If one would wish to define America and Americans, the best way is to provide a category and framework in which wars play the most prominent role. Almost from the beginning of the discovery of the American continent there have been wars, in some cases “small wars” and in others great wars.
However there are three major wars which are mostly referred to as boundaries by which United States evolved from a few haphazard colonies to a global power.
The first, a refinery war that began to form an almost distinguished state is the War of Independence; in this war colonies got their independence from their one time British citizens.
The next war, which would be focused more upon, is the civil war. In this war the divided nation experiences the first major impact of racialization. There were disagreements between the white Anglo Saxon Protestants about the way the blacks and mostly slaves are treated. In the south, there was that image of a black slave as an inferior rouge character who is to be subdued and in some cases brutalized since it is not white, does not belong to the Anglo-Saxon origins and is in most cases heathen. That color-line created a war and in that war a complete and united American nation was given birth. They gathered around that ideal of American-ness and in that process those opponents were dealt with by guns.
The next war which is some how important as the last phase of American identity and self-conception of Americans as the people of the United States is the Second World War. Until mid-20th century the United States was preparing itself and was trying to have an understanding of itself as a nation. AS Philip Gleason (1980) said, this war “enhanced national unity and a common sense of national belonging”. Almost from the early days of the republic struggles around the ethno-racial line existed. The westward movement and the need to portrait Indians as “savage”, uncivilizable, masculine, and ignorant people so that they could unite Americans to win what Max Boot called the “savage wars of peace”, is an example of the continuing process of otherization.
Actually in the US, the demand for construction and often demonization of other ethnic and racial peoples is a permanent issue. What is interesting is the other side of this otherization which gives the opposite attributes cast upon the so-called savages to the white Anglo-Saxon generations. In its simple form evil versus good and these adjectives would go completely in different directions to construct two apparently different ethno-racial groups.
Samuel Huntington very truly mentions wars as things which have a very significant impact on a nation’s return to and cementing of its primary self-conception. Worrying about the core American identity, he says (ibid):
External wars may stimulate controversies and disunity within countries…. If on the other hand, “barbarians” fundamentally threaten or are perceived to threaten the existence of the country, more positive consequences may follow…. This is certainly true for America.
He refers to American Civil War, Cold War and also the last but not the least “War on Terror” as three great times during which that sense of understanding oneself as American and as part of the United States was at its height. The last of these three, the newly introduced war on terror is the item to be studied in terms of situation of ethno-racial groups within and without the US.
The wave of American nationalism and that sense of “all for one” is described by Huntington (2004):
Probably never in the past, was the flag as omnipresent as it was after September 11.it was everywhere: homes, business, automobiles, clothes, furniture, windows, and storefronts… telephone posts.
Now it seems that the United States is looking to expand that compliance that one was asked from Indians, Blacks, from another ethno-racial group in the Middle East. Simply, the compliance needs guns and guns need justifications. Justifications are again like the rest of the past cases. There is a need for construction/demonization of the Muslim/Arab groups to show them as savages in need of civilization.
One example of this recurrent demonization theme is the term “Indian country” which is used in the American army to define the territory of Middle East.
By defining America in the global arena as the innocent against the evil and arrogant evil terrorists (who are highly likely to be Arab Muslims, of course) the United States Government is creating another ethno-racial line by which some are considered as American and others are anti-Americanists (and thus demons). This attempt is well accompanied by the past efforts of Orientalists who presented a picture of orient so useful to western civilization especially the European continent. Thus to bring the torches of civilization to the Middle East, the good fights with all its goodness against the other evil.
There are parallels and contrasts between US domestic and foreign policies. In terms of parallels, there are clashes among different ethno-racial groups within the US; that is, what is the construction of other identities in a broader and global level can be considered as parallel to the construction of some ethno-racial groups within the United States. As an example of this demonization, one could refer to Hispanic community as a newly defined others who have attacked the Americans’ self conception of themselves as people of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Huntington is one of those adhering and intensifying that difference and looks for dealing with the new threats to the US against the more cosmopolitan politicians like democrats of the 90s.
There is a contrast between what is going on in US domestic policy and US foreign policy. While there are attempts within the United States to remove all the barriers of the system in favor of an equal ethno-racial model and erase any signs of division among Americans, in terms of foreign policy there is something completely vice-versa. That division is now exported into the global scene and at the turn of the new millennium, it is Muslim Arabs (not to include Iranians) who are to bear the burden of otherization and demonization in the name of “War On terror”. The result for US domestics is highly likely to be unity, as argued before in this article.
However the writer believes that the division within the global arena will cause a division within the United States and there would be clashes between cosmopolitanism and American exceptionalism/ nationalism.
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