"That's What America Is All About"

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Declaring that some issue or value "is what America is all about" is one of America's favorite rhetorical flourishes. Bob Garfield, co-host of On The Media, talks about recent examples and takes your calls. 

Bob Garfield's New York Times Op-Ed


Bob Garfield

Comments [25]

Maura Gallagher from Morris County NJ

This is an American story: A girl from Egypt is sold by her impoverished parents to a wealthy family who kept her as a slave, eventually they smuggled her to the US where neighbors in California anonymously reported them. Eventually in the US these people were imprisoned then deported, while the girl, Shyima Hall, was adopted into an American family, became a citizen, and wrote a book telling her story.

And...the US sending outspoken gay athletes to the Olympics in Sochi in response to the anti-gay laws in Russia. Very American. Nice.

Feb. 19 2014 08:53 PM

Obama - "Changing his story" ? - you must be kidding!
The man is as constant as the moon.

[Did Costco raise its hourly wage to make up for
the decrease in hours worked?]

Wake up sheeple - moderators included.

Feb. 13 2014 05:30 PM
Bonn from East Village

I also lived abroad for a number of years, so when I hear Americans say that America is the greatest nation in the world, I am just perplexed. The good things: charity, volunteerism, more tolerance towards differences (depending on what part of the country you live in), creativity. But the bad: runaway capitalism, greed, narcissisim, anti-intellectualism, truthiness, violence, guns, naivete, religious fanaticism. If you haven't lived in other places or traveled extensively, you don't see the positives elsewhere or the gross negatives here. I love America, but like your child, you have to stop making excuses for bad behavior or you wind up with a rotten apple. The story of Derek Jeter (referencing the show before) is an example of good parenting at work.

Feb. 13 2014 12:15 PM
Margaret from Prospect Height

I find it too easy to focus on the negative & a cop out to the collective nature of America. If you don't like it fix it. America is all of us and just complaining does nothing to address your issue. Given this, Story Corp and libraries to represent what America means to me. Story Corp regularly pulls at my heart and with touching stories of Americans. I'm completely enchanted by libraries. They offer books, but really it's about access to so much more. Most libraries have classes of various sorts, book clubs and social outlets for the young to the old. At the library one can acquire an education, languages, creative inspiration, and all the opportunity that should embody America.

Feb. 13 2014 12:04 PM
jimmymac from nj

No one called in to say anything good about who...if the host could take off her jade colored glasses for a minute to peer through the clichéd bs myths Americans believe about this playland for the oligarchs and corporate person hood perhaps she will understand why people have had enough...

Feb. 13 2014 11:51 AM
Herb from Westchester

I'm glad Bob got a column out of this, but let's be grown ups about this. the president uses this rhetoric device to nudge the nation in a direction of his choosing. he is being aspirational, not reflective. in other words, when he says something like, "we are a nation that takes care of each other, rich and poor, without regard to where you come from, or who you love, or how you worship, or don't," we know darn well that we are something less than that — but that there is opportunity for us to reach this ideal by embracing whatever (fill in the blank) initiative the president is trying to sell).

Feb. 13 2014 11:51 AM
Sonia Vicinanza from Upper West Side, NYC

I, too, lived in Europe for 4 years. What America is all about is charity. We have a culture of donating to charity and Volunteerism that no other country in the world has. We are really great in spite of government policies and politicians that we might not agree with. We have the option of voting them out and it's shameful how little we take advantage of our right to vote. But make no mistake, we are good people and care for each other.


Feb. 13 2014 11:49 AM
Amy from Manhattan

"America is about seeing everything through your own lens"? Every place is about that.

I'm less bothered by Pres. Obama's use of "That's what America is all about" than by the flip side, when he argues against doing something or letting something happen by saying, "Because that's not who we are!" That's not a reason for anything. It's just meaningless.

Feb. 13 2014 11:46 AM
Joanne from Boonton

America these days is all about watching our ideals get buried under greed.

Feb. 13 2014 11:45 AM
Linda Kase from Teaneck, NJ

America is a teenager going through a bad period, but if we keep working to have her develop fully she will be the best we can make her. America is us.Love yourself, love America. No one is perfect, but America is the best that exists.

Feb. 13 2014 11:44 AM

Short term thinking, not looking ahead, money-money-money, and not considering the consequences. And having no plan when "fires" like the one in the link below start:

That's the U.S. in a nutshell.

Feb. 13 2014 11:42 AM
Alan from 150 Varick

America is about Spin!

Feb. 13 2014 11:41 AM

bring back brian

Feb. 13 2014 11:41 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I thought America was just about freedom, period. At least, that's what it means to me. Those who knock it haven't lived anywhere else.

Feb. 13 2014 11:40 AM
John A.

Follow the money:
All about Cable Television.
Miss this one:
All about taking the moral high ground, and not just Claiming to take it (and doing otherwise).
Please let us date the Greed revolution to somewhere between 1975 and 1985.
It wasn't forever thus.

Feb. 13 2014 11:38 AM

To corporate America, taxation is also patriotic.

Feb. 13 2014 11:38 AM

I have lived in London & Taipei, both for three years and have traveled to over 40 countries on five continents and what stands out for me about America is it's capacity to inspire creativity. American's create more than any other group of people that I've seen.

Feb. 13 2014 11:38 AM
tom from astoria

I can answer in the negative. Propaganda is unAmerican, (Fox News is un American)

Feb. 13 2014 11:33 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

America used to be about creating value and distributing wealth among all. Now it seems to be about transferring it from one set of pockets into others. Precious little value-added going on....IMHO.

Since the JFK administration, there have been two Americas. One group of Americans has been satisfied to see their incomes grow in step with the overall CPI, that is their incomes have not fallen. The other group has seen their incomes grow (and sometimes outpace) the overall growth of the economy! Our GDP has been growing 50% faster than CPI. Star athletes, movie stars, college deans and union negotiators get it. It's the rest of us dopes that are having trouble getting (and staying) clued in.

Feb. 13 2014 11:33 AM

America is all about MONEY and the freedom to make money!

Feb. 13 2014 11:32 AM
Steve from Flatbush

America is all about the very few getting rich off the backs of the many while lying to those many people about opportunity and freedom, using rhetoric to make the less well off complacent enough not to take action to address the gross financial inequality that exists here.

Feb. 13 2014 11:31 AM

America is all about ME!

Unfortunately greed and selfishness are our god$.

Feb. 13 2014 11:30 AM
girl35 from So.Plainfield

America is all about MONEY

Feb. 13 2014 11:28 AM

Please ask Bob Garfield about what he thinks about the Comcast-Time Warner deal (in light of his "Comcast must die" website from a couple of years ago.) His takedowns of Comcast were always hilarious and I can't wait to hear his thoughts.

Feb. 13 2014 10:24 AM

America is about being American enough to be attacked by terrorists without turning the treasury over to the army.
It's about realizing that the economic system is broken and being American enough to admit that and throw out the bums. It's seeing that other countries figured out how to manage health care
(for today's example see: ) and being American enough to emulate it.

America is about being bold and brave and righteous, in the face of two-bit critics everywhere. And when you're wrong, you are American enough to admit it and change.

Feb. 13 2014 09:54 AM

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