Volunteerism is a good one! We seem to be strongly attuned to social justice, though different political ideologies see different means of attaining it (private charities, individualism, social organizations, government intervention). I think it ties in with our lack of cynicism and our religious ideals, but not from a causality.
I would say that the personification of US culture isn't in the cowboy, but that the cowboy is the stereotype most readily identified as an American archetype. Pioneers, colonial settlers, abolitionists, women's suffragists, mountain men, prohibitionists, Hollywood stars, oil tycoons... there are so many American archetypes to choose from and cowboy is only one of them.
Childish name calling. We're not a lazy culture.
I suppose it may be linked to pursuing modern conveniences (driving, not walking, etc), but that's really just to free up more time to work, right?
Originally Posted by Haphazard
I know! So you can get that second job, exactly.
You have to have the second job to afford the gym membership, the gas for driving to work in the huge SUV that doesn't hold all your 1.2 kids' soccer and key club supplies, the SUV payment, the day care costs for while you're working two jobs, the pet grooming, the yard maintenance, the hair highlighting and lowlighting, the convenience foods since you aren't home to be preparing them more, the tickets to some sort of expensive outlet to allow yourself scheduled downtime after the hectic and stress-filled week, etc.
I know a lot of people who choose not to live this way, but they're definitely counter-cultural. And America is a place where being counter-cultural is increasingly a strong undercurrent to the culture. Our culture tends to identify more by saying what we aren't than by saying what we are. We aren't British. We aren't racist. We aren't wasteful. We don't do that. We wouldn't do that. Whatever.