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Talk:United States of America

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Revision as of 19:04, 24 May 2005 by William M Goetsch (talk | contribs) (Scaring away the customers)
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Almost all except -> all except

I changed "Almost all Americans, except the native population, are descended from immigrants" to "All Americans [...]". I can't think of anyone who's not American Indian who's not descended from immigrants. --Evan 04:44, 28 Mar 2004 (EST)

How about African Americans? They did not descend from immigrants. I wouldn't call forced slavery the same thing as immigration.

what about Puerto Rico ?

The "United States" section of the CIA Factbook mentions these "Dependent areas":

American Samoa, Baker Island, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Wake Island

They don't seem to be included in any "Region" at the moment.

Should we give them a separate "Region" ? "U.S. Islands", maybe ?

If we do that, should we demote Hawaii to be just part of that region, rather than an entire region to itself ?

-- DavidCary 17:24, 2 Apr 2004 (EST)

What about calling them Dependent Territories (of the United States) rather than U.S. Islands. Hawaii and Alaska were once both territories, before they became states. -- Huttite 20:37, 25 Dec 2004 (EST)

OK to categorize Florida as just another state in the South ?

I can understand making Texas a region all its own. But I would have lumped Florida in with the "South". But then, I still haven't visited Florida. I'd be happy if someone who has visited Florida would say "yes, it's definitely in its own category". -- DavidCary 17:24, 2 Apr 2004 (EST)

Yes, it's definitely in its own category. --Evan 23:23, 2 Apr 2004 (EST)
Yes, it's definitely in its own category. Very specifically, every winter, Florida becomes a province of Canada. (I've heard that 1/10 of Canada's population visits Florida every winter.) The northern part of the state (Jacksonville, the Panhandle) are part of The South, but the southern part of the state shares more, culturally, with the Northeast and with the Caribbean. Chip 00:29, 8 Jul 2004 (EDT)

traffic accidents 4 times as tragic as shootings

"America has the highest rate of shootings in the industrialized world, by several orders of magnitude."

What is the source of this statement?

I don't know about other countries, but here's stats for the U.S.:

2001: in the United States:

  • 47,288 Deaths Due to Unintentional (Accidental) Injuries: Transport Accidents
  • 11,348 Deaths Due to Assault: Assault by firearm


That says, contrary to what I see in the movies, that over 4 times as many people die in traffic accidents than from firearms. Perhaps, in our article, we should put 4 times the emphasis on traffic accidents as on shootings.

So what are the stats for other countries ? Are traffic accidents also much worse in the U.S. than in other countries ?

-- DavidCary 18:38, 2 Apr 2004 (EST) (study compares violence against among children, but a general point can be taken too)
I think the important point to emphazise is that the US is a more violent country than most industrialized nations. There are lots of historic and cultural reasons for this, none of which are particularly interesting. The important things is that travelers need to know that just because the majority of Americans look like Europeans doesn't mean they will act like Europeans. So a traveler from China, for example, who has experience with traveling to Europe should not automatically assume the US is just another European country.
-- Colin 19:17, 2 Apr 2004 (EST)

Also, there is nothing special about U.S. death rates on roads
In fact, I would arge that given that the U.S. has more freeway driving going on, driving in the U.S. might actually be safer than many industrialized nations. (I'm such an optimist). Using the same logic (tell travelers what they don't already know), I don't see why we should warn anyone about the auto accident death rate, although it might be nice to reassure travelers that their own driving is still the most likely way they will die in the U.S. -- Colin 19:31, 2 Apr 2004 (EST)

Critique of the article

Today I stumbled across this article on the United States. I confess I didn't like it very much. But at first I was not sure why. So I went back and read the whole thing over again.

To provide some context for my comments, let me say I am seventy years old having spent the first 30 in a far west suburb of Chicago and the next 40 in Pittsburgh.

In my re-reading the first thing that caught my attention was the heading, "Culture". I thought, This couldn't have been written by someone who knew the country well. Then I thought, Well maybe that's good in a travel article, an outsider's perspective. But the more I read the more I felt that it was constructed of all the negative stereotypes that one reads in the European press. In some sense stereotypes are true, yet at the same time the article is biased in that there were next to no positive stereotypes to provide balance. Then I thought, Well my skin is just too thin. So for an unbiased comparison I thought I would read the "Culture" sections for some other countries. I checked Germany, Norway and numerous others: no "Culture". Well these countries certainly are regarded by many as having a culture, but maybe they're just too small for Wikitravelers to spend time on that aspect of them. So I checked China and Brazil, not pigeons for sure. Still, no "Culture" sections.

That, I think, goes a long way to explain what is distasteful about the US article: While the author(s) of other articles seem content with providing useful information for travelers, these author(s) felt an urge to go farther. For example:

Given America's place on the world stage, it may seem strange to non-Americans how they picture themselves: warm, thoughtful, friendly, uncomplicated, and righteous. Most Americans consider their place in the world as that of common sense and homely living -- "Mom and apple pie", as the saying here goes. The flipside of this attitude is a general anti-intellectualism, with "real people" being more respected than "snobs" and "bookworms". The simple sentimentalist and violent streaks in American media are a strong reflection of this attitude.

What is being said here? The sentence structure is convoluted but it sounds as though we picture ourselves as "warm, thoughtful, friendly, uncomplicated, and righteous". Well, some of us do and some of us don't; some of us are and some of us aren't. And, of course, all of this is true about people anywhere in the world. So what is really being said to the traveler here? Watch out for the cowboys? The author(s) don't come right out and tell us. In the same vein, they continue with the stereotype of anti-intellectualism. It is difficult to quantify intellectualism, but in any sense that one might actually measure -- scholarly journals, advanced degrees, political criticism, books published, things invented, I don't think we stack up too badly. But maybe they are only saying that we don't like intellectuals, not that we don't have them in full measure. In either case what is the message they are providing to the traveler?


... people from other countries, especially in Asia and Latin America, are often viewed with suspicion. Americans have an ideal of what the "real" American culture is like, and although they may and often do experiment with immigrant cuisine and music, non-natives are considered by some as a threat to what's "really" American. Some foreign travelers may feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny of America's xenophobic side.

While it is certainly true that some Americans view people from other cultures with suspicion, in my experience it is not true that people from other countries are "often" viewed with suspicion. I suppose it depends on what the meaning of "often" is. And its meaning here should be, "compared to what other country". Who here shall cast the first stone? Are Americans more zenophobic than other people? Typically, the author(s) has again chosen a stereotype that is difficult to quantify. "non-natives are considered by some as a threat ...". The word "some" is convenient here because in any substantial population it is always true; so we can't fault the author(s) for making an untrue statement. But let us compare countries a little bit, for that is the real interest of the traveler after all. Should one be especially nervous as a foreigner in America? One could as well ask whether all Germans welcome the Turks with open arms? All French, the Algerians? All Italians, the Albanians, and this is to name only a few. Well I have taken the trouble to check the Wikitravel pages for these countries to see if travelers to these countries are properly cautioned. They aren't.

I will not continue further, though it would be easy to find much more in the same vein. My basic point here is not that Americans are perfect, though if we had any doubt about it we are nowadays informed regularly that we are not. My point is that much of this article does not belong in a travel-focused article, as witnessed by the fact that information of this type is not contained in other countries' articles, and conversely, if it does belong, then "culture" should be in the "country template" (it is not -- and probably a good thing too or we should really see the fur fly).

What we have in this article is editorializing in the guize of travel writing. I do not say this is intentional. I prefer to think merely that the author(s) is somewhat naive, or has expressed him- or herself poorly.

Sincerely, William M Goetsch 22:00, 2 May 2004 (EDT)

I think your critique is right-on, at least in that it's not really possible to write about the U.S. having a culture. Checking the page history and noting the author of the "Culture" bits I think I can form a theory: the author is actually writing about his childhood home in the Texas Panhandle, as opposed to the U.S. as a whole.
I actually think it would be easy for any of us to fall into this trap. I have a totally different view of the U.S. having grown up mainly in a college town and then having lived in the inner city of Chicago, and later San Francisco. As such I've requesed myself from writing about the U.S.A. as a whole. I just really don't know what the Culture of the U.S. is.
I do suspect that anybody attempting to write about "American culture" is going to have the same exact problem. See I can't even decide what to call it. ;) -- Mark 04:03, 3 May 2004 (EDT)
Mr. Goetsch: feel free to make changes to the article to give more accurate information on the USA. Most of the parts that you found unpleasant were written by me. I am an American born and bred, and I tried to give as much info as I can about differences between the US and other English-speaking countries. You can consider it an insider's outsider's view.
The USA is more complete than other country articles, but that's not because we don't want this information -- that's what the Understand section is for. I'd love to see Germany or Norway have the depth of analysis as this page has.
It's hard to write about the culture of a place as big and diverse as the US without a lot of generalization. I especially tried to cover the aspects of US culture that seem to puzzle international visitors; these tend to be some of our country's less savory qualities. --Evan 01:34, 4 May 2004 (EDT)
Evan: I would like to do some work on this but I don't want to get into a pissing contest, especially with you who have originated the whole site. I believe you should rule in this matter, even if it is perhaps not the wiki way. Here is what I propose: I will rewrite the article in my own namespace incorporating all the good factual stuff from the present article. I will stick very close to the country template and I believe it will turn out somewhat shorter, but still plenty rich. I prefer not to put in a great deal of history -- which, after all, is not in the template. I believe it would more properly be in an encyclopedia. Maybe we can link to Wikipedia.
BTW: Although still a "newbie" I detect, perhaps wrongly, some tension between Wikitravel and Wikipedia. I wish you would confirm whether this is a valid hunch on my part, as I think Wikitravel would benefit from such cross-referencing and then we could focus more tightly on the traveler, which is, presumably, our primary remit. And we would then be able to use our resources more efficiently to fill in some of the many, many gaps in Wikitravel. And if we don't like what's in Wikipedia, why we can change it. Wikipedia would also benefit from our inserting external links in it to Wikitravel articles.
Anyway: After I'm done -- it will take maybe only a couple days -- then you read it. If you like it, or feel it is a better base from which to work, then fine, we'll move it in. If not, that will be the end of it and we'll stick to what's there. If you have invested in the present article to the point where even without seeing my approach you would like to keep what you have, please tell me. It'll save my effort. I won't have any serious regrets and there's plenty of other things to work on here. William M Goetsch 14:51, 4 May 2004 (EDT)
PS: I've done a little here that you can look at to help make up your mind, but I'm going to stop now till I hear back from you.
Bill: A couple of responses. First, Maj and I don't claim any special privileges on Wikitravel. We happen to have been around since the beginning, so we've probably got better long-term perspective than newcomers, but besides that we don't get any final say. The traveller comes first around here, not the founders.
Second, there's no bad blood between Wikitravel and Wikipedia that I know of. Cooperating with Wikipedia is part of our Fellow Traveller Expedition, and we have special ways to make links to Wikipedia. Many Wikitravellers are current or former Wikipedians.
That's not to say that we're exactly the same as Wikipedia. We have a different culture, different goals, and different ideas. We're separate, but amicably so.
Third, it's always a good idea to link to Wikipedia, but it's also good to remember that Wikitravel is not just a Web travel guide. These guides are supposed to be useful when printed out, so just linking to other sites isn't enough. I think the history of the USA on this page is about the smallest capsule history we could come up with. It has just enough info so that someone visiting a Civil War battlefield (say) would have some idea what the Civil War was.
Lastly, I'll try to take a look at your ideas and comment on them on that page. It's usually easier for everyone if you just update the page you want to change, though. Thanks again for your help, -- Evan 16:26, 8 May 2004 (EDT)

Editing of the article

Though "history" was the major change, I started at the beginning and worked through history. So I made some other changes besides just history. I took out Cincinatti as a major travelers goal, for example, and I reworked "geography" some too along the way. I plan to edit "culture" next. My aim is to clean it up, condense it, and make it more objective, though much of the original text is remains.

My general feeling is still that the article is too long, and that history would be better addressed by a reference to Wikipedia (although I haven't looked at the quality of theirs which can be spotty). If I am going to Britain I would certainly not desire to read its history on Wikitravel.

Still, I have tried to use a scalpel here, not a sawzall, in deference to the work that has been put in to it. William M Goetsch 13:41, 9 May 2004 (EDT)

More work on the article including Get In to Eat and Drink. Some typos injected. Will get them later. William M Goetsch 12:10, 10 May 2004 (EDT)

Editing complete down to Drink. William M Goetsch 12:27, 11 May 2004 (EDT)

Hi William. I appreciate your contributions to this article, and like most of the improvements.
I wanted to make a mild objection to one of your removals though. I thought the old 'Respect' section had useful and vital advice for the traveler. In particular, I think travelers from other countries need to be aware of the dangers of discussing race with an American (my favorite quote from before: The subject is extremely nuanced, and it is highly unlikely that any foreign traveler will be able to navigate the minefield of American race relations without stepping on something extremely explosive), Okay, maybe it was a bit strong before, but at the very least we need to say to someone "don't try to initiate a conversation about race unless you really know what you're doing." To me, the parts of the old 'Respect' section which were a bit overdone did, at least, seem to serve the purpose of explaining to the traveler exactly why they need to avoid racial topics like the plague.
I'd like to see Respect brought back, but of course I'd also like to hear from you first since you've put so much effort into this of late -- Colin 00:54, 17 May 2004 (EDT)
Colin: Curiously, my parents lived in Fremont, I believe in the 70s, and I visited them there several times. Anyway, re: "Respect: My reasons for removal of this section, strangely enough, mirror my reason for removing the section on topless bathing: It has unfortunately not been my experience to see many women at a beach willy-nilly stripping off their bras without first looking around to what others were or were not doing. Visitors usually have pretty good sense. In a more serious vein, I have frequently, in my travels, introduced "locally sensitive" issues in my conversations -- to the extent my Spanish, or my interlocutor's English, permitted -- and as a consequence I sometimes learned things I would not have otherwise. In any case, "social warnings" like these, as opposed to warnings about walking alone at night in questonable places, do not usually have serious consequences, as locals usually make allowances for traveler's faux pas, if such they are. Regards, William M Goetsch 10:58, 17 May 2004 (EDT) (Bill).
And I had another thought, perhaps more directly to the point you raise: In my view it would be desirable to have a traveler bring up "race relations" in a conversation here. They probably already have a worse view of Americans in this respect than is actually the case. In the same way, were I conversing with a serious person in, say, Lebanon, I would not hesitate to bring up the topic of Islamist terrorism, a similarly fraught subject I'm sure you will agree. This is how the world and gets to know one another and, in the longrun, hopefully, straightens itself out. Travel is all about breaking down barriers. Bill William M Goetsch 11:25, 17 May 2004 (EDT)
I have to say I agree with William here. During my travels I talked about a number of sensitive subjects in different countries. In Turkey I had conversations about the Kurdish situation, in Malaysia about the tensions between the Chinese, Indian and bumiputra population, in Australia about the situation of the Aboriginal people, in Argentina about machismo, ... and I never felt any hostility from the people I talked with. Of course, you don't lecture people about what you think is right or wrong. But if you listen to them you can learn something about the topic and why it is the way it is. And most of the times it is not an offence to tell them that you and the people in your country think or act differently for such and such reason. Akubra 16:41, 17 May 2004 (EDT)
That said, I think having a 'Respect' section is helpful to make travellers aware of the local sensitivities and give some clues on how to behave (such as taking off your shoes before entering a Hindu temple). Blatantly telling a Turkish soldier that you support an independent Kurdistan is not the way to go, but you can always talk to me about the Flemish-Walloon situation in Belgium when you happen to be here :-) Akubra 16:57, 17 May 2004 (EDT)

Road Nomenclature

So here in the United States, we have the original highway system (Route 66), the Interstate Highway System (Interstate 80) and also state routes (California Route 1). Sometimes a state route (California 97) preserves the same number across a few states (Oregon, Washington 97) or provinces (B.C. 97). It seems like we really ought to have a standard way of specifying the roads. I see stuff on wikitravel like I-80, I80, Interstate 80, Route 66, US 66, SR 97, CA 97, etc. Shall we standardize how we type these darn things in?

So here's a proposal to start things off. I'm not much attached to these! This is just to start the conversation.

  • I-80 for Interstate 80. I see this dash stuff all the time on interstates. I don't know why it's only interstates that get the dash
  • US 66 for Route 66. Most maps don't make it clear that Route 66 is the same as US Highway 66 so it's nice to specify the US instead of Route
  • SR 97. It's an abbreviation for state route. Each state has a differently shaped sign for their state routes.

Comments please? -- Colin 23:51, 7 Jul 2004 (EDT)

Oops, I hadn't seen this! I guess I agree with your proposal but it's also important to have some context for people. If you start just talking about "use the SR 97 to get there" it might not be clear that it's a road (versus a train or bridge or whatever)... And is "SR" a commonly used abbreviation? I haven't seen it... I'm just not sure how obvious the US road system is to someone from say, India, or Africa... but maybe I'm making assumptions. Majnoona 17:55, 30 Oct 2004 (EDT)

AAA uses the SR nominclature. This makes a small bit of sense to me since 1) you don't have to figure out the two letter abbrev for the state route (CA for California is obvious, but what does Idaho use?) and 2) if a state route crosses a state boundary, the number is frequently preverved.
You're right that this will confuse visitors from afar. So if we can agree on some kind of standard, we should explain the plethora of road names and how they are expressed in the USA article. Of course, this only helps folks who consult the USA article before going somewhere, but that's kinda how we do other stuff like phone numbers, so it seems like our style of doing things. We do, I think, need to at least explain the US Route / Interstate / State route division in the article.
I'm not super-attached to my proposal above. It was more just a point of reference for discussion. Do you have a preference for spelling out State Route or any other ideas? -- Colin 18:32, 30 Oct 2004 (EDT)


Net State has detailed historical information on each state. Would this be appropriate to put in the United_States_of_America article ?

Probably not. We have Wikipedia links in the sidebar so that people can go to Wikipedia for more info on a location that's not strictly travel related. But putting in other links is too much of a slippery slope: there are heaps of sites about the history of many of the countries and destinations we list. -- Hypatia 13:15, 1 Nov 2004 (EST)

Internet TLD

Hmm, I would rather focus domains like .gov, .mil, .edu in quick bar. Domain .com is much more in international use.


So, someone obviously worked really hard on this article recently, and I rolled back their changes. Here's why:

  • Having every single state listed under Regions is just waaaaaay too much info. It's better as it is now: links to general regions (like New England and the Midwest , with each region having links to particular states.
  • We don't need to have every single city in the US linked from Cities. We already picked out a small selection of really major cities for travellers; we don't need links to the top 20 or the top 50.

I think the key thing is remembering the 7+/-2 rule: make groups of links of around 5-9 items. If you have more items, break them down into sub-groups, and make new pages. --Evan 01:09, 7 Mar 2005 (EST)

Whoever did the work on the US today also expanded some of the region descriptions and other minor info. Since those changes looked good I've restored them. Hopefully that's OK. -- Wrh2 02:30, 7 Mar 2005 (EST)

No pictures!

The USA article currently has seventy-one (71) kilobytes of text and zero (0) pictures to accompany it! Surely there's a decent pic or two to slot in somewhere? Jpatokal 00:14, 5 May 2005 (EDT)

How about grabbing a couple of iconic images from the state/city pages? Maybe the Statue of Liberty shot from the New York (city) page and a Golden Gate Bridge shot from San Francisco? I'm sure there are probably other images that people associate heavily with America, but those are two suggestions. -- Wrh2 00:52, 5 May 2005 (EDT)

Scaring away the customers

As each author adds their own particular bugbear to this article the US is getting scarier and scarier and the article longer and longer. Gay bashing, monster storms, and my personal favorite: "[visitors] should familiarize themselves with the local climatology and pack clothes or items as appropriate." Sound as though our visitors are children: Be sure to pack your galoshes girls.

As to gay bashing I will challenge this paranoid author to name a city or state where there is no gay community, as he especially warns us to beware of. Start with Peoria Illinois ("If it plays in Peoria...). Doesn't he watch TV?

We can't put foam rubber on the playground of the whole US of A. Soon, reading this article, even if they can get a visa, they won't come. That would be too bad. Hey, a little wild and wooly is good for the soul.

Let us give a thought to balance.

William M Goetsch 16:29, 23 May 2005 (EDT)

Yes, junk does accumulate. Pointless stuff like "learn the climatology" should be deleted since it's obviously true for every destination. The gay bashing warning is exactly one short setence and pretty much says "you should be careful outside of SF/NY." I think that's fair. I live 30 miles from SF, and I think acting openly gay here would carry risks from some members of the local idiocracy. I reckon it could be fatal in parts of Mississipi. It's not that we are saying everyone outside SF is a homophobic murderer, it's just a "be careful" in case a gay visitor from another part of the globe is under the misaprehention that the US is filled with only accepting people. Colin 23:44, 23 May 2005 (EDT)
Well I'm not planning to take the warning out. I'm simply saying that the article on the United States seems to be building up with warnings much faster than any other country article. If one is gay and planning a trip to Morocco let's say, one is probably somewhat cautious before walking down the street holding hands with one's boyfriend. Yet, without looking, I would be willing to bet that the article on Morocco has not issued the same warning as does the United States article. I remember that a while back the United States article had a warning about nude beaches which I think I removed. I did this on the basis that rational people do not generally strip their clothes off at a beach willy nillie without looking around a little bit first. This is simply common sense. The United States article seems to be getting out of sync with comparable articles about other countries. I would prefer that authors with such fears, after adding them to the United States article, would add them as well to articles on other countries. And I would ask you whether you have taken the trouble to do this. The way it stands now, it looks like the United States is a pariah country out of sync with the rest of the world,yet in fact it is far more liberal than is most of the rest of the world, let's say Africa, the Middle East, India, China, Indonesia, and in fact the bulk of the population of the planet. So this displays us in a false bad light And plays on negative stereotypes which are building up around the world about our country. This discourages travelers From coming here which I feel is a bad thing. This is what I mean by balance.

William M Goetsch 15:00, 24 May 2005 (EDT)