Research Paper: American Culture

Pages: 3 (1032 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Death and Dying  (general)  ·  Buy This Paper

Death

Attitudes, beliefs, and practices related to death and dying are central to all cultures. Usually these attitudes, beliefs, and practices are rooted in prevailing social norms and religious dogma. Beliefs about death impact behaviors ranging from preparations for funerals to views on health care. The diversity of cultures in the United States means that it is impossible to generalize about views, beliefs, and practices around death and dying. Each individual will also have different views towards death. However, the prevailing and dominant culture attitude is that death is something to be feared and avoided at all costs, while simultaneously doing nothing spiritually to prepare one for the cognitive acceptance of death. In ancient Egypt, the culture was somewhat diverse but far more homogenous than that of the United States. The attitudes and practices surrounding death in ancient Egypt are well-known because the Egyptians embraced and even celebrated death as a passage from one life to the next. There are far more differences than there are similarities between ancient Egypt and 21st Century America with regards to most social institutions, norms, and mores, particularly those that have to do with death and dying.

In the United States, death is something that is viewed negatively. It is viewed as an inconvenience at best, or as something to keep away at all costs. As one doctor puts it, "We want our loved ones to live as long as possible, but our culture has come to view death as a medical failure rather than life's natural conclusion," (Bowron 1). Failing to view death as "life's natural conclusion" would seem anathema to the ancient Egyptian. To the ancient Egyptian, death was a welcome conclusion to a life well-lived, and even perhaps also to a life that was not so well-lived. Death was simply an acceptable as well as inevitable aspect of life. American culture seems to have changed somewhat regarding its attitudes toward death, as it was Benjamin Franklin who said that death and taxes are the only two certainties in life. It would seem that 21st century Americans have reconciled themselves to the latter, but not the former. The result is "unrealistic expectations" of life, as if the person should be immortal (Bowron 2012). Actually, this is where a 21st century American might find accordance with an ancient Egyptian. Ancient Egyptians did not just want immortality and demand it from their medical doctors. Rather, Ancient Egyptians believed firmly in immortality as inevitability (Canadian Museum of History, 2014).

Whereas the ancient Egyptian embraces both death and immortality as certainties, the 21st century American denies death. The ancient Egyptians compiled a sophisticated and detailed tome called The Book of the Dead, which includes elaborate instructions for funeral rites. In the United States, death rituals have become rote in nature except among traditional religious communities. Moreover, death has become a situation in which surviving family members care more about their inheritance and the contents of the will than the state of mind of the deceased. Other ways Americans deny death is through their food. Whereas the ancient Egyptian would have needed to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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