In the 2006 film The Good Shepherd, Matt Damon plays Edward Bell Wilson, a WASP Yalie at the head of the CIA. At one point, Joe Pesci's character asks him: "You know, we Italians have our families and the church, the Irish have their homeland, the Jews their tradition, the niggers their music. What do you guys have?" Damon replies, "We have the United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting."
Damon's reply gives the path out of the WASP trap. If the Wilsons, Bushes, Rockefellers, and Mathers run the show -- and they used to, at least -- that means it's a WASPy show. If they shaped our culture -- and to a large extent they did -- then it might be hard for them to see there are particularities about our culture. It is easy to start thinking that American culture is just plain American. Even worse, we might start to believe that American culture, with all of its melting pot action and enlightenment rhetoric, is simply human nature unadorned by the particularities of time, place, or history. This is the WASP trap.
14 July 2007
Weekend Heavy Thoughts