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Racial And Civic Nationalism Essay

1691 words - 7 pages

Essay #1

In his book American Crucible: Race and Nation of the Twentieth Century, Gary Gerstle shows us how much of 20th-century American history can be understood in terms of the changes in how Americans generally and politicians in particular balanced civic and racial nationalism. Gary Gerstle argues that racial and civic nationalism are two largely separate ideological strains that have animated the political history of the United States in the 20th-century (p. 5). When it comes to Civic nationalism, Gerstle put it as an “... American belief in the fundamental equality of all human beings, in every individual’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and ...view middle of the document...

He does it by looking at the work of American Liberal, such as Theodore Roosevelt, particularly the “Winning of the west”. In some ways Theodore Roosevelt is the figure that dominates this book. The reason he uses the American Liberal as one of his primary evidence to prove his argument is because they were very influential.
In American Crucible, Gerstle relies heavily on Theodore Roosevelt for his inspiration in interpreting the state and nationalism. Gerstle sees Roosevelt vacillating between these two strands of nationalism in almost schizophrenic way, though with civic nationalism largely holding sway. In the chapter 1 which is titled “Theodore Roosevelt’s Racialized Nation, 1890 - 1900” Gerstle uses Roosevelt work “The winning of the west (1989)” to make his case how Roosevelt racialized the American through his work. In Roosevelt’s eyes, the history of racial conflict pointed in the direction of civilization and progress (p. 18). Roosevelt believed that the higher civilized races triumphed over the lower savage or barbaric ones. He uses the Backwoodsmen as an ultimate example to show what and how American people should be. In his eyes these backwoodsmen who bravely ventured forth into the trans-Appalachian wilderness to battle Indian and clear the land were warrior above all. He compares them to the Germans who had invaded Britain and that their primary task were relentless war against the savage Indians who claimed these lands as their own (p. 19). One way this come to be was through war and defeating the enemy. Few man wished for war like Theodore Roosevelt did Gerstle admits. His ferocious energy seems to reach from the grave and grab hold of Gerstle's imagination, much as it did that of the Rough Rider's contemporaries. Moreover, Roosevelt makes Gerstle's argument: "If for Karl Marx history was the history of class conflict, for Roosevelt it was the history of race conflict" (p. 17). Roosevelt offered a history of racial thinking in his times. He compares how an English speaking people conquered North America. Gerstle’s brings to the point how Roosevelt though racial mixing and racial assimilation provided these were properly controlled by the superior race could benefit the nation very much (p. 19). He lead them to war in which he created his Rough Riders, a melting pot in Roosevelt’s eye. This warior were different backgrounds, but they did not include Indian, women, black and Chinese. We referred to as “Rooseveltian nationalism”. It is like a small racial nation that Theodore Roosevelt created. But it only superior race were in it. Later on as the war was on the way, The Ninth Tenth Cavalry played a key role in helping Roosevelt and his Rough Rider win the war. The contribution of these soldiers were acknowledged by Roosevelt and other whites soldiers at the time but later denied (p. 34). This created a problem for Roosevelt to his idea of Civic and racial nationalism, which was supposed to be made of superior race.
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