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WW1's effect on American Identity

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Hailey Overman

on 6 March 2013

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Transcript of WW1's effect on American Identity

By: Hailey Overman The American Identity after WW1 What is the American Identity? The American Identity before WW1 World War 1 changed America and its citizens. WW1, the first War to establish America as a world power, left many soldier shell shocked due to the harsh life of trench warfare even though America entered the war later then other European countries. Authors like Ernest Hemingway wrote about the war's impact on their psyche, and therefore, their identity in his books such as "The Sun Also Rises". Hemingway was quotes saying: “(World War I) was the most colossal, murderous, mismanaged butchery that has ever taken place on earth. Any writer who said otherwise lied, So the writers either wrote propaganda, shut up, or fought.” (Hemingway) WW1's Impact on American's view of America The success of WW1 further strengthened the nationalism already instilled in America beforehand. The war served to unite Americans, further bonding Americans to the pursuit of the well being of our country. However, our type of nationalism changed due to the war to a more "civic nationalism". As opposed to the this nationalism focuses more on how working for your country promotes a sense of belonging and fulfillment in life. This type of nationalism also contrasts to the previous kind, emphasizes being proud of American values, such as democracy, rather than feeling inherently better due to race or nationality.
Did WW1 contribute to the rise of nationalism/exceptionalism? America went into WW1 with a strong sense of nationalism that was further enforced by America's recent rise to a national power due to imperialism.
These ideals of nationalism and exceptionalism (which was established by America's continued desire for growth) were reinforced by the success of WW1. Though many American men were left emotionally scarred by trench warfare, a strong sense of pride in our country was instilled in the American people and became a part of the American identity. Conclusion Works Cited Americans have been united with common interests since the American revolution, where we began identifying not as individual states, but as unified country.
This identity, who we are as Americans, has been impacted by major events in our history. World War 1 is, of course, no exception to this.
WW1 greatly impacted how Americans viewed their own country and lead to a further growth of nationalism and exceptionalism. To understand the change in our identity due to WW1, we must first know our identity beforehand. America before World War 1 was characterized by it's current progressive movement. Americans wished to change their country to become one that represented and protected its citizens. Even the Presidents of America, Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, supported these ideals. These progressive accomplishments lead to strengthened nationalism. We can see Roosevelt formally addressing this dedication to progress leading to the rise of nationalism in his "New Nationalism" speech where he states:"The prime problem of our nation is to get the right type of good citizenship, and, to get it, we must have progress, and our public men must be genuinely progressive." (Roosevelt)
This nationalism was further enhanced by America's new found imperialism, also seen implemented by Roosevelt. Examples of this imperialism can be found in America's increased involvement in Latin American affairs, for example involvement with Cuba, the Panama Canal, and Venezuela. America's heightened nationalism and imperialism lead to our involvement in World War 1. The hardening experience of the War left many man angry at life.
After the War our economy slowly changed, adapting to the peace after the war. This resulted in more jobs, and opportunities for Americans as new technologies were invented. The work women had done in WW1 validated them as a workforce, allowing many more women to have jobs.
This rise in opportunity for Americans as result of WW1 left many optimistic about their lives, and country. American exceptsionalism is the proposition that the United States is different from other countrie, or that is is an "exception", in that it has a specific world mission to spread liberty and democracy.This prospect has already been tied to the American identity as it was tied to the idea of Manifest Destiny which was introduced during the Jacksonian Era. This exceptionalism in a sense is what caused our imperialism and involvement in Latin American countries before WW1. After the war, Americans were left we a desire for focusing less on foreign affairs and more on domestic issues. However, Americans still viewed themselves as a seemingly "better" nation due to our strengthened nationalism, which therefore strengthened American exceptionalism. "French anti-Americanism: Spot the difference". December 20, 2005. Economist-2005. http://www.economist.com/node/5323762.

Motyl, Alexander J. (2001). Encyclopedia of Nationalism, Volume II. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-227230-7.
Roosevelt's Speech: "New Nationalism"
Wilson's Speech addressing Congress on reasons to go to War WW1
1.^ Tamir, Yael. 1993. Liberal Nationalism. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-07893-9; Will Kymlicka. 1995. Multicultural Citizenship. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-827949-3; David Miller. 1995. On Nationality. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-828047-5.
2.^ Renan, Ernest. 1882. "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?"
3.^ Mill, John Stuart. 1861. Considerations on Representative Government.
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