“Let me begin my American impressions with two impressions I had before I went to America. One was an incident and the other an idea; and when taken together they illustrate the attitude I mean. The first principle is that nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny because it is foreign; the second is that he should be ashamed of thinking it wrong because it is funny. The reaction of his senses and superficial habits of mind against something new, and to him abnormal, is a perfectly healthy reaction. But the mind which imagines that mere unfamiliarity can possibly prove anything about inferiority is a very inadequate mind. It is inadequate even in criticising things that may really be inferior to the things involved here. It is far better to laugh at a negro for having a black face than to sneer at him for having a sloping skull. It is proportionally even more preferable to laugh rather than judge in dealing with highly civilised peoples. Therefore I put at the beginning two working examples of what I felt about America before I saw it; the sort of thing that a man has a right to enjoy as a joke, and the sort of thing he has a duty to understand and respect, because it is the explanation of the joke.”
In my opinion the meaning behind the passage listed above from the chapter “What is America?” by Chesterton gives us and insight of what he though of America before he came to the country, also his first impression/reaction. Chesterton states “The first principle is that nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny because it if foreign; the second is that he should be ashamed of thinking it wrong because it is funny.” Chesterton is trying to reassuring us that it is ok to see new and unsuspected things and think they are funny because you have never experience it before. And when you are thinking something is funny you should not think its wrong because it doesn’t fit you ideal of what is right. People should be more open minded because you are no longer in the safety of your homeland where everyone confirm to your way of seeing and doing things. He confirms this ideal when he mentions in an another passage that American is a “melting-pot that must not melt”-we are now in a country that is very diverse in many way such as its people, religion, and way of life.Chesterton goes on to say that “the reaction of his senses and superficial habits of mind against something, new, and to him abnormal, is a perfectly health reaction.” He is reaffirming that new people and they way in which they do things differently takes time to get use to our reaction is normal when coming to a foreign place and seeing things that we are not accustom to on a daily basis. Prior thinking, thoughts, and reaction may make new experience funny to many individuals but thats no reason to look down at another man and think that your way is better when visiting or staying at a new place. You have the right to your first reaction, but do not let that first reaction be your everyday approach going forward in America. Diversity is American’s backbone.
From G. K. Chesterton book I choose the above passage from his first chapter “What is America” because I can relate personally. Like many people in America including me ,I was not born here in this country. I got my view and idea of what America looks like from listening to my parents and other family members speak, from pictures in books and magazine, from school and little from television. With the information I was given, be it a little or a lot depending on the source I did my best to come up with an idea of what America is like, most ideas where fantasy-blown out of proportion and little of reality. When I came to America I did think things were funny when I first saw them. I was also very fascinated by the new and different things. Some of my experiences have different reactions from many individuals that I’ve been when I first entered this country. From my fellow African-American born classmates I was sneer at for being different and ofter pick on. I believe this was because of the narrow minded view that they were given from their family members. I also chose this passage because it reassures me that my first reaction upon entering this country and meeting and seeing all these different people and things was very reasonable. I did not let my first reaction color my view of things to come. I evolve along side everyone else and learn to love my difference and also others.