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Jonathan Rauch: Astute Cultural Observer

January 9, 2008

In a larger piece concerning gay rights in America, Jonathan Rauch has distilled the American identity to one paragraph.

The United States is a country of immigrants, of transients, of ethnic diversity. Identity comes less from language, ancestry and birthplace than from creed, community and culture. Americans tend to understand who they are in terms of what they believe and who they believe it with. Millions ground themselves in the Bible, in faith communities or in generations-old unwritten norms, which is why so-called “social issues” like homosexuality and abortion are so central to U.S. politics (mystifyingly so, from a European point of view). This may be good, it may be not so good, but it is a fact, probably a necessary fact in so fluid and diverse a society.

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