Ame Rica 'The Beautiful'

Steven T. Newcomb

English is a labyrinth language. It has buried within it many hidden or little noticed meanings that reveal deeper insights about all kinds of things that folks tend to take for granted. There is a dimension of invisibility in English that can only be brought to the surface by deeper investigation.

Take the word "mortgage," for instance, which people commonly understand to mean a payment that one has to make to the bank each month to pay off the loan on one’s house. "Mortgage" results from two Latin terms being joined together, mort (death) and gage (grip). Think of how differently we would think about the banking system if society commonly used the English term "deathgrip" instead of the Latin language term "mortgage." You’d end up with sentences such as, "Damn, I have to pay my death-grip this month and I don’t know how I’m going to come up with the money."

"America" also results from two words being joined together: Ame (love) and rica (riches, wealth). In the Portuguese language for example, ame is the command form of love, or, in other words "love!" We find rica in such names as Costa Rica (rich coast) and Puerto Rico (rich port). Ame Rica in other words is, "love riches and wealth." And what is the love of riches and wealth? Greed?

Greed was, of course, the motive that fueled voyages and discovery and conquest (domination) in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and later centuries, which eventually led to the founding of the United States and its quest to take over billions of acres of Indian lands and resources on Turtle Island (North America).

People will no doubt think of the story about the name "America" being derived from Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian cartographer who lived during the time of Columbus. Even if that story is true, it does not detract from the deeper point about the relationship between the concept "Ame rica" and greed.

What is "the American Dream"? It is the dream of riches and wealth. Think of the television program Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Its focus was on people who had managed to achieve the dream of riches, wealth, and fame. A more recent show that also fit the model was Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Thus, the term "Americans" refers to "those who love riches and wealth," or, "those who dream of riches and wealth."

The dream and love of riches and wealth is a cardinal American value and part of the fabric of the American way of life that has led to runaway consumerism and mountainous national and personal debt. There are numerous negative results from this: not only is greed insatiable, it is also ecologically unsustainable. Greed is willing to operate through carefully designed systems of domination and manipulation. Greed can also become pathological, as, is well-illustrated by Charles Ferguson’s 2010 movie, Inside Job about Wall St. and the financial meltdown of 2008.

The American society, with its love of riches and wealth, fed and fattened itself on an entire continent of lands, territories of Indigenous Nations and Peoples. A key to the American addiction to riches and wealth is a belief in its own mythology of American exceptionalism and unceasing consumerism. To help feed its addiction globally, as of 2005 the U.S. had some 737 military bases all around the world (only the official ones).

As a result of its ravenous consumptiveness, the US society has managed to destroy much of the amazing ecological legacy developed for thousands of years by our ancestors. And as the dream of riches and wealth has proliferated around the world, the intensive use of mining and other forms of exploitation to satisfy greed has poisoned the waters, the air, Mother Earth, and even our cells with all kinds of toxic chemicals. Such patterns remind me of what the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh used to say: that the colonizers love gold or gain more than each another, or even their own souls.

The word "crisis" refers to a crossroads, which is where we are now everywhere on Earth. The question is, will America and global society follow the path of riches and wealth to self-consuming destructiveness, or will we develop a path that leads to ecological abundance and health through patterns of healing, renewal, and long term sustainability?

Steven Newcomb (Shawnee/Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008), and a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network.

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softbreeze's picture
I think the challenge in getting mainstream society to see what we see is showing them that there is another way of looking at things, a different perpective. Most people are resistant to change, even when that change would create benefits for them and their posterity. Most people are uncomfortable in admitting that they've made a mistakes. I thinks that's just human nature. As someone who works Monday-Friday with the mainstream population, I've come to see that many are willing to try to hear and learn, and that most of them have just never been exposed to these kinds of concepts before. I've also learned through many mistakes of my own, that others are more open to learning something new and different when I approach them with unconditional love, understanding, and forgiveness, rather than anger and judgement. It's so easy to label them as "different, bad, or evil". Many of their acts have been those things. But, they are our brothers and sisters, put here by the Creator. We must be the ones to take the step forward, and to extend our hands with love and friendship. I think if we do, they will be happy and glad to receive it.
wahsontiio's picture
As with Indigenous languages English too holds within the philosophical concepts and worldviews. Those who haven't been too brainwashed by Ame Rican thinking and believing get labeled Left-Wing. This feeds the fear factor to follow or be ostracized. The rich and wealthy work hard to maintain the smokescreen of good morals. Example being the government funding businesses to become "greener", more ecological businesses make very little change. its more for the voter confidence during the next election. There is not a single "green" aspect to mining resources. Maybe if all victims of toxin caused disease should start a multimillion people class action law suit against the companies/government then maybe, just maybe there would be aggressive, meaningful change to the overall lifestyle of the world. Traditional Indigenous lifestyles were truly green but was viewed as uncivilized. Taking from the earth only what you need is not conducive to the American Dream. Striving to have more than your neighbour is not moral
Anonymous's picture
Wonderful article. Thank you for opening this white man's eyes even more than they were previously. There is always more to learn about each other and we can do it with respect, and with open ears and open eyes and open minds. Our souls are the same, our ego's sometimes are not. False personality (ego) is what blinds all of us from the truth, even when it is staring us right in the face. ~Namaste