The issue of Americanism has always existed along with the history of the United States. Within time, internal and external factors led to the acute question of defining a true American. Waves of migration from Europe pushed to a faster solving of the issue and identified various ideas. Nationalism brings up the questions of what a true U.S. citizen is, of what origin is he, and if he can come from another country and become an American (Lepore 10). This paper will analyze two documents provided: Theodore Roosevelt’s point of view and The Klan’s perception of the issue. Both papers illuminate the problem of American culture and society and a definition of an American of the XX century.
The Klan considers that only a few can become Americans, and this honor is relevant only to the white race. Ethnic origins are primary to The Klan as they are focused on saving the purity of Americanism. The Klan also wants to fight “alienism” meaning limiting foreigners from the American race (Evans 1824). The latter correlates with Hitlers’ ideas of the pure race and reminds about severe nationalism and racism. The Klan’s perception can be assessed as extreme as America has always been a multinational country. Limiting nations and implementing double standards to the citizens cannot survive in the modern democratic society respecting the rights of every American civilian. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution claimed the rights of being citizens to all the people born or nationalized in the U.S. despite their ethnicity, origin, or nationality (National Constitution Center para. 2).
On the other side, Theodor Roosevelt’s point of view focuses on Americanism from a different perspective. Roosevelt claimed that any person can become a true American if he is willing to change, accept the power of reforms, become a genuine part of the community supporting other citizens. True Americanism, according to Roosevelt, can be born in the heart of a person by “Americanizing” him with political ideas, major values, and relations between Church and the Government (Roosevelt 5). Roosevelt believed in the American nation led by the idea, not by ethnicity, and it is another extreme side of the issue solving.
Modern society has not yet identified the criteria of a true American. The community is divided into two major groups: Conservatives and Democrats. Conservatives support (in a milder way, of course) the ideas of the Klan claiming America should be limited for a few. Democrats are for immigration and believe everyone can become an American. The arguments raised in the documents can be correlated to some modern incidents representing the issue is still up to date. For instance, the George Floyd case is one of the debates between Republicans and Liberals regarding police violence. From the perspective of Conservatives, the force implementation was proper and within the borders of law, when Democrats stand for this case to represent police violence and racism. Another incident is the Kyle Rittenhouse court case that identifies the high level of polarization on gun control and property protection. Society has divided into two groups supporting gun usage on these occasions, and not. The question is, how far a person can go with a will to protect his property? In modern society, it stays as an open question.
Thus, the issue of being a true American keeps being unsolved. Roosevelt’s and the Klan’s perceptions represent two extreme ideas on problem-solving. The best solution to the issue might be the union of the ideas along with consideration of the modern U.S. legislation saving the rights of every American citizen and protecting the nation and country from the loss of ideas and its customs. However, modern society also needs changes in order to avoid double standards towards every American civilian.
Evans, Hiram Wesley. “The Klan’s fight for Americanism.” The North American Review, vol. 223, no. 830, 1926, pp. 1821-1940.
Lepore, Jill. “A new Americanism: Why a nation needs a national story.” Foreign Affairs, vol. 98, 2019, p. 10.
National Constitution Center. Citizenship rights, equal protection, apportionment, civil war debt, 1868, Web.
Roosevelt, Theodore. “True Americanism.” The Forum Magazine, 1894, pp. 1-10.