(This is an old English paper I wrote for college a few quarters back. I was struggling to reach the minimum length, so I admit I stretched the bit about America’s Christian origins a bit to match my argument. I never lied, but I am aware of a larger picture I didn’t represent here.)
Martyrdom is the act of a person either sacrificing his or her life or enduring suffering for a higher purpose. The practice can be seen in many separate cultures all over the world and it is a social phenomenon that is perpetuated through the ideologies held by the cultures. In the culture of the United States of America, the prevailing views of martyrdom are affected by both the existing ideologies that were present when the country was formed and by acts of martyrdom perpetrated against the country as a form of aggressive action by its enemies. After the suicide attacks of September 11, 2001, which were perpetrated by Islamic terrorist Osama bin Laden, the mainstream American culture has typically associated the subject of martyrdom with the hateful Islamic extremists, as well as to the comparable kamikaze attacks Japan perpetrated against the Allies in World War II. While it is true that it is reasonable for members of American culture to disagree with ideologies that would encourage violence carried out against its people by martyrs, the mainstream American culture has a hypocritical stance of martyrdom in which martyrs who uphold American values are glorified as brave heroes, and martyrs considered enemies are cast as irrational and cowardly.