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Bourne’s Trans-National America & Cosmopolitan Ideals

In reading Randolph Bourne’s “Trans-National America” I couldn’t help but think about the controversial Post-Colonial Literary Theory, Cosmopolitanism. Bourne explains that America does not have a real distinct culture because of all of the immigration. He goes on to argue that assimilating to “American culture” should not be necessary. Instead, new American’s should be allowed to participate in their original home country’s culture and Americanism and have dual citizenship. Bourne uses the term “intellectual internationalism” in order to describe this meshing of national and international consciousness.

Cosmopolitan Theorist Said describes in his work “Secular Criticism” a similar idea  , “On the one hand, the individual mind registers and is very much aware of the collective whole, context, or situation in which it finds itself. On the other hand, precisely because of this awareness-a wordly self-situating, a sensitive response to the dominant culture- that the individual consciousness is not naturally and easily a mere child of the culture, but a historical and social actor in it. And because of that perspective, which introduces circumstance and distinction where there had only been conformity and belonging, there is distance, or what we might also call criticism”. In using Said’s definition we can begin to understand this type of ideal America that Bourne is describing.

I agree with Joe and Patrick who explain that what makes America what it is, is the blending of the Anglo-Saxon elitism and the immigrant minority cultures. Patrick quotes Bourne in his post, “the Anglo-Saxon element is guilty of just what every dominant race is guilty of in every European country: the imposition of its own culture upon the minority peoples”. This is very true for most post Imperialist countries, but I think the United States is unique in this way- and is more “Cosmopolitan” than most (especially today). Yes of course, minorities were pressured to conform to typical “white protestant” culture, but other than the Manifest Destiny and Christian ideals, much of what made America what it was and what it is now, is the combination of cultures from around the world.


Randolf Bourne’s “Trans National America

In my opinion Bourne’s Trans-National America, which discusses his view regarding the way immigrants cling to their native countries’ cultures, is fairly accurate. There are Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans who have lived in the United States their whole lives and have never spoken one word of English. If one went to any of the major “Chinatowns” in the U.S. he would find the culture to be almost as it would be in China. This however doesn’t make the Chinese un-American. It is the diversity and willingness of the U.S. to assimilate different cultures which make the U.S. the country it is. This was the case during Bourne’s time just as it is now.
This assimilation of cultures, present during Bourne’s time until the present day, doesn’t come without its problems. Back then, it was the Irish, Italians and other Europen and Asian immigrants who came here to make better lives for themselves. They didn’t come here because they wanted to make the United States a different country. They came for opportunity and to be Americans.
Now the country is dealing with the same issues with the influx of immigrants from Central America and Southeast Asia.
It’s a natural phenomena for people to gravitate towards their own culture. The American acceptance of these cultures within cultures are what makes the United States a great nation.

Bourne’s Trans-National America- Joe Robinson

In “Trans-National America”, Randolph Bourne dismisses the notion of the U.S. as a melting pot.  He explains that America lacks its own distinct culture that foreigners can assimilate into.  Instead, he believes the country is a federation of different cultures.  While I think this may have been true at the time of this writing (1916), Bourne’s views aren’t applicable today.  Although many Americans retain the cultural roots of their homelands, I think the country as a whole has developed its own unique culture.  I think this is due to the fact that the percentage of the foreign-born U.S. population has decreased between 1916 and today, as more generations have grown up in (and contributed to) the distinctly American culture.

Bourne also supports dual citizenship and the unregulated movement of citizens between America and their home country.  He explains that these measures are necessary in order for America to contribute ‘intellectual internationalism’ to the world, in which all citizens play a part.  Bourne believes this is due to the shift of American colonialism to cosmopolitanism, where individuals are not only influenced by their own heritage, but by the heritage of their peers as well: “Colonialism has grown into cosmopolitanism, and his motherland is no one nation, but all who have anything life-enhancing to offer to the spirit.”

I agree with this sentiment.  Although the U.S. has its own distinct culture, it is also  defined by ancestral differences of its citizens.  By accepting these differences rather than supporting the idea of the melting pot, the concept of cosmopolitanism further unifies the country.  It also puts America in a unique position to be a positive model for the world’s ‘inferior civilizations’ as Bourne calls them.

Untimely Papers- Twilight Idols Review

James Oppenheim had some very interesting ideas in the ‘Twilight Idols’ chapter of Untimely Papers. Some of these ideas, I would say, are beyond the comprehension of the public today. A main point he focused on was the War and the country’s and its politician’s views on it. This ‘poison’ that Oppenheim talks about spreads through the public like a virus. It seems as though the whole country gets obsessed with the idea of the war, and not the actual action of fixing what caused the war.  Oppenheim focus’s on James Dewey, a professor who seems to have focused on the high amount of pacifists in America. He doesn’t understand this concept, for the wastefulness of war. Though, Dewey seems to be gathering a large following.

The large argument that is caused here is the ignorance of intellectuals in the thought of war. Oppenheim is obsessed with the idea that the education system and intellectuals, including the current politicians are not able to actually end the war. I found this argument to be very one sided, which may have created the confusion while reading this article.

‘… and then let war, not education, be chosen, at the almost unanimous behest of our intellectual class… But nations, of course, are not rational entities”.

I think this statement is good at summing up Openheim’s views, as there is almost this sense of brainwashing within the academic field in his era. I would disagree with this statement. You do have a form of cookie cutter education forming in the time he wrote this piece. Though politicians are still coming from various areas, and I do not think that this form of identical politicians would need to be created through identical universities. With Oppenheim’s organization and wording, there is a chance that I missed the main point of this piece. Though with what I extracted, I would disagree with its severity.


Patrick O’Neil Response to Bourne’s Trans-National America

History repeats itself. Almost all of the issues revolving around “Americanism” that Bourne touches upon in “Trans-National America” are still the subjects of much present-day political discussion a hundred years later. Bourne asks the question of whether “Americanization [should] take place only on our own terms, and not by the consent of the governed.” America today faces the same questions with immigrants from Latin America and Asia that we faced with immigrants from Eastern Europe a century ago. How much assimilation is necessary to become American? Is there a truly American culture, or is the essence of America the ability to live two different identities, one American and one tied to a mother country?

Bourne treats the American “ruling element” with more disdain than I think is appropriate for this question, both for the start of the 20th century and 21st century. He claims that “the Anglo-Saxon element is guilty of just what every dominant race is guilty of in every European country: the imposition of its own culture upon the minority peoples.” What is culture, if not a series of shared rituals and experiences across a region or country? In the case of Europe, centuries of migration and political shifts dating back to the Roman Empire have shaped the cultures that we know today as French, German, Italian, etc. In the same way, early immigration shaped American culture largely after Britain, with immigrants from the rest of Europe added into the “melting pot” over the next 150 years. The Anglo-Saxon culture combined with other cultures and the frontier to form the beginnings of a distinctly American culture that exists today.

Just as France is known for baguettes and wine, and Italy has pasta and art, American culture consists (partially) of apple pie, hot dogs, and baseball. There’s nothing wrong with delineating cultures in this way, as it gives people of the same nation commonalities to coalesce around. As part of my own Polish heritage, my family celbrates Wigilea, a traditional feast followed by the exchange of gifts, on Christmas Eve after church. I know many Puerto Ricans for whom Three Kings Day is a very important holiday, and they have their own rituals that mark this day. This doesn’t make us any less American, it simply allows us to stay connected to the culture of our forefathers, which is not mutually exclusive from living within a distinct American culture as well.

Roosevelt’s New Nationalism: The Self & The Nation

In Roosevelt’s New Nationalism, it’s easy to hone in on his political stances and focus on his ideas for progression in the United States. Looking deeper at his rhetoric however, one can see that there is this connection that he is trying to convey between man and the nation. The individual and their country. Roosevelt says many times throughout the essay that he believes that we must be strong individuals in order to have a strong society. “…O my fellow citizens, each one of you carries on your shoulders not only the burden of doing well for the sake of your own country, but the burden of doing well and of seeing that this nation does well for the sake of man kind” (1). This particular quote Roosevelt highlights not only national responsibility, but a global consciousness which one could associate the relevance this would have a few years later for World War One .

To further elaborate on this notion of nationalistic responsibility through individual betterment, Roosevelt remarks about the veterans who fought in the Civil War, “…not only did you render life worth living for our generation, but you justified the wisdom of Washington and Washington’s colleagues” (1). But Roosevelt continues on with this imagery of individual sacrifice for the whole of the nation in times of war. Like mentioned previously he elaborates explicitly about the Civil War and those veterans who fought, but Roosevelt also extends this idea into government and government power, “No man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election; and, if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it, hunt him out of public life. I care for the great deeds of the past chiefly as spurs to drive us onward in the present” (1-2).

All of Roosevelt’s rhetoric is deeply imbedded in military jargon, with words like “heroic struggle”, triumph” etc as well as touching upon important American political figures like Washington and Lincoln in order to perpetuate this sense of urgency, and passion within his claims.  His militant diction continues throughout the speech as he touches upon different social issues such as trusts, capital gains, progressive ideals, etc. Roosevelt’s inclusion of the nation and man are unique and relevant for the progressive movement with their ideals of social betterment and individual participation ,and sacrifice for the nation.


The New Freedom and The New Nationalism: Differing Brands of Progressive Thought – Jake Berman

Woodrow Wilson is clearly very wary of trusts in his “New Freedom” speech. He devotes most of his speech to explaining exactly why trusts are a danger to America. In doing so, he is careful to draw a distinction between natural and unnatural monopolies, or big corporations and trusts. This distinction is important in determining policies; large corporations are immensely beneficial in Wilson’s eyes, as they have the ability to provide their good or service more efficiently, but he sees trusts as being inherently inefficient.

Wilson’s view of the role of government is shaped by this distinction between natural and unnatural monopolies. Government should not interfere with the activities of corporations unless they become inefficient monopolies. Once a trust is created, that is where it starts to become a drain on society; it stops true competition from existing, and collusion between industries starts. Wilson has no will to exert any sort of power over corporations; he only wants to ensure that the economy can operate at maximum efficiency, without encroaching on individuals’ rights to purchase goods at a fair price, or even compete in the market themselves. In this sense, while his ideas can be seen as radical compared to the status quo, they are also conservative in that he wishes to return to a time when corporations did not exert the same type of control over the nation.

While this “brand” of progressivism is similar to that of Roosevelt, there are stark contrasts. Roosevelt, in his “New Nationalism” speech, is much more interested in the military aspect of government control. While this may reflect the venue, where he is addressing Civil War veterans, I think the fact that he is mentioning economic policies at such a speech says a lot about his brand of progressivism. His mentions of freeing the government, ” from the sinister influence or control of special interests,” (p. 4) is very different from Wilson’s ideas of stopping trusts from infringing on American people’s freedoms, even if only in rhetoric and not in practice.

None of this is to say, though, that Wilson’s and Roosevelt’s brands of progressivism are incompatible. In fact, it doesn’t seem like there are any deep-rooted reasons that their respective goals cannot be achieved by similar policies. Roosevelt would likely be satisfied with trusts being broken up in the way Wilson wishes, and Wilson would likely be satisfied with special interests being excluded from the political process. However, their respective focuses of trusts and large corporations, respectively, show more what each finds important: Wilson is far more concerned with the American people’s loss of freedoms at the hands of trusts, whereas Roosevelt’s concerns lie with corporate interests tarnishing the democratic process.

Patrick O’Neil response to TR’s New Nationalism

Theodore Roosevelt’s New Nationalism speech solidifies him as intellectually aligned with many Progressive ideals.  “The world has set its face hopefully toward our democracy” sounds like something Wilson might have said when lobbying for U.S. involvement in the League of Nations. Roosevelt talks of “democratic government on a national [rather than federal] scale,” which fits with Wilson’s amalgamation of federal power, from the Federal Reserve Act to the stripping of Senate voting rights from state legislatures. Roosevelt, though from a moneyed New York family, needs to keep his progressive credibility and call out the “great special business interests,” as he considers a possible return to the Presidency in 1912.

This progressivism combines in full force with nationalism (hence the “New Nationalism”) at points during the speech: “The national government belongs to the whole American people, and where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the national government. The betterment which we seek must be accomplished, I believe, mainly through the national government.”

Jane Addams’ brand of progressivism, focused on “betterment” and spiritual “regeneration” can be seen peeking through the cracks of this passage. Additionally, the overarching focus on nationalism was co-opted by Wilson’s administration for war propaganda, to convince citizens to buy “liberty bonds,” and rename sauerkraut “liberty cabbage” during World War I.

TR cannot quite prevent his affinity for war and struggle from shining through in this speech. He advises the crowd to “hunt out of public life” any politician who breaks a promise. Not vote out, not drive out, but “hunt.” He pays lip service to the evil perpetrated during the Civil War, but wants Americans to “fix our eyes with pride only on the good that was accomplished.”

This faith in government that manifests itself most often in how it operates a war also extends to how it can care for its citizens in peacetime. Roosevelt praises “the wisdom of Washington and Washington’s colleagues” at the beginning of the speech, but the latter half of the speech places him much closer to Wilsonian progressivism’s revision of Constitution. “The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted” is not a quote that “Washington’s colleagues” would have taken kindly to. Moreover, child labor, women’s work, and education, while not objectionable causes, are brought to the federal, rather than state level, under this “broad and far-reaching nationalism.”

Roosevelt’s The New Nationalism Speech – Christian Cherau

I found it interesting that Theodore Roosevelt brings concern to many areas of government versus corporate culture that are still contested today, be it labor versus capital, definition of corporations, or capital gains.

Roosevelt harkens to the words of Abraham Lincoln to build his case of the importance of labor over capital, specifically with Lincoln’s statement that “Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed” (Pg 3). With the United States still adjusting to the massive changes going on with the shift from an agricultural nation to an industrial one, and the profits being made off this radical and rapid transformation, Roosevelt’s warnings could have had higher yield had he made them 20 years before this 1910 speech. However, in that short period of time, capital had cemented itself over all else in American life, especially after the impact it had in shaping the 1896 election courtesy of the footwork by John Hannah. Hannah’s labor, in this case labor to win the election for McKinley, was indeed second fiddle to the sheer volume of capital he drummed up and spent. The implications of the increasing focus of American life on capital means that Roosevelt was already fighting a losing battle to maintain or perhaps, even by 1910, re-instill that idea that labor should be of more importance to Americans than capital.

Roosevelt also brings up a conflict that has re-appeared after recent elections, and that is the identification of a corporation. Recent elections and Supreme Court decisions have contested whether or not a corporation is a “person,” often for the sake of campaign contributions. Roosevelt also argues over the identity of corporations, insisting that they have no impact on the political process, be it financially or influentially. Roosevelt affirms that corporations are a special interest, however “not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office” (Pg 5). Given that corporations are a relatively new form of business organization in 1910, it is interesting to note how Roosevelt was very aware and wary of their increasing influence in politics as the influence of the traditional party boss dissipated.

I want to close with concern over Roosevelt’s idea of capital gains, insofar as he says “We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community” (Pg 6). Roosevelt cites the importance of protecting property several times at the start of his speech, but then comes out with this statement. To me, risking money on the stock market and coming up big is risk that, should it prove successful, be indicatory of major life achievement and the American way of life. Those earnings are still fair earnings, and while they may not directly help Roosevelt’s community in any way, I do not see how they are harming it. Roosevelt essentially is acting as the “A & B” of William Graham Sumner’s essay, telling the rich that if they have money, it much go to helping the community.

Solitude of Self- Paul Carey

I found it very interesting in the literary devices that Elizabeth Cady Stanton used. Her speech starts off, and ends both in a religious light. Though what I found to be a large substance of her speech was about the social norms that were associated with the feminist movement of the early 20th century. Stanton even seems to contradict herself in the following paragraph with the following quote “… in the religion she is asked to believe”. While I do believe her actions align with the Protestant movement, I think her designation of her movement and religious beliefs are flawed.

A large theme in Stanton’s speech was also the idea of self dependence. This correlates to many of the progressive movements, especially the feminist like Stanton. From birth to death we are taught how to rely on ourselves. Throughout lives we have times of dependence on other people, though. This process is ongoing. As children, we are more susceptible to the evils of societal nature. As we learn, we grow, and this aligns itself with the suffrage movement that Stanton supports so much.

Woman are brought up not only learning how to do the Domestic necessities in a home, but are also taught a myriad of other items in the process. Man is taught to protect his woman along the way, as well as his children. Now women must pass along these moral, ideas, and behaviors to their children. Inferring from Stanton’s speech, this process in itself is more than enough to show where women can fit in on an educated and intellectual basis. This process is not for the common soul, rather for one that is evolved and able to properly teach. I think Stanton has a good point with the aspect of her speech. If one would like to accurately teach their offspring certain ideals, than they must possess it themselves primarily.