Being An American Essay

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Today one seldom meets an American skeptic, for the reason that nothing is more assuredly un American than to entertain any doubt concerning the fact that somehow or other this country will come out all right.

There are many who will find such a statement too sweeping, and say, for instance, that President Roosevelt is destroying the national ideal, that he is leading the country to ruin, decadence, anarchy, and so forth.

Unity on the fundamental principles of politics is indispensable to the life of this country.

The presence of even a small minority who would question the validity of Americanism would attack at the very core the concept of American nationality itself.

All of them, however, remain thoroughly English, French, or German in spite of everything.

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The type of American who does not accept America as it is and has misgivings about it—such as Henry James, Edith Wharton, T. Eliot, and some others—belongs to a past generation.It is strange that the only common denominator accepted by all people today should be the one which most assuredly prevents them from living in peace with one another.That denominator is nationalism, the strongest single motive which inspires the action of modern men.But the fact that such expressions as "Americanism," the "American way," the "American outlook," and so forth, have had to be coined seems to indicate that Americans are the first to feel the need of qualifying themselves when they say, "I am an American." More than that, the American consciousness gives an impression of growth.It is not static, and one feels that it still contains tremendous possibilities of expression.First of all, it is obvious that the sense of nationality is not less developed in Americans than in any other people.It is quite as real and quite as visible in all its manifestations.I have a definite impression that during my own lifetime the French have shown a tendency to become more French, the Germans more German, the Americans more American.Or, to put it another way, there seems to be an increasing desire on the part of all people to assert more strongly what makes them different and even antagonistic to one another.For the moment, however, there is a very important trait in the make-up of the American nationality which does not exist, I believe, in any other.And that is the fact that America is a permanent protest against the rest of the world, and particularly against Europe.


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