Mike Kueber's Blog

October 27, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies #129 – Robin Williams

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:48 pm

After the death of Robin Williams, I was prompted to watch some of his more popular movies that I didn’t make time for when he was alive. (That’s a perfect example of why a singer’s record sales go through the roof immediately after the singer’s death.) Because other people were thinking just like me, Netflix had a long waiting list on the movies that finally arrived in the past couple of weeks:

  1. Moscow on the Hudson (1984)
  2. Awakenings (1990)
  3. Patch Adams (1998)

I didn’t enjoy Moscow on the Hudson because Robin Williams is not realistic as a romantic lead. But his co-star Maria Conchita Alonzo was superb. As suggested in the movie, She’s Out of My League, a nine like Maria doesn’t hook up with a six like Robin. One star.

Awakenings, which is based on a true story, was enjoyable because Robin Williams plays the sincere, sensitive guy trying to soften a heartless world. Kind of like the guy he plays in Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society. Three stars.

Patch Adams was a bit better than Moscow on the Hudson, but not as good as Awakenings because, although Williams is that sincere, sensitive guy, he is also too much of an irresponsible iconoclast, like Good Morning Vietnam and Mrs. Doubtfire. I don’t like guys like that. Two stars.

July 15, 2010

American values

American immigration policy for over a century has included limits on the number of people allowed to immigrate.  Part of the objective of that policy is to keep the numbers of immigrants low enough to allow for assimilation to American values.  In response to this objective, a reader of SA Express-News recently suggested that there is no distinct American culture and that the only distinctive American value is to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.  That struck me as too simplistic.  Although the Constitution establishes our form of government – i.e., a democratic republic that is significantly restricted by individual liberty – there are certainly distinguishing American values that are not described in the Constitution. 

What are America’s values?  One of the Internet’s most popular lists was developed by Robin Williams, Jr. in 1970.  He suggested the following:

  1. Achievement and success as major personal goals;
  2. Activity and work favored above leisure and laziness, action/doing over reflection, controlling events and not just letting things happen;
  3. Moral orientation i.e. absolute judgments of good/bad, right/wrong; 
  4. Humanitarian motives as shown in charity and crisis aid; 
  5. Efficiency and practicality a preference for the quickest and shortest way to achieve a goal at the least cost;
  6. Process and progress, a belief that technology can solve all problems & that the future will be better that the past;
  7. Material comfort as the US dream;
  8. Equality as an abstract ideal OR equal opportunity, (not equality of condition);
  9. Freedom as a person’s right against the state;
  10. External conformity, the ideal of going along, joining, and not rocking the boat; 
  11. Science and rationality, as the means of masterminding the environment and securing more material comforts;
  12. Nationalism, a belief that US values and institutions represent the best on earth; 
  13. Democracy (free enterprise) based on personal quality and freedom;
  14. Individualism emphasizing personal rights and responsibilities; and 
  15. Racism and group superiority themes that periodically lead to prejudice and discrimination against those who are racially, religiously and culturally different from the northern Europeans who first settled the continent

Another popular list was developed by L. Robert Kohls in 1984.  Surprisingly, there is not a lot of overlap in the lists:

  1. Personal control over the environment;
  2. Change is a good thing;
  3. Time should be controlled and managed;
  4. Equality/egalitarianism;
  5. Individualism and privacy;
  6. Self-help;
  7. Competition and free enterprise;
  8. Futuristic orientation;
  9. Action/work orientation;
  10. Informality;
  11. Directness, openness, and honesty;
  12. Practicality and efficiency; and
  13. Materialism/acquisitiveness.

Kohls’s list went one step further than Williams’s by contrasting American values with some other countries:


U.S. Values Some Other Countries’ Values
Pers. Control over the Environment 
Time & Its Control
Future Orientation
Action/Work Orientation
Practicality/Efficiency Materialism/Acquisitiveness
Human Interaction
Group’s Welfare
Birthright Inheritance
Past Orientation
“Being” Orientation

The contrasting lists not only suggest that America’s values are unique, but also raise the question, Where do American values come from?  One author, Frederick Jackson Turner, has argued that it was not the Europeans who molded American values, but rather the American frontier experience.  According the Turner, the frontier is responsible for America being egalitarian, nationalistic, pragmatic, adaptive, coarse, violent, anti-intellectual, and wasteful of national resources.  See A Patriot’s History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen.

A couple of other popular lists are mostly redundant, but with a few insights:

A list from the University of Missouri – St. Louis includes:

  1. Individualism and privacy;
  2. Equality;
  3. Informality;
  4. The future, change, and progress;
  5. Time
  6. Achievement, action, work, and materialism; and
  7. Directness and assertiveness.

The unique value from the U of M is the Goodness of Humanity – The future cannot be better if people are not fundamentally good and improvable. Americans assume that human nature is basically good, not basically evil. Foreign visitors will see them doing many things that are based on the assumption people are good and can make themselves better. 

A list from the Kah Zoohl blog consists of liberty, justice, and equality.  Although these might seem overly broad and obvious, I don’t think the prior lists included justice, and I think this oversight is shocking.  As an American, I believe strongly that there should be a remedy for every wrong, if possible.  Americans do not easily accept injustice and will often go to great lengths “as a matter of principle.”

Because American values are unique and not easily adopted, I believe we need to enhance assimilation by limiting immigration to manageable numbers.  To prevent excessive illegal immigration, we have to not only strengthen our border security, but also reverse the current open-arms treatment of illegal immigrants.  Sanctuary cities are an incredible insult to a nation of laws. Unfortunately, respect for the rule of law is not a distinctive American value.