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What Is America?

"What is America?" by Jesse Gordon and "The Americano Dream" by Angela M. Balcita

Named a land of opportunity, the United States has been attractive for immigrants for centuries, and in fact they shaped the country as it is now. Both essays reveal the truth and stereotype about America, yet their focus is slightly different. While Gordon focuses on the idea of diversity and multiple visions about the United States, Balcita discloses a process of immigrants' assimilation, which is full of challenges.

It can be suggested that Jesse Gordon chooses the genre of photoessay not by accident but because it fits his message best. In fact, the author aims at demonstrating the multiple faces of the United States and images that it has throughout the world. He plays with associations, some of them might seem stereotypical, but at the same time they are all helpful to add dimension to the picture of the United States. Thus, associations can be opposite such as "freedom" and "imperialism", "original ideas" and "lost opportunities". The pictures of people reveal their different ethnic, national, gender and social background that adds global vision to the opinions stated in the work. The major idea of the author is that America is full of contradiction, so it is normal for opposite opinions to be equally valid. In other words, one can find everything in the United States, including positive and negative aspects, and this controversy is in fact part of its identity. Besides, it is remarkable that a number of non-Americans are included in the essay, which reveals an idea that America is more than a country, it became a brand known worldwide. This is also a ground for stereotypes because many people from other countries have an opinion without ever visiting the United States.

Likewise, Balcita's article focuses on the difference between the expected and the actual but uses a narrower aspect by presenting an individual story of an immigrant. Through her father's experience, the author pictures a typical way of newcomers' assimilation in a foreign land. She describes the hardships and a common identity crisis that is part of this tough experience: "You naturalize. You memorize the U.S. presidents in order. You put your hand over your heart. You look at that flag and you wonder: How can I still be Filipino if I am American?"(Balcita). It is quite a challenge to feel an outsider in the period of adaptation to new circumstances. Another aspect discussed in the article is the dramatic gap between immigrant parents and children who are American born. There is a certain disappointment about the loss of one's own culture and roots, which happens as a result of assimilation. Yet, life goes on and after years the struggle for survival stops when a person gets used to his new hope. "Things start to move slower now, and you don't mind"- this philosophical comment from the author reveal the stage of assimilation when a person realizes that in fact it does not matter much where you are from because the basic values of family and love remain the same.

Thus, the two essays discuss America as a controversial place that combines challenges and opportunities. It is made clear that one has to work hard and to prove themselves in order to use the chances of prosperity and freedom. Gordon's article focuses on the aspect of diversity, as well as America as an international brand, which is partially based on truth and partially on stereotypes. There are illusions in case the picture is too glamorous because as Balcita's essay demonstrates, the process of assimilation is full of hardships and crises.

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