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The United States of America

The United States of America fills up the middle portion of the North American continent. It is one of the largest countries in the world, after Canada and China, with an area of 3,600,000 square miles.

America has over 250,000,000 people.  On1y China and India have more people, although several other countries are catching up fast.

Almost all Americans say that they believe in God. More than half are Protestant Christians, and a quarter are Catholic.

There are also Jews, Moslems, and atheists.

Politically, the United States is a representative democracy, with the government leaders elected by the people. It is also a federation. This means that it is made up of a number of States. Each State has its own constitution and its own elected government for its internal affairs.

America was an ally of the Western European democracies in World War I, World War II

and the Cold War. It was on the winning side each rime. The world wars weakened all of the European countries but did not damage America. During the Cold War, there were only two superpowers in the world: America and the Soviet Union.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, America was the only superpower left. Americans are not sure what they want to do with all this power. They also are not sure whether they will be able to keep the top position very long.

America has the largest economy of any single country in the world, with a total product of $6,000,000,000,000 a year.

Its people have the highest standard of living of any large country in the world; only a few small

countries have higher standards of living. Its economy is still growing, but several other important countries are growing even faster at the present rime.

There is a widespr 454c26e ead belief, both in America and in other countries, that the United States is in economic decline.


Nearly all of the 250,000,000 Americans are descendants of immigrants who came to America from other countries.

Immigration played a big role in forming the American character. Immigrants are not like people who are born into a country. They have to pick up their things, leave their homes, and start a new life in a new land.

Americans think of an ideal immigrant as someone who travels all the way acrossthe ocean to find freedom and opportunity in America. He may be coming toescape political or religious oppression, or simply to make better use of bis talents, which could not be used in bis native land because of social restrictions.

America has thought of itself as a refuge for freedom. It has traditionally thought of immigrants as heroes of freedom.


Most Americans speak English, but only 33 million of them are from families which came from England. Another 39 million are lrish. The lrish, who are strongly  Catholic, came to America because they were unhappy with England's control over Ireland. Masses of them came in the 1840s when there was a terrible famine in Ireland.

Most ofthe other 180,000,000 Americans have their family origins in other European countries, especially Germany and Italy. Millions of Eastern Europeans came to America to escape Russian rule in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Asian-Americans number 10,000,000 and are growing fast. Many of them live in California near the Pacific


Americans from Mexico and other parts of Latin America are called "Hispanics". There are 22,000,000 of them, mostly in southern parts of the country near to Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Their numbers are growing the fastest of alI groups in America. Three-fourths of them speak Spanish instead of English at home.


African-Americans or "blacks" are the only Americans whose families did not come to America voluntarily. They are descendants of slaves, who were brought by violence from Africa for sale in America. The slave trade began in the 1600s and was finally outlawed in 1808.

American blacks were freed from slavery after a very bloody Civil War in the 1860s, when the States with slaves were defeated by the States that did not allow slavery. Even after that, blacks were kept in an inferior position. They were prevented from voting, and were kept in separate neighborhoods and separate schools. This was called "segregation".

In the 1950s and 1960s, blacks  finally won the basic rights of all Americans, thanks to a popular Civil

Rights movement led by Marthin Luther King. The enforced segregation of the races was ended; instead, efforts were made for "integration". However, most blacks still live in separate neighbourhoods, with much more violence and poverty than other Americans. Today there are 30,000,000 blacks in America.


There are two million Native Americans in the territory of the United States.

They used to be called "Indians" be- cause, when Christopher Columbus arrived in America, he thought he had reached India.

The Native Americans are the descendants of people who migrated into America from northern Asia ten thousand years ago, when Alaska and Siberia were connected by land. They were brutally pushed aside by the  European settlers who began arriving in the 1600s. Time after time, the lands of Native American tribes were invaded and taken away from them by the white settlers. Today, their remaining lands are called "reservations". These lands are reserved for the use of Native Americans and are governed by Native tribal governments.


America's population is stilI growing. The increase is due mostly to immigration.

America's European population is not growing. Its birth rates have fallen too low far that, like birth rates in Europe itself. However, black and Hispanic Americans stilI have high birth rates. And immigration keeps bringing more people to America.

The role of immigration was always enormous in America. In the 1800s, America wanted immigrants to come and filI up its empty spaces. Today, however, 60% of Americans want to slow down or stop immigration.

From 1820 to 1960, 34,000,000 immigrants came to America from Europe and only 8,000,000 from non-European countries. The Italian immigrants alone numbered 5,000,000. So did the English. So did the Irish. The German immigrants numbered 7,000,000.

In the 1960s, the United States changed  its immigration policy in ways that made it easier for immigrants to come from the Third World. From 1961 to 1990, 15,000,000 new immigrants came to America. Less than 3,000,000 ofthe new immigrants came from Europe. 12,000,000 of them came from Latin America and Asia. They are still coming, in numbers that keep growing.

This change has led to a widespread fear that America is becoming less of a European country. 70% of Americans are stilI European in origin, but statisticians think that this number will drop below 50% some time in the next century.

Working class Americans, both white and black, have blamed Hispanic immigrants far taking away their jobs. Black Americans have rioted violently against Asian immigrants.

In addition to legal immigrants, there are many illegal immigrants. The "illegal" are not counted in the statistics because they enter America without registering.

Most of them simply come across the long, 2000-mile (3200-km.) border between the United States and Mexico.

The government estimates that 300,000- 500,000 "illegal" are coming in each year. Almost all Americans want fewer of them to get in.



Immigrants are good.

They take risks.

Theybring skills and education.

They do hard, unpleasant kinds of

work that most Americans aren't willing to do.

They provide labourers far seasonal agricultural work.

They are young, and the American population is growing

oo old.

They pay taxes.

They keep the economy growing.

They increase America's diversity.

They are making Americaa multicultural society and a model far the whole world.

They give America influence in the countries they come from.

The Asian immigrants are giving us useful connections with the booming Asia-Pacific economies.

The migration back and forth across the border with

Mexico is Americanizing Mexico.

AlI the arguments against the new immigrants today were used 100 years ago against the immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe. In those days, people said the immigrants were taking away our working class jobs and undermining our English heritage. But look how much the immigrantsended up contributing to America!

America is a nation of immigrants. It would be un-American to stop immigration.

You anti-immigration people are just racists.


These new immigrants are taking our jobs away.

They are unskilled and uneducated.

They make things worse far poor blacks.

They increase social tensions that are already bad enough.

They get welfare, while the rest of us pay far it.

They keep the population growing too much.

They are undermining America's sense of unity and purpose.

They bring in all kinds of problems from their native lands - terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, drugs, criminal gangs, diseases...

The Mexican immigrants are still Mexicans  at heart.

They aren't learning English.

They are dividing America into two languages.

They are Mexicanizing the southwest andare going to tear it away from the United States.

There is a limit how any people we can Americanize at one time.. America needs time to assimilate the immigrants it already has before it lets any more in.

You pro-immigration people don't really love America. You are trying to change America from a European-based country into a new kind of society without a common culture.

It's a dangerous experiment.

It's destroying America.


From the start, America was in the forefront of religious freedom. One of the main reasons why people have immigrated to America has been to escape religious persecution in their home countries. In America, they have found the freedom to worship in the way they  want.

When America was first settled in the 600s, different religious groups often formed their own separate colonies in America. Each one wanted the freedom to worship God in its own way, but often would not let people worship in any other way inside their colony. As the years went on and the

"Enlightenment" began, they grew more tolerant of other religions. In the 1780s, when the colonies

were uniting, they had to tolerate each other's different religions so that their Union could succeed.

In 1791, the V.S. Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom  for all religions and prohibited the United States from supporting any one religion.


Today, among the wealthy countries of the world, America is the most religious. Nearly all Americans say that they believe in God, although some Americans do not mean very much by this.

A slight majority of Americans are Protestants. Out of the 250,000,000 Americans, 54% or 135,000,000 are Protestants. At the same rime, 26% or 65,000,000 are Catholics.

There are also 5,000,000 Jews in America. Most ofthem came in the late 1800s, to escape from violent persecution in the Russian empire. Jews play a large role in the culturallife ofAmerica, providing America with many of its writers, newsmen, professors and movie actors. Islam is small but growing in America, thanks to immigration from Middle Eastern countries. It is also attracting some blacks as a religion of protest against the Westernworld. The "Nation of Islam" has taught that white people are evil. In 1995 its leader, Louis Farrakhan organized the largest single demonstration ever held by black Americans.

Since the 1960s, many young Americans have been trying Eastern religious practices of meditation.

However, fewer than 1% of Americans describe themselves as "Buddhist" or "Hindu".


The "born again" or "fundamentalist" Christians believe the Bible is the exact word of God. They say there is only one way to be saved from going to Hell: first, believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and died for your sins, and then find Jesus personally and ask Him to come into your soul, remake your life and save you.

There have always been fundamentalists in America. At every rime in America 's history, groups have argued that the counltry was falling apart and that this was because it had turned away from God.

Millions of Americans feci the society is decaying today. Drug use and crime have multiplied. So has AIDS, a deadly disease which is spread by sex. Like fundamentalists in Islamic countries, American fundamentalists say that a return to God is the only solution. They want much less separation of Church and State.

They think the government and media have been taken aver by a small un-Christian group. They fear this group may be part of a gigantic conspiracy to put America under the control of the United Nations and create a Satanic New World order. They want to take America back from this group and make it a Christian country again.

For now, fundamentalists are trying to outlaw abortion, get sex out of the schools and movies, put prayer back in schools, and have schools teach the Biblical version of creation as a theory that is just as scientific as evolution.

Many Americans agree with them on some of these issues.

The fundamentalists are a small minority, but they

are important.

They have organized a "Christian Coalition" which has gained a lot of influence within the Republican Party.


What do you think?

1. Underline the arguments before that you think ore basically true

2. Is America basically a European country? If yes, then what makes it

European - the English language? political traditions? memories of people

3. Will America continue to be a close ally of Europe if a majority of its population becomes non-European in the next 100 years?

4. America turning away tram Europe? Is the future in Asia?

Circle the correct word or  phrase to complete the sentence.

Most Americans are. . .

q Jews 

q Moslems 

q Christians

Most American Christians ore. . .

q Catholic 

q Protestant

Americans have. . .

q freedom to practise any religion

q a government-supported religion

q repression ot minority religions

The fundamentalist movement believes in...

q greater separation ot Church and State

q the literal truth ot the Bible

q the Oarwinian theory ot evolution

Questions to think about.

How is religion in your own country different from in America?

Do people who belong to minority religions in your country feel like complete citizens or like guests in the country?

Is the main religion in your country Christianity?

Does  religion make your country feel closer to America or farther from it?


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