America is... Kaleidoscopic

Kaleidoscopic: /kəˌlīdəˈskäpik/ (adjective) made up of a complex mix of elements, multifaceted

The United States of America is commonly referred to as "the Melting Pot"; reason being is that the states are home to a multitude of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Resulting from the interactions of all these people and cultures is America the Beautiful- a kaleidoscopic nation with a complex and colorful history. Though we are still a relatively young nation, through the ages we've drastically evolved from our roots and have developed various aspects that make America, well, America.

The 1920's

The 1920's, where do I even begin with this one? The 1920's had many different aspects that gave birth to two different eras- the Roaring 20's, and the Harlem Renaissance. Today, the 1920's are viewed as an exuberant period, with flappers, increased consumerism, Great Gatsby-esque parties, and the like; however when one takes a look closer they can see why the 1920's "...caused more conflict than celebration" (The Roaring 20's) . During this time Prohibition was in full swing, and criminalizing the consumption of alcohol led to an unprecedented spike in crime. Since it's hard to keep people away from their booze many government and law enforcement officials became corrupt, many were charged with crimes such as extortion, bribery, and theft- not only that, an estimated 10% of government officials had ties within the mafia. Concurrently, the 1920's saw the rise of a beautiful African-American cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem, a New York City neighborhood, saw the birth of Jazz music as well as the ethereal literary works of Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes.

The 1950's

The 1950's also had a very diverse culture that was vastly different from that of the 1920's and even the time period before it (WW2 era 1940's). Similar to the 20's the 1950's at a glance seems like the era with an "...idyllic luster" (The 1950s: Happy Days) that everybody wishes they were born into. Who can blame them? The 1950's had a prosperous economy, fun-loving culture, and produced some of the most aesthetically pleasing cars this nation has ever seen. In this era one can observe the emergence of popular franchises such as McDonald's and KFC, advances in medicine, and the new music genre Rock'N'Roll. Social conformity was also pushed harder than ever before seen in the United States. Americans were expected to portray an image of perfection to the rest of the world and strict expectations were set upon the citizens of the United States- especially for females. Unlike the women of the 1920's who gained more freedoms like suffrage and the ability to express themselves more freely (flappers), the women of the 50's were expected to conform to strict gender roles (being submissive housewives). Unfortunately, these social expectations stagnated the movements toward gender equality from the 20's and 40's; social stresses also led many housewives to the substance abuse of sedatives.

Today

Where are we today as a nation? Though it seems simple enough at first, the more time one takes to think about it the more complex the answer gets. Perhaps I can ask another (slightly easier) question, what will future generations learn when they are taught about the 2010s in their history class? Undoubtedly we'll be noted for our advancements in technology and mass (social) media; sure the 20's had the radio and the 50's had the T.V., but they're incomparable to our smartphones and internet access today. Other than that, at a glance America looks like it's in a bad place in our current time period. We've got the Trump Administration (don't really need to elaborate on that one). We're being threatened with nuclear weapons from North Korea. We're witnessing heightened racial tensions and discrimination against immigrants as a result of both the steady stream of terrorist attacks going on worldwide within the past few years and President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. On the brighter side of things, something new has infiltrated American culture (or rather American youth culture)- memes. Memes started emerging around 2012 and now have taken off and are now a regular source of entertainment for American youth, poking fun at all sorts of things from political figures to viral videos.

Visual

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The beads within the kaleidoscope are red, white, and blue, symbolizing the United States as those are the nation's colors. On the outside of the kaleidoscope there is a collage with images of characteristics of each time period (cars, technology, fashion, etc.). The pictures are organized vertically by time period, and as the kaleidoscope is rotated one can see how the nation progresses and how no two time periods are alike. The definition of the word 'kaleidoscopic' includes the synonym 'multifaceted'- through the collage the various aspects of each time period and of America's history can be viewed.

The kaleidoscope itself embodies the statement "America is Kaleidoscopic" thanks to the function of a kaleidoscope. When one looks through a kaleidoscope, they'll see a complex pattern of different colors and shapes. As the kaleidoscope is rotated, these complex patterns change, each being different than the last but no more and no less breathtaking; however no pattern can be recreated once the kaleidoscope is rotated. America is similar to the kaleidoscope in that when one looks at it from a bird's eye view they too will see a complex mix of different peoples and ideas. Not only that, similar to the kaleidoscope and its patterns America and its periods/people are ever changing and no era can be recreated exactly once its time has passed.

Works cited:

  • History.com Staff. "The Roaring Twenties." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2017
  • "The 1950s: Happy Days." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017

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