American Culture in 7 Snapshots

by | Oct 22, 2015 | Pop Culture

Many road trips have been filled with discussions of my favorite icebreakers: If you could invite any three people to dinner, whom would you invite?1 If you could keep only five U.S. states, which would you keep?2 Or, an even more entertaining one: If you could get rid of five U.S. states, which would you get rid of?3  

Recently, however, I was given one that stumped me. Our friends at Magis 2016 are highlighting the cultures of the different continents to get ready for their gathering of young adults from around the world next summer. They have asked The Jesuit Post to gather seven pictures or short videos that represent the culture of North America. They will post one per day for a week and share them with the rest of the world.

It sounded like a great idea, but how on earth do you adequately represent the culture — or, rather, cultures — of North America in seven images? A picture may be worth a thousand words, but can seven pictures really capture the story of hundreds of millions of people?  

Do you use pictures from some of the most iconic American locations: the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, or the White House? Or would pictures of people sitting around the dinner table better reflect our lived experience?


Murica? By Bart Heird, Flickr CC

Should you show the people we aspire to be? Or, do you also include the people we might wish to forget? What about those we often do forget?

Do you show images from New York and Los Angeles — places that outsiders might recognize as “America”? Do you feature a farm in Saskatchewan, a small town in Iowa,4 or another place that others might know less about?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I hope you can help me out.

If you have taken a photo or two5 that you think represents part of North America, please share it with me at [email protected].6 We will then select seven images, give credit to the photographers when we use them, and send along a small token of our appreciation from The Jesuit Post. 7 I look forward to seeing what you think America looks like.


The cover image by Michael Dougherty at Flickr Creative Commons can be found here

  1. My list: Pope Francis, Michelle Obama, and Tina Fey.
  2. My choices: Minnesota, California, Washington, Colorado, and New York. I’m a traitor to my home state.
  3. It’s probably better I don’t say what I think here. Residents of one of these states tell us not to “mess” with them.
  4. That was my attempt to be less of a traitor to my home state.
  5. Or seven
  6. Please submit all photos/videos by October 31.
  7. It might not be dinner with the Pope, the First Lady, and Liz Lemon, but it’ll be worth it!

Michael Rossmann, SJ   /   @RossmannSJ   /   All posts by Michael