Behold, America

The Entangled History of "America First" and "the American Dream"

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By Sarah Churchwell

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A Smithsonian Magazine Best History Book of 2018

The unknown history of two ideas crucial to the struggle over what America stands for


In Behold, America, Sarah Churchwell offers a surprising account of twentieth-century Americans’ fierce battle for the nation’s soul. It follows the stories of two phrases — the “American dream” and “America First” — that once embodied opposing visions for America.

Starting as a Republican motto before becoming a hugely influential isolationist slogan during World War I, America First was always closely linked with authoritarianism and white supremacy. The American dream, meanwhile, initially represented a broad vision of democratic and economic equality. Churchwell traces these notions through the 1920s boom, the Depression, and the rise of fascism at home and abroad, laying bare the persistent appeal of demagoguery in America and showing us how it was resisted. At a time when many ask what America’s future holds, Behold, America is a revelatory, unvarnished portrait of where we have been.

Excerpt

INTRODUCTION

THERE IS GREAT power in loaded phrases, as anyone willing to pull the trigger knows.

‘Sadly, the American dream is dead,’ Donald Trump proclaimed on 16 June 2015, announcing his candidacy for president of the United States. It seemed an astonishing thing for a candidate to say; people campaigning for president usually glorify the nation they hope to lead, flattering voters into choosing them. But this reversal was just a taste of what was to come, as Trump revealed an unnerving skill at twisting what would be negative for anyone else into a positive for himself.

By the time he won the election, Trump had flipped much of what many people thought they knew about America on its head. In his acceptance speech Trump again pronounced the American dream dead, but promised to revive it. We were told that the American dream of prosperity was under threat, so much so that a platform of ‘economic nationalism’ carried the presidency.

Reading last rites over the American dream was shocking enough. But throughout the campaign Trump also promised to put ‘America first’, a pledge renewed in his inaugural speech in January 2017. It was a disquieting phrase for a presidential candidate, and then president-elect, to keep using. Think pieces on the history of ‘America first’ began to sprout up in the national press and on social media, informing their audiences that the slogan ‘America first’ stretches back to the Second World War, and to the efforts of the America First Committee to keep the United States out of the European conflict. ‘America first’ had been invented by high-profile isolationists like Charles Lindbergh, they explained, whose sympathy with the Nazi project was often inextricable from an avowed anti-Semitism. ‘America first’, they said, was a code for neo-Nazism.

Meanwhile, other pundits were weighing in on the American dream, as writers asked if it was indeed dead.1 Nearly all of these pieces began with a shared understanding of what the American dream was supposed to entail: namely, upward social mobility, a national promise of endless individual progress. But now, thanks to epidemic levels of inequality, that dream was widely viewed as under threat, a story that had been endlessly recycled across the international press for the decade since the financial crisis beginning in 2007. Trump had weaponised this inequality, they said, convincing his followers that only an outsider could redeem a corrupt system. (That he was in fact a plutocratic insider, a self-styled billionaire corporate tycoon, was hardly the last bit of cognitive dissonance his followers were prepared to disavow.)

But most did not question what the American dream meant; they only debated its relative health. A Guardian editorial from June 2017, for example, called ‘Is the American Dream Really Dead?’, summed up not only the questions everyone was asking, but the premises from which they began.

The United States has a long-held reputation for exceptional tolerance of income inequality, explained by its high levels of social mobility. This combination underpins the American dream–initially conceived of by Thomas Jefferson as each citizen’s right to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This dream is not about guaranteed outcomes, of course, but the pursuit of opportunities… Yet the opportunity to live the American dream is much less widely shared today than it was several decades ago.2

Few would dispute any of this: the American dream is widely understood as a dream of personal opportunity, in which ‘opportunity’ is gauged primarily in economic terms, and those opportunities are shrinking. The idea that the American dream was ‘initially conceived’ by Jefferson is similarly axiomatic, despite the fact that happiness and opportunity are not, in fact, synonymous.

But what Jefferson conceived–at least in terms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–was a dream of democratic equality. He doesn’t mention economics, or opportunity, for good reason. In fact, Jefferson took John Locke’s phrase, ‘life, liberty and property’, and changed property into happiness. While it is true that in the eighteenth century ‘happiness’ was often used to mean ‘flourishing’, which can clearly imply prosperity, Jefferson nonetheless removed specific economic guarantees from the nation’s founding entitlements. Democratic equality and economic opportunity are not the same thing, but the American dream has, for decades, been used as if they are.

The Guardian piece ends by noting the self-defeating nature of the ‘dream’ as understood in these terms. ‘Ironically, part of the problem may actually be the American dream… Indeed, the dream, with its focus on individual initiative in a meritocracy, has resulted in far less public support than there is in other countries for safety nets, vocational training, and community support for those with disadvantage or bad luck.’ The dream is of the individual capitalist striving in a free-market world, one that is inimical to the ‘safety nets’ of social democracy. Again, this understanding of the dream is entirely typical of how it is construed today–not just by Americans, but around the world.

But although this meaning of the dream is unquestionably the one Americans inherited, this book will show that it is exactly the reverse of the ideas the ‘American dream’ was coined to advance. Gradually in 2017 a few writers began to notice that the American dream had once included higher dreams of personal fulfilment, beyond the wish to live in an up-to-date department store (as an American historian put it back in 1933).3 But its reduction to sheer materialism is, in fact, the least of the expression’s changes in meaning.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines the American dream as ‘the ideal that every citizen of the United States should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative’. Certainly Americans have always built individual aspiration into a mythology. But upward social mobility is not an idea associated with the expression the ‘American dream’ until much later than most people think–a fact that has profound implications for the cultural and political fight the US (and indeed much of the West) now finds itself in, for how America sees itself and its own promises.

The received wisdoms about ‘America first’ are similarly misunderstood or delimited–including those offered by eminent historians. Timothy Snyder gave a highly representative description of ‘America first’ in a 2017 interview, explaining–as nearly every pundit has–that ‘America first’ goes back to the Second World War. ‘Trump and Bannon’s idea of “America First” is technically from 1940,’ Snyder stated, ‘but it is meant as nostalgia for the period before America entered the world in WWII and before the welfare state. The “America First” movement included many populists and white supremacists.’4 While it is true that ‘America first’ always included many populists and white supremacists, it is not true that it emerged in response to the welfare state that was created in the 1930s, or that it represented a nostalgia for the period before the 1930s. In fact, the phrase was popularised well before the 1930s, and the nostalgias it represented were considerably more complicated than this abbreviated, widely recycled, version of its origins suggests.

By 1940 ‘America first’ had been entangled in America’s political narrative for decades. Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee of 1940 were not the beginning of the story of ‘America first’. They were the end–until Donald Trump resuscitated the term.

And the American dream isn’t dead, either–we just have no idea what it means any more.

Behold, America tells the history of these two loaded phrases, a tale that upends much of what we thought we knew about both, perhaps even about America itself.

It turns out that ‘America first’ and the ‘American dream’ were always connected, and contested, terms in a nation finding its way. A nation losing its way might do well to contest these terms once more.

HISTORY RARELY STARTS when we think it did, and it never seems to end when we think it should. Nor does it tend to say what we think it will. The phrases ‘American dream’ and ‘America first’ were born almost exactly a century ago–and rapidly tangled over capitalism, democracy and race, the three fates always spinning America’s destiny.

Received wisdoms can become self-fulfilling prophecies–loaded dice, rigging the conversation. When what’s on the table are national values, and our language obscures from us important truths about those values, the stakes grow very high. Returning to original sources can overturn those common wisdoms, exposing the gaps between what we tell each other that history shows, and what it actually says.

Behold, America offers a genealogy of national debates around these two expressions, most of which have been forgotten. The evolution of these two sayings–both their myths and their truths–has shaped reality in ways not fully understood. We cannot register the subtexts of our own slogans if we do not recognize their contexts; we risk misreading our own moment if we don’t know the historical meanings of expressions we resuscitate, or perpetuate. We cannot hear a dog whistle if we are not in its range.

Phrases can form chains of association, conceptual paths that the mind follows intuitively, even unconsciously, as one word, or idea, seems to lead naturally to another. Those chains of association help define political and social realities, and it’s only by tracing the words, how people skip from one to the next without necessarily even being aware of it, that we understand how these ideas have evolved.

Take, for a different example, Ronald Reagan’s often cited ‘city on a hill’, in which he suggested that America was a shining ideal held up to the world to emulate. That is a very Cold War idea, and it’s basically the antithesis of what John Winthrop, who coined the phrase ‘city upon a hill’, said in 1630.

Winthrop used ‘city upon a hill’ not to suggest the nation would be a glorious beacon. Instead, it was a metaphor for a place everyone could see and judge: the singularity of the American experiment meant that the world would be watching.

We must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our god in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of god and all professors for God’s sake.

Our equivalent simile would be a goldfish bowl: Winthrop was urging Americans to strive for moral excellence, because the world would judge the outcome of the experiment. The message of Winthrop’s ‘city upon a hill’ amounts to: ‘We mustn’t fail, because everyone is watching. If we fail, we’ll become a laughing stock, and bring our ideas into global disrepute.’ It’s not self-congratulation; it’s a warning.

We need to be able to tell the difference between alarm bells and victory peals. Compared to Winthrop, Reagan’s speech was the goldfish preening himself on being watched as he bumps blindly into the glass. The degradation of ideas matters to our society: anyone who doubts that should look at the current state of our toxic civil discourse, about which there is almost nothing civil left at all. Reagan’s ‘city on a hill’ became a shorthand that distorted ideas of American exceptionalism. America wasn’t supposed to be an exceptional place because its citizens had dreams, or even because those dreams sometimes were fulfilled. That’s true of everyone. It was supposed to be exceptional in being a place dedicated to the proposition of helping those dreams to be realised–but the nation’s dreams were meant to be exceptional, too.

The American dream and ‘America first’ have similarly been misunderstood, and misrepresented. The ‘American dream’–far from validating a simple desire for personal advancement–once gave voice to principled appeals for a more generous way of life. And ‘America first’ was no mere temporary pushback against Roosevelt’s creation of the welfare state. The nationalism embedded in the phrase had a long-standing and profound purchase on many Americans’ understanding of their country, and its connection with anxieties about American fascism did not begin in 1940.

In 1941, an American journalist named Dorothy Thompson, who had been in Europe during the rise of fascism in the early 1920s and 1930s, wrote about Charles Lindbergh, at the time (and now once more) the most famous embodiment of ‘America first’.

Lindbergh’s behavior is confusing only if one fails to remember that it can be a political tactic to confuse. If one assumes that Lindbergh confuses consciously, then his behavior fits a pattern. Lindbergh’s behavior does fit a pattern–a thoroughly familiar pattern. It is the pattern of revolutionary politics designed by Adolf Hitler. Lindbergh’s technique, his whole campaign, is singularly without inventiveness. It has all happened before. To anyone who has studied the rise of popular demagogues bent on making New Orders of Society, Lindbergh is old stuff.

I am absolutely certain in my mind that Lindbergh is pro-Nazi; that Lindbergh hates the present democratic system; that Lindbergh intends to remake that system and emerge as America’s savior and that Lindbergh intends to be President of the United States, with a new party along Nazi lines behind him.5

The similarities between what Thompson says in 1941 and our political situation today might seem like a coincidence. But what looks at first like historical coincidence may, instead, simply be a pattern we haven’t discerned yet.

WE’RE ALL ASKING urgent questions about the present, but there are far more surprising answers than many think to be found in the past. The backstory of these two charged expressions might help us understand how we found ourselves facing these problems today–and even, perhaps, how to resolve them.

After the end of the Cold War, the triumph of Western liberalism gradually became taken for granted, the ‘end of history’ even famously pronounced. Many were deeply shocked by the sudden rise of authoritarian nationalism around the world in the first years of the twenty-first century, particularly in the United States, which liked to proclaim that ‘it can’t happen here’. But of course it can–and it has. There has always been a tension, in America, too, between liberal democracy and authoritarianism.

And for a long time you could fairly say that in the United States that debate played out between ideas represented by the phrase ‘American dream’ and those represented by ‘America first’. In the first half of the twentieth century there was a clear contest over the national value system, and the two expressions came to voice opposing views. One might be tempted to call it a battle for the nation’s soul, if that weren’t a cliché. So call it a battle over the moral economy, instead; or even a battle for the nation’s future, a battle still being fought.

There is a clear and powerful strain of populist demagoguery in American history, from President Andrew Jackson to Louisiana senator Huey Long, one that now extends to Donald Trump. Eruptions of American conservative populism are nothing new. A country in which the theocratic religious right has so often achieved political power, in which the Ku Klux Klan has periodically imposed sweeping regimes of terror, in which McCarthy and his witch hunts took hold, is far from immune to indigenous strains of authoritarianism.

As this story will show, reactionary populism in the United States has historically defined itself against the same enemies–urban elites, immigrants, liberals, progressives and organised labour; and for the same beliefs–evangelical Protestantism, traditional ‘family values’ and white supremacy. Trump has once again brought Americans face-to-face with a deeply rooted populist conservatism, one that defines itself in opposition to groups of people it constructs as ‘alien’ or ‘un-American’. And that populism is consistently drawn to demagogues and authoritarians.

THE PROTAGONISTS OF this book are thus not people, or historical events, but these two expressions–‘America first’ and the ‘American dream’–as they were used in regional and national newspapers, magazines, books and speeches that circulated around the country in the first half of the twentieth century.

The story begins as the last Gilded Age was drawing to a close, a hundred years ago. The end of the Civil War in 1865 had marked the coming of American modernity, the dominance of finance capitalism and the new industrial technologies that transformed the nation, both physically and psychologically. The power of modern America was built on the ruins of institutionalised slavery; the post-bellum generation they called ‘Big Money’ energised the country, galvanised its desires, and began to glorify the enduring mercenary strains in American life.

This is when most of the people whose words fill this book were born, as the Gilded Age yielded to the Progressive Era, at the moment when sheer, indiscriminate acquisitiveness was becoming America’s secular religion.

There are only a handful of ‘important’ authors in what follows, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis and William Faulkner, whose novels about the American dream as it is now understood and transmitted are so central to our ideas about the phrase that it would distort the story to exclude them.6

Most of the voices speaking in this book are not famous authorities, however. They are anonymous, forgotten, the voices of ordinary citizens writing in their local newspapers. There are plenty of politicians, and newspaper editors, yes–and the occasional newspaper owner–along with the lesser influence of reporters and columnists, many of whom, though famous in their day, are all but forgotten now. But there are also ministers, professors, businessmen, headmasters, housewives, valedictorians, speakers at county fairs and society lunches, Americans from all walks of life, and from all over the country, who gave voice to these emerging ideas in ways their local papers saw fit to record and share with the community around them. They are liberal and conservative, white and black, Christian and Jew, male and female, immigrant and nativist. And they show that these expressions meant things to significant portions of the country that are very different from what most Americans assume today they have always meant.

In an origin story about the ideas of a nation, words matter–especially because their rhetoric informs so much of our own political reality. Furthermore, many of these anonymous Americans were frankly more thoughtful, and more informed, than we may be about our own assumptions. They were often acutely aware of what was at stake in their debates; when they spoke of an American dream they tended to invoke one that is richer, more textured and more expansive than the one we refer to, and when they spoke of America first they were speaking of far more than an anti-Semitic pilot’s tacit support for Hitler.

While the turbulent and complex history of American national politics forms a backdrop here, this book is thus almost exclusively drawn from primary sources, to try to resist received wisdoms. As we shall see again and again, nuance gets lost in transmission; returning to the originals lets us reconsider what we thought we knew.

Moreover, a traditional ‘historical account’ can’t help but suggest that its conflicts and debates have been consigned to the past. But the battles being fought in this book are by no means over, and these forgotten opinions and comments may show us a different way to fight them. These are not the dead fights of a distant culture–these are traditions inherited and replayed, without being truly understood.

One of the benefits of this approach is that it reminds us of a central distinction between American political discourse in the first half of the twentieth century and in the first half of the twenty-first. A hundred years ago, Americans got their facts from the same collective sources: first newspapers and then radio broadcasts and newsreels. (This history ends before television begins.) They had their own opinions and judgements about those facts, of course; but the facts were not in dispute. This meant it was possible to have far more shared understandings of political reality than is now the case, thanks to our hyper-fragmented, hyper-partisan, hyper-marketised new medias. We have managed to produce a world in which facts and the news themselves are in constant dispute from voices at the very top of our government and media chains. That is, as most people recognise, a very big problem.

It’s often remarked that the American dream is there to compensate for the nightmare of reality, American society as a lottery that everyone plays and no one wins. We know that dream–its assurances, its betrayals–so well that we think they’re the only meanings available to us, that these ever-receding promises are all the American dream ever meant. And ‘America first’ is treated as a sudden aberration, the anomalous return of a fascist ghost that briefly stalked American history for a few months before the US joined the fight against Hitler. Turns out we were wrong on both counts.

The loss of cultural memory is a kind of death, for culture is sustained by memory. We do not have to accept others’ narrow understanding of our meanings. Here is another version, told by the voices of the past.




PART ONE

1900—1920




1

THE AMERICAN DREAM 1900–1916:

THE SPIRIT OF AMERICAN DREAMS

BEWARE RESENTFUL MULTIMILLIONAIRES, for they will destroy the American dream.

That, in a nutshell, was the warning issued by an article in the New York Evening Post in 1900, which cautioned readers that ‘discontented multimillionaires’ form the ‘greatest risk’ to ‘every republic’. The problem was that multimillionaires ‘are very rarely, if ever, content with a position of equality’. But if the rich were to be treated differently from other Americans, ‘it would be the end of the American dream’.1

The article, reprinted in regional papers around the country, argued that multimillionaires insist on special privileges, their own rules, demanding to be treated as an elite class. All previous republics had been ‘overthrown by rich men’, it added, and America seemed to have plenty who were ready to wreak havoc on democracy without consequence, ‘deriding the constitution, unrebuked by the executive or by public opinion’.2

As it happens, this forgotten editorial in the newspaper established by Alexander Hamilton appears to be one of the earliest uses of the phrase the ‘American dream’ in a context we would recognise. And instead of assuming that multimillionaires are the realisation of the American dream, it says their lack of belief in the equality upon which republics are founded will destroy it.

Most Americans today almost certainly believe the opposite: that a multimillionaire proves the success of the American dream. But in 1900 the Post’s editorial writer presumed that everyone would agree that the ‘American dream’ was of equality, and that wealth would kill it. And local newspapers around the country reprinted the item–from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Galena, Kansas, to Santa Cruz, California–suggesting they found currency in it.

Before about 1900, there is little discernible trace in American cultural conversations of the phrase ‘American dream’ being used to describe a collective, generalisable national ideal of any kind, let alone an economic one.

The phrase does not appear in any of the foundational documents in American history–it’s nowhere in the complete writings of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton or James Madison. It’s not in Hector St. John Crèvecoeur or Alexis de Tocqueville, those two great French observers of early American life. It’s not found in the works of any of America’s major nineteenth-century novelists: Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville or Mark Twain. It’s not in the supposedly more sentimental novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, or even Horatio Alger, whose ‘rags to riches’ stories are so often held to exemplify it. Nor does it crop up visibly in political discourse, or newspapers, or anywhere noticeable in the public record.

There were references in newspaper articles or histories to specific, particular American dreams: the American dream of naval supremacy, or the American dream of continental expansion (a dream that ‘proceeds from a sense of social and political superiority’, a New York paper helpfully explained in 1877).3 A New Orleans paper reported that a new interest in recreational sports marked a change in ‘the spirit of American dreams’.4 A story that Napoleon had been urged to flee to the United States was reprinted around the country in 1880 under the headline ‘Napoleon’s American Dream’.5

There was the American dream of rehabilitating China.6 There was the (surprising) ‘bastard American dream of Empire’ in the Philippines, as well as the ‘pan-American dream’ of hemispheric travel, or conquest.7 By 1906, ‘the American dream of a republic in Cuba appear[ed] to be over’.8 ‘Mexico in American hands is the American dream,’ readers were told in 1916.9 There was even the ‘American dream of a railway project through Anatolia’ as late as 1922.10

Genre:

  • "This is a timely book. It's also a provocative one... [Churchwell is] an elegant writer, and when 'America First'and 'the American dream'come head-to-head in her book during the run-up to World War II, the unexpected (and alarming) historical coincidences begin to resonate like demented wind chimes... Behold, America illuminates how much history takes place in the gap between what people say and what they do."—New York Times
  • "A fascinating new look at 'the entangled history' of 'America First' and 'the American Dream.'"—New York Magazine
  • "Churchwell has cast a wide net in her research, drawing into account not only politicians and pundits, but also journalists, novelists, ministers, and ordinary Americans. The result, appropriately enough, is a bit messy... But that messiness illustrates the ways in which these phrases have always been, as the historian Daniel Rodgers memorably put it, 'contested truths.'"—The Nation
  • "Lively and eminently readable.... Churchwell has produced a timely and clearly argued book that makes a clear case for the intellectual parallels between the first third of the 20th century and our won."—Financial Times
  • "Behold, America is an enthralling book, almost a primer for the ferocious dialectic of US politics, inspired by the events of 2015/16. It will no doubt take an influential place on a teeming shelf of Trump-lit. Much of its force derives from the echoes of the present it finds in the thunderous caverns of the past, blurred by the distortions of history. Passionate, well-researched and comprehensive, it is both a document of our times and a thrilling survey of a half-forgotten and neglected dimension of the American story."—Guardian (US edition)
  • "[A] fascinating history of the two intersecting tropes of modern America. ... The complex history of these two ideas, and the personalities of their various champions...is admirably told in Professor Churchwell's book."—Simon Winchester, New Statesman
  • "[A] bold first step towards the necessary reassessment of the American past in the light of Trumpism."—Eric Rauchway, Times Literary Supplement (UK)
  • "[A] richly engaging account of the expressions "the American Dream" and "America First"... Behold, America is enormously entertaining. Churchwell is a careful and sensitive reader, writes with great vigour and has a magpie's eye for a revealing story."—Dominic Sandbrook , Sunday Times
  • "The most intriguing aspect of the book is Churchwell's charting of how 'The American Dream' in the past connoted something less materialistic and more collective than is now the case... a fascinating history."—Independent
  • "Timely and instructive."—Economist
  • "In clear and graceful prose...[Churchwell's] book is a reminder that 'we do not have to accept others' narrow understanding of our meanings."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • "It's not exactly summery but then we're not exactly living in halcyon days, which is why my summer read recommendation this year is Sarah Churchwell's history of the two phrases 'America First' and 'The American Dream' in her excoriating, brilliant new book Behold, America. It lets us know where we are, and where America is right now, and exactly what kind of fascism is being sold to people all over again right now, and it does it with a combination of intelligence, grace, articulacy and clarity that gives off pure relief."—Ali Smith, The Big Issue (UK)
  • "Behold, America, like so much of the best historical enquiry, is rooted in an acute sensitivity to language. Chruchwell's primary concern is to unpack, from a trawl of the press, political speeches and literary works, what early 20th-century Americans meant by the common expressions 'America first' and 'the American Dream.' But the book is much more than a study of these catchphrases, and she deftly relates them to wider social, political and cultural developments."—Colin Kidd, Guardian (UK)
  • "Chruchwell's thoroughness in delineating America's decade-by-decade bigotry through primary sources from speeches to newspapers to novels is a marvel. But it is more than a history lesson. She's constructing the case for how the US elected Donald Trump, a catastrophe many of us struggle to understand."—Prospect (UK)
  • "Revealing...CHurchwell is well attuned to the nuances of this national conversation...[and] right to suggest that an important thread of American national identity has too often been quietened."—Literary Review (UK)
  • "Lifting up haunting voices that speak truth to the Trump era, Sarah Churchwell exposes a century-deep contest between egalitarian democracy and a quest to preserve corporate dominance and white rule under the banner of "America First." The climactic clash between the gutsy journalist Dorothy Thompson and the anti-Semitic aviator Charles Lindbergh reads like an anticipatory allegory for today's Resistance to the heirs of Lindbergh's authoritarian vision."—Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America
  • "If we're to ever exorcise America's past demons, we'll first have to learn from them. Churchwell's Behold, America is a vital and unflinching look at our country's inherent contradictions that have hampered our aspirations since its founding. Bold, fearless, and above all beautifully written, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to understand our past, present, and future."—Jared Yates Sexton, author of The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore

On Sale
Oct 9, 2018
Page Count
368 pages
Publisher
Basic Books
ISBN-13
9781541673427

Sarah Churchwell

About the Author

Sarah Churchwell is professor of American literature and public understanding of the humanities at the University of London. The author and editor of several previous books, including the acclaimed Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby, she is a native of Chicago, now living in London.

Learn more about this author