Many say that the 20th century was “the American century”. Many American authors have said it, but the first one to use the expression was Henry Luce. It’s a lot of truth in these words. The American society has been formed over these last hundred years. The American way of life is a large mix, since people have immigrated to America for hundreds of years. Therefore the American way of life has been exposed to influence from many parts of the world. People have come in large groups from Asia, Europe, Latin-America and Africa. And now these races have to be melted together into one people. As we shall see later, everything hasn’t gone as planned.
Throughout the whole century the American government has had an economical advantage. Many countries in Europe fell behind during the Second World War. Since almost no bombs were dropped in America, they were able to keep their factories running. And they made money by selling their products. Therefore the American government could offer help to the western countries in Europe. For instance Norway benefited from the “Marshall Plan”. After this the European countries were, more or less, bound to support America for a long time. There fore USA was the country which could be most satisfied after the war.
After the Second World War, America more or less took the role as “The World Police”. Self-appointed that is. This has led to many wars, were American soldiers are involved. Of those wars the Vietnam-War, perhaps was the most brutal war of modern times. In fact, Wars where the Americans have been involved has often led to civil losses, new dictators and a huge loss of American soldiers. We saw some examples in the movie “Bowling for Columbine”. Many of these wars came as a result of Americas “War against terror”, that was launched by former president Ronald Reagan (1981 – 1989). To sum up, the Americans role as “World Police” has only been a modest success.
After and during the Vietnam-war came another war, if not so violent. In fact, no shots were fired, although the world has never been closer to a nuclear war. The cold war came as a result of America’s resistance from communism. The cold war most of all was a race. It was a race between America and The Soviet Union towards producing the best weapons in the shortest amount of time. It was not just about having the best weapons; it was also about being the first to send a man to the moon and to be able to send rockets overseas. Modern technology has never developed as much as it did in this period. So much money and resources has never been put into researching. It is a pity that an almost-war-situation was needed. The Americans were the first to land on the moon first. «That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. » Neil Armstrong said as he landed on the moon. And I guess that saying sums up this section.
During the last couple of years, America has participated in at least two wars. These are the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. The first came after 9/11. When President Bush found out that Osama Bin Laden and his faction al-quida stood behind the terrorist actions in New York and Washington, they went to war. After bombing all of Afghanistan and killing thousands of civilians, Osama bin Laden is yet to be found. The second war is the war in Iraq. President Bush said that Saddam Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction, which representatives from the UN did not find any evidence of. But Bush went to war. Today America can not pull out of Iraq until the conflicts are solved. Many American soldiers and Iraqi civilians have lost their lives, and every day more people are killed. So, American wars do not always turn out as a success.
What’s most different with America compared with many European countries perhaps is the variety within the people. As I mentioned in the introduction, people have been coming, immigrating or captured to America over the last hundred years. While white America has been busy solving conflicts in distant countries all over the world, conflicts have been developing in their own country. These conflicts are mostly about social differences in the community. For instance; during the segregation blacks have been suppressed in the southern states. After the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s laws were passed, ending segregation. But blacks and whites have yet to melt together, although I do not doubt their ability to do so. Some races have already melted into the community, Asians as an example. This means that if people really want to fit in and make an effort the American society will welcome them.
I think the American people should be thankful upon their unique diversity of races. All these different races have to live together; they must eat together, work together and breathe together, and by doing that they gain very much, and learn a lot from each other. They fill out each other.
We also have to look at the cultural influence Americans have had on Europeans. Especially the last couples of decades American way of life has reached almost the whole of Europe. All the way from Great Britain to eastern Turkey their culture has had an influence on Europeans. Although it is quite obvious that it has influenced Western Europe more than Eastern Europe. Nowadays here in Norway you can turn on your TV, and you are almost guaranteed to watch an American show. If you go to the nearest music store you will find more American than European records. What I mean is that the American way of life has affected so many elements in our lives that it would be strange to be without it.
So, to sum it all up; America has influenced the whole world in one or another way. If the country is not affected by war then it is certainly affected trough culture. That’s why we can say that the 20th century has been the American century.