Stealing America

I hate the “stealing America” syndrome.

I mean, when somebody uses the term “America” to refer to the United States of America. I imagine that most people know that America is a large continent (two, actually, if you like the North America vs. South America distinction) stretching from Alaska to Chile. The USA is only one country in this big continent, but a large segment of its government and media (plus some of its citizens) must believe that they are the true blue America, and not those other pesky minorities such as Canada, Argentina or Brazil. If the USA equates “America” with themselves, what word can a Peruvian or Cuban use to refer to themselves?

Look at this excerpt of George W. Bush’s remarks on USA’s space policy in January 2004 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/01/20040114-3.html):

America is proud of our space program. The risk takers and visionaries of this agency have expanded human knowledge, have revolutionized our understanding of the universe, and produced technological advances that have benefited all of humanity.

Inspired by all that has come before, and guided by clear objectives, today we set a new course for America‘s space program. We will give NASA a new focus and vision for future exploration. We will build new ships to carry man forward into the universe, to gain a new foothold on the moon, and to prepare for new journeys to worlds beyond our own.

America’s space program? America being proud of NASA’s space program? Don’t make me laugh. I bet most Americans do not care about USA’s space program. America does not have a space program; the USA has one.

USA: you are only one more country in a big continent and a big world. Your arrogance and military superiority is not a good reason to steal a name from your neighbours. You are not “the ones” or special whatsoever. You have not been chosen by any god. You are just one more country in a very big world.

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2 Responses to “Stealing America”


  1. 1 rp 11 January 2005 at 21:21

    I think you are plainly mistaken here. In spoken languge, the country known in written language as the USA is referred to as “America”, not only in English but in other languages as well. A Mexican telling me he was “from America” would be just plain wrong in my eyes. This doesn’t take anything away from the fact that America is also the collective name of the two continents. Even more so than in programming languages, in natural language words are often ambiguous and their meaning depends on context.

  2. 2 cesargon 12 January 2005 at 2:31

    Of course natural language is ambiguous. And this ambiguity can be used for many purposes. In my opinion, the ambiguity of “America” as a continent and “America” as the USA has been used (and is being used) by some stakeholders with imperialism in mind. I don’t have a problem with you or me saying “America” when we mean the USA. That’s colloquial and is fine. A different thing is when you find it (a) on writing and (b) coming from strongly influencial people. This (mal-)practice of using “America” to refer to the USA is *so* deeply ingrained in many people (not only from the USA) that, in my experience, 9 out of 10 USA citizens would agree with rp rather than with me, while only 3 out of 10 non-USA citizens would. Significant, isn’t it? Similarly, somebody from Mexico saying that he/she is from America would sound perfectly normal to most non-USA citizens. The problem is that USA culture does not enourage seeing beyond its own borders.


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