Americanism

"Of all the countries in the world, we and we only have any need to create artificially the patriotism which is the birthright of other nations."

The unavowed enemy who strikes in the dark is hard to reach, but he is outside the pale of charity. There was something in the cold fury of Mr. Wilson's words, when, in his message to Congress, he denounced the traitors 'who have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life,' which turned that unexpansive state-paper into a human document, and drove it straight to the human hearts of an injured and insulted people. Under the menace of disloyalty, Americanism has taken new form and substance; and the President's message, like the potter's wheel, is moulding this force into lines of strength and resistance. We have seen all we want to see of 'frightfulness' in Europe, all we want to see of injustice, supported by violence. We are not prepared to welcome any scheme of terrorization in the interests of a foreign power, or any interference of a foreign power with our legitimate fields of industry. Such schemes and such interference constitute an inconceivable affront to the nation. Their stern and open disavowal is the shibboleth by which our elections may be purged of treachery, and our well-being confided to good citizenship.

Of all the countries in the world, we and we only have any need to create artificially the patriotism which is the birthright of other nations. Into the hearts of six millions of foreign-born men—less than half of them naturalized—we must infuse that quality of devotion which will make them place the good of the state above their personal good, and the safety of the state above their personal safety. It is like pumping oxygen into six million pairs of lungs for which the common air is not sufficiently stimulating. We must also keep a watchful eye upon these men's wives,—when they are so blessed,—and concentrate our supreme energy on uncounted millions of children, whose first step toward patriotism is the acquirement of a common tongue.

We are trying fitfully, but in good faith, to work this civic miracle. Americanization Day is but one expression of the nation-wide endeavor. When Cleveland invited all her citizens who had been naturalized within a twelvemonth to assemble and receive a public welcome, to sit on a platform and be made much of, to listen to national songs and patriotic speeches, and to take home, every man, a flag and a seal of the city, she set a good example which will be widely followed. The celebrations at Riverside, California and New York City's Pageant of the Nations had in view the same admirable end. Sentiment is not a substitute for duty and discipline; but it has its uses and its field of efficacy. Such ceremonies perseveringly repeated for twenty years might work a change in the immigrant population of to-day, were we secure from the fresh millions that threaten us to-morrow. That the Fourth of July should be often selected for these rites is perhaps inevitable; it is a time when patriotism assumes a vivid and popular aspect; but Heaven forbid that we should rechristen Independence Day, Americanization Day! However ready we may be to welcome our new citizens, however confident we may be of their value to the Republic, we are not yet prepared to give them the place of honor hitherto held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The name which perpetuates the memory of that deed is a sacred name, and should be preserved no less sacredly than the national life which was then committed to our keeping.

It is no insult to the immigrant to say that he constitutes one of the perils of Americanism. How can it be otherwise? Assume that he is a law-abiding citizen, that he knows nothing of the conspiracies which have imperiled our safety, that he does not propose to use his vote in the interests of a foreign power, and that the field of hyphenated politics has no existence for him. For all these boons we are sufficiently grateful. But how far does he understand the responsibilities he assumes with the franchise? how far does he realize that he has become part of the machinery of the state? and how far can we depend upon him in our hour of need? He knows, or at least he has been told, that he may not return home to fight for his own country, if he seeks American citizenship. He must resist a natural and a noble impulse as the price of his coveted 'papers.' But will there spring in his heart a noble, though not very natural, impulse to fight for us if we call our sons to arms? Can we hope that his native intelligence, unshackled by any working knowledge of our language, will grasp our national policy and our national obligations; and that—free from conscription—he will voluntarily risk his life in behalf of a government for which he has no inheritance of fidelity?

We have opened our doors to unrestricted immigration, partly because capitalists want plenty of cheap labor, which is not a good reason; and partly because the immigrants want to come, which is not a sufficient reason. They also—despite the heart-rending conditions depicted by Miss Kellor in the Atlantic Monthly for January—want to stay. Those who return to the higher standards of Europe do not materially affect the situation. They stay, and either surmount their difficulties, or, succumbing to them, fill our asylums, hospitals, and almshouses. For many years, foreign economists must have looked with relief at the countless thousands of derelicts who were supported by the United States instead of by their own governments. But even the satisfaction we have thus afforded does not wholly justify our course. Is it worth our while to fill the air with clamor over eugenics and birth-control, to build barriers around a marriage license and to dramatize impassioned pleas for sterility, when the birthrate of the Republic is nobody's concern? If the survival of the fittest means as much to the commonwealth as to the family, why should we fiddle over pathology while the nation burns?

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