Being An American Essay

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

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.

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.

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.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.There are, of course, many variations of nationalism, and some think that it is dangerous only in its excessive forms, such as those practised by the Germans, the Italians, and the Japanese with their "blood and soil" mysticism, their imperialism, and their racial exclusions.But everywhere we see the same tendency, the same urge to counteract nationalism in one place by more nationalism in another.To begin with, it took me some time to formulate to myself an answer to the very simple questions: "What makes an American? " These questions will naturally sound absurd to an American, and he might retort, "Well, how does it feel to be a Frenchman?" But that is just the point—most Frenchmen can tell you quite clearly what makes them conscious of being French, but I have found it very difficult to obtain from my American friends or from my reading a comprehensive definition of the American nationality.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.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.


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