crisis of national identity Essay

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Pages: 5

The Crisis of National Identity

In the essay The Crisis of National Identity by Samuel P. Huntington, published in Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity (2004), the author explores and classifies the three main types of national identities in America. He begins with a brief description of Charles Street in Boston which was practically flooded with the American flag after September 11, 2001. The author then quotes Rachel Newman, a young woman, who tells how she has become a patriot on September 11th. Before, she would have identified herself as a “musician, a poet, an artist… a woman, a lesbian and a Jew” (p.3), however after the incident, she calls herself “a patriot” and wears the American flag on her backpack (p.3). This leads into Huntington’s claim that the “challenges to the salience of American national identity from other-national, subnational, and transnational identities were epitomized in several events of the 1990s” (p.5). The first category he describes is the “Other-National Identities” group. These people see themselves as anything but Americans. An example of this from Huntington’s piece would be the Gold Cup soccer game (1998) between Mexico and the USA in which fans who openly displayed their support for the American team was “attacked with ‘fruit and cups of beer’” (p.6). The next category is “Subnational Identities.” Those who fall into this grouping identify themselves as nothing but an American. They may be many other races or belong to other regions, but they identify themselves as American. Huntington also quotes two different poems, one from 1961 and one from 1993 and juxtaposes the different word choices to depict the segregated society in 1993 in comparison to the united one in 1961. In the last category, “Transnational Identities,” the author focuses on businesses and how they identify themselves as an “Australian company in Australia, a British company in the United Kingdom, a German company in Germany” (p.12). Huntington concludes with several questions that contemplates whether America can actually be a united nation.

Tone:
Analytical, Urgent

Discourse:
Classification, Example

Rhetorical Terms:
Assonance – “…with apartments above antique stores…” (p.1)
Asyndeton – “It was everywhere: homes, businesses, automobiles, clothes, furniture, windows, storefronts…” (p.2)
Parenthesis – “…ethnic groups – Asian, Jewish, Muslim…among others – and…” (p.9)
Ethos – “In 1996 Ralph Nader wrote to the chief executive officers of one hundred of the largest American corporations pointing to the substantial tax benefits…” (p.12)
Allusion – “The Stars and Stripes has the status of a religious icon…” (p.2)

Questions:
Meaning #2 – In your own words, define each of Huntington’s three categories of identity. How does each differ from the traditional American identity?: The three different categories are those who do not see themselves as Americans, those who see themselves as all-American, and those who claim to be of many different nationalities aside from being American. The traditional idea of the American identity is that everyone has freedom and protection of rights. This categories however, show that people see “being an American” as more of a race rather than the privileges provided in the USA.
Strategy #1 – Why does Huntington begin and end with the flags flying above Charles Street in Boston?: By starting and ending the piece with the American flag flying above Charles Street in Boston, he instills the feeling of patriotism in the reader. The flag symbolizes all the American ideals. Also by showing the decline in the number of flags on Charles Street, it supports his thesis that American patriotism has changed.
Language #2 – What does Huntington achieve by quoting from the two inaugural poems (p.8-9)? How does the language of the quotations differ?: By quoting the two inaugural poems, Huntington is able to juxtapose the difference in tone and language. In the 1961 poem, the…