Suggested Readings: American
June 9, 2016
Identity has become central to our social discussion. Whether the affiliation is political or racial or economic or gender, we are questioning who we are and who our neighbor is. But it seems to me, what we are really questioning is who we are collectively as a people.
In “The Revenge of Tribalism,” Ben Shapiro claims that Americans have rejected Locke and embraced Hobbes. (Not literally, of course, and not intellectually, as most Americans have no idea who Locke and Hobbes were or what philosophies they promoted.) Rather factions, or “tribes,” have taken over our national (and regional and local) conversations, creating a hostile environment of competing groups. With a slightly more optimistic view, Victor Hanson Davis points to “America: History’s Exception” as a promising experiment that may still succeed. While history has many examples of multicultural failures, America was designed with e pluribus unum as a core value. For us, diversity can be a strength rather than an obstacle. Finally, President Theodore Roosevelt offers a solution to the problem that multiculturalism creates for national unity, “True Americanism.” His analysis, more than 100 years old, is still relevant. (Roosevelt even foretells our current debates on marriage and Europeanization.) National identity for Americans is not about race or religion or region, but is based on shared ideals that are owned collectively and demonstrated by our democratic practices.