often flagrantly violated. To prevent these violations from becoming an emboldened “new normal,” we should vigilantly reinforce our shared values and oppose the following:
Anti-Semitism (or any religious discrimination)
Mocking the disabled
These behaviors were not normal in the United States of 11/8/2016 and they remain unacceptable (and largely illegal) today. Starting in January 2017, we will be led by a character who personifies the worst attributes of the American past. Yet we retain the power to shape our own cultural norms. It has never been more critical to expect the best of ourselves and work tirelessly to encourage “the better angels of our nature” in others.