Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity


Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity

Infobox_book | name = Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity


author = Samuel P. Huntington
country = United States
language = English
subject = national identity
publisher = Simon & Schuster
release_date = 2004
pages = 448
isbn = ISBN 0684870533
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity", published in English in 2004, is a non-fiction work by political scientist and historian Samuel P. Huntington. The author addresses American self-identity at the beginning of the 21st century and argues for a re-affirmation of the country's Anglo-Protestant heritage. In the work, Huntington is decidedly ambivalent over the role of Latino, principally Mexican, immigration to the United States and views a resurgent Anglo-Protestantism as essential to avoiding a bifurcated, disunited America.

Huntington observes first that the United States is fundamentally a settler rather than an immigrant nation, and that the initial settlement was wholly driven by British Protestants who had an outsized effect on the subsequent values and direction of the country. He identifies long-standing characteristics as setting America apart from other western countries and the world at large, including an adherence to the American Creed, the Protestant work ethic, and the centrality of the religion to personal life. He states that what he identifies as core American values are under attack by the leaders of international commerce, persons with dual-citizenship, the liberal elite and Mexican Americans.cite web|url=http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/articles/040517crbo_books?040517crbo_books|title=The New Yorker book review|accessdate=2006-12-16] Huntington includes former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore, political theorist Michael Walzer, and philosopher Martha Nussbaum under the label of "deconstructionists," and identifies multi-culturalism, cosmopolitanism, bilingualism as threats to American society. Furthermore he states that recent upwardly mobile immigrants, especially those who maintain dual-citizenship whom he calls "Ampersands," as well as international businessmen are eroding America's core values.cite web|url=http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/articles/040517crbo_books?040517crbo_books|title=The New Yorker book review|accessdate=2006-12-16]

cquote
Is there a problem here? Samuel P. Huntington... believes that there is. The problem is the tiny fraction of Americans in whom national pride, patriotic loyalty, religious faith, and regard for the work ethic might possibly be less than wholehearted. He has identified these people as the heads of transnational corporations, members of the liberal élite, holders of dual citizenship, Mexican-Americans, and what he refers to as “deconstructionists.” He thinks that these groups are responsible for an incipient erosion of national identity... The reality, of course, is more complicated than the ideology, but the ideology is what Huntington is worried about, and either his book is a prescient analysis of trends obscure to the rest of us or he has missed the point. - Louis Menand, "The New Yorker".cite web|url=http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/articles/040517crbo_books?040517crbo_books|title=The New Yorker book review|accessdate=2006-12-16]

What has made the work controversial is the degree to which Huntington believes the culture of Latinos entering the United States is incompatible with these Anglo-Protestant notions. He notes, for instance, a "lack of ambition" (the "tomorrow" culture) and "acceptance of poverty as a virtue necessary for entry into Heaven" as central to Hispanic attitudes. For this reason, the book has been criticized as xenophobic and unduly anti-Catholic nativist. Importantly, however, Huntington does not foreground Anglo-Protestantism as necessarily coterminous with an Anglo-Saxon ethnic group. He argues instead that Anglo-Protestant ideals have historically been and ought in future to remain central to American identity long after "WASPs" themselves (he defines the term broadly) cease to be a majority or a plurality of American citizens. Indeed, he believes that the salience of ethnic and racial identity is declining in the United States, a fact he views favorably.

The work more briefly addresses other emerging trends which may alter the course of American identity including the conflict with radical Islam.

References


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