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Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream

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SELECTED AS A 2018 SUMMER READ BY THE SUNDAY TIMES, OBSERVER, I-PAPER AND THE BIG ISSUE 'Enormously entertaining' SUNDAY TIMES 'Fascinating' NEW STATESMAN 'Excoriating, brilliant' ALI SMITH 'Enthralling' GUARDIAN 'My number one contributor when it comes to US politics' DAN SNOW 'The American dream is dead,' Donald Trump said when announcing his candidacy for presiden SELECTED AS A 2018 SUMMER READ BY THE SUNDAY TIMES, OBSERVER, I-PAPER AND THE BIG ISSUE 'Enormously entertaining' SUNDAY TIMES 'Fascinating' NEW STATESMAN 'Excoriating, brilliant' ALI SMITH 'Enthralling' GUARDIAN 'My number one contributor when it comes to US politics' DAN SNOW 'The American dream is dead,' Donald Trump said when announcing his candidacy for president in 2015. How would he revive it? By putting 'America First'. The 'American Dream' and 'America First' are two of the most loaded phrases in America today – and also two of the most misunderstood. As divides within America widen, Sarah Churchwell looks to the past to reveal what the surprising history of these two phrases can tell us about today.


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SELECTED AS A 2018 SUMMER READ BY THE SUNDAY TIMES, OBSERVER, I-PAPER AND THE BIG ISSUE 'Enormously entertaining' SUNDAY TIMES 'Fascinating' NEW STATESMAN 'Excoriating, brilliant' ALI SMITH 'Enthralling' GUARDIAN 'My number one contributor when it comes to US politics' DAN SNOW 'The American dream is dead,' Donald Trump said when announcing his candidacy for presiden SELECTED AS A 2018 SUMMER READ BY THE SUNDAY TIMES, OBSERVER, I-PAPER AND THE BIG ISSUE 'Enormously entertaining' SUNDAY TIMES 'Fascinating' NEW STATESMAN 'Excoriating, brilliant' ALI SMITH 'Enthralling' GUARDIAN 'My number one contributor when it comes to US politics' DAN SNOW 'The American dream is dead,' Donald Trump said when announcing his candidacy for president in 2015. How would he revive it? By putting 'America First'. The 'American Dream' and 'America First' are two of the most loaded phrases in America today – and also two of the most misunderstood. As divides within America widen, Sarah Churchwell looks to the past to reveal what the surprising history of these two phrases can tell us about today.

30 review for Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream

  1. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    The American Contradiction Everyone is entitled to a view of what constitutes the true, the ideal America. Sarah Churchwell has her version fairly well-defined: “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...” And she provides enough contextual evidence to make The American Contradiction Everyone is entitled to a view of what constitutes the true, the ideal America. Sarah Churchwell has her version fairly well-defined: “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...” And she provides enough contextual evidence to make this view plausible. What does such a view imply? Dreaming is an uncomplicated business. It is imagining without constraints. No resource constraints, no time limitations, no moral inhibitions, perhaps even the absence of physical laws. Dreaming as such can’t be regulated no matter how radical. But the idea of assisting in the realisation of dreams, no matter how mundane or trivial, is another matter altogether, and implies a great deal of regulation indeed. This is where Churchwell goes off the rails - logically, psychologically, and sociologically. Presumably the assistance in realising one’s dream is meant to come from one’s fellow citizens. This is the opinion shared by that most American of philosophers, Josiah Royce. His idea of the Beloved Community articulates exactly this. Quite appropriately, Royce’s philosophy is a kind of secularised Christianity, an argument for mutual acceptance and loyalty to one another that fits comfortably with Churchwell’s mutual-assistance view of America. But Churchwell ignores an issue that is central to Royce’s analysis. The Beloved Community can only exist if its members can find and commit to an intention, a purpose, which includes both their own and that of their fellow citizens. Merely accepting that others have different objectives than oneself is inadequate. In fact the diversity of unresolved interests is guaranteed to create a political outcome that no one wants even if all can accept it. We all become constrains on everyone else, thus ensuring that whatever dreams there are can never be realised. In other words, there is a way, according to Royce, for realising our dreams. But the price necessary to achieve this is a very special sort of constructive politics. This is a politics of inclusion, of the incorporation of individual interests into an increasingly broad collective interest. The only way to eliminate the constraints we impose on each other is to ensure that there are no constraints on who participates in politics and a mechanism through which such ‘higher interests’ can be formulated. This is the implication of Royce’s analysis, and the requirement for Churchwell’s view to be operational. Unfortunately the political system of the United States was not designed for such a constructive politics. It is a dialectical not a synthetic system. It thrives on immediate differences not potential commonalities. Its standard of success is winning not cooperating. American politics are what economists call a zero-sum game: winners are exactly balanced by losers. Synthetic solutions, that is actions that further purposes which go beyond individual interests but also include those interests, are rarely if ever possible. So while I can certainly endorse Churchwell’s view as consistent with Royce’s philosophy as well as my own preferences, I have to conclude that it is no more than sentimental splutter. If Churchwell’s opinion were shared by enough Americans, it might provoke a political revolution. But the result would not resemble the America that exists today, or that has existed for the last two centuries. This is an America of the pioneering individualist and of the neo-liberal philosophy of the priority of individual interests. ‘America first’ actually means ‘Me first’ which is patently contradictory within any polity. And it is a very different dream than Churchwell’s, one that seems rapidly turning into a nightmare.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Another ... depressing, difficult, disconcerting ... but thought-provoking and, most importantly, informative book of our times that is well worth reading. For all of my education and degrees (yes, yes, we are who we are), I never cease to be amazed by how much history I don't know, what we weren't taught (in high school, in college), and ... sadly, but most importantly, what we just didn't want to know or didn't want to hear. So, if you (as I aspire to be) are troubled by current events, but ar Another ... depressing, difficult, disconcerting ... but thought-provoking and, most importantly, informative book of our times that is well worth reading. For all of my education and degrees (yes, yes, we are who we are), I never cease to be amazed by how much history I don't know, what we weren't taught (in high school, in college), and ... sadly, but most importantly, what we just didn't want to know or didn't want to hear. So, if you (as I aspire to be) are troubled by current events, but are open to new information and willing to rethink basic assumptions (or challenge things you've taken for granted ... well ... forever), I suggest you add this list to your reading pile. Sadly, the book grabs the reader by both ears and makes the reader stare reality in the face, forcing the reader to acknowledge the ugly underbelly of American history (and dreams), particularly with regard to widespread (patent and latent) racism and Antisemitism. [Yes, Virginia, reading about the KKK (and fascists and Nazis) and its (their) lengthy history in our nation, is never pretty.] And, sadly, understanding this is so terribly important today .... Along those lines, you should definitely consider reading this if you enjoyed, for example, King's prize-winning Devil in the Grove, Grann's popular Killers of the Flower Moon,, or I dunno, Isabel Wilkerson's monumental/epic Warmth of Other Suns... (that's just to name a few... and a handful of others that come to mind in other contexts are referenced below....) Due primarily to my interest/background in defense/military aviation and weapons production, my general familiarity with Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford as celebrity and industrialist American Firsters (or Nazi sympathizers or anti-Semites ... you decide for yourself) was typically consumed in the context of their (Lindbergh and Ford's) otherwise impressive (often extraordinary) and laudable achievements. While there are innumerable biographies of both, they're brought together in AJ Baime's (informative, but, frankly, strangely constructed), The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm America at War, which I review at some length here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ... Obviously, this is a more fulsome, organized, and thoughtful exposition on America First (and, of course, the American Dream). Among other things, the book did a splendid job convincing me I need to read more by (and more about) Dorothy Thompson, whose words ... in 1941 ... seem spot on, if not prescient, today. Sadly, the book also presents one of the most compelling the apple doesn't fall far from the tree explanations of Donald Trump's instincts, biases, blind spots, actions, and behaviors, including everything from racism and dog-whistling to disinformation. Reader's nit: The book isn't necessarily an easy or a quick read, and ... given how much of the meat of the story is about words, phrases, and minor tweaks and modifications to definitions and usage and interpretation, the book requires more concentration that is required in, say, serial detective fiction (which, obviously, this isn't). I expect for many readers, this could become a slog (but I didn't find it to be so; indeed, I plowed through it rather quickly). By way of comparison, since it might appeal to a similar readership, I found the pages turned much (much) more quickly in, say, Frum's Trumpocracy, or Snyder's (slim but elegant and extremely worthwhile) On Tyranny than they did here. All I mean to say is that it's a serious book on a serious topic and, accordingly, it requires serious attention to appreciate it. Also, I haven't read Churchwell before, and my sense is that this book (project, and research) isn't necessarily in the center of her wheelhouse.... And, periodically, I felt it was a strange book ... and I wasn't even sure what I was reading or where it was going (although I got over that relatively quickly) ... because, in some ways, it was more history of language and usage than history, but that's not quite right. Because it is history, and the overall endeavor represents a staggering amount ... and a unique brand ... of research, with extensive identification and description of speeches, books, essays, radio shows, reporting, op-eds, and ... well, you get the idea. And this isn't modest history ... no, rather, it embraces a lengthy period of time, but pulls it all together and presents the research in a cohesive, and, more importantly, compelling manner. I strongly recommend it (and applaud the author). Well done.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gram

    This book traces the origins of two phrases - "The American Dream" and "America First", showing how they have featured in American life - as political slogans, news editorials, essay topics and in literature good and bad - for more than 100 years. During that time, both have meant different things to different people and the author, Dr Sarah Churchwell, suggests that it's time to rediscover what they now mean to the people of a nation she believes has lost its' way. Early in the 20th Century, peo This book traces the origins of two phrases - "The American Dream" and "America First", showing how they have featured in American life - as political slogans, news editorials, essay topics and in literature good and bad - for more than 100 years. During that time, both have meant different things to different people and the author, Dr Sarah Churchwell, suggests that it's time to rediscover what they now mean to the people of a nation she believes has lost its' way. Early in the 20th Century, people had to decide the role the USA would play in the struggle between democracy and totalitarianism. Both the American Dream and America First were employed in all of these battles. The latter slogan is nothing new. Thousands of politicians, journalist, writers and rabble rousers used it long before Donald Trump decided to take up politics. From the late 19th Century, to the present day, "America First" has been used in the name of a vast variety of causes, some good some bad, depending on your point of view. It was, and still is, invoked by the Ku Klux Klan as well as American Nazis in the 1930's and 1940's and the promoters of the "Red Scares" which surface with monontonous regularity in American history. From 1910 to 1920, it was used by isolationists who wanted to prevent Americans fighting in the First World War and again at the war's end when the League of Nations was formed. It has been used to enforce regulations against immigrants and the subjugation of others, particularly the country's black population. There were those who used the slogan to justify anti-Semitism, attacks on German-Americans during World War I and then Japanese-Americans in World War 2. It was used to give credence to extremes of racism, particularly ideas of the superiority of the white race and the public lynching and burning of thousands of black men and women during the 1st half of the 20th Century. Many American politicians were members of the Ku Klax Klan and filibustered an anti-lynching bill (first introduced in 1918) and similar legislation was halted until the 1930s. Between 1890 and 1952, 7 US Presidents asked Congress to pass a federal law." Not one bill was approved by the Senate mainly because of the powerful opposition of the Southern Democratic voting bloc. Meanwhile "The American Dream" has been used to symbolise everything from Liberalism, social equality and social democracy to rampant capitalism and the worst excesses of the robber barons, along with the industrialisation of America which many believe destroyed the ideals of a nation which some wished would mean a country with a gentler, agrarian-based economy and its ethos of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. In 1900 The New York Post stated that millionaires constituted the greatest threat to the USA and that seemed to be a popular sentiment at the time. Later in the 20th Century, economic "experts" argued that the pursuit of vast wealth was no vice - greed was good. In 1921, there were "America First" societies spread throughout the USA, advocating the boycotting of British and European goods. Sound familiar? It just goes to show there's nothing new in politics. Opponents constantly argued this stance, asking the question: "America First? - For Whom?" Many believed that the dogged pursuit of wealth did not symbolise the American Dream, but rather valued property rights above human rights. Not surprisingly, use of the words, "The American Dream" seem to lessen during years of financial crisis. With details from hundreds of articles from newspapers large and small, excerpts from books, varying from the works of Nelson Alger to Sinclair Lewis and even a play written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, mixed in alongside speeches made by politicians and other prominent and lesser known figures, this history shows how the meaning of both phrases have been altered to suit the ideas of whoever quotes them. Donald Trump's "slash and burn" approach to politics might seem shocking, but his constant sloganeering about making America great again has been heard countless times before. My main criticism of this book is that I found the continual use of a myriad of written sources for these two slogans too repetitive as the author hammered her points home. Sometimes - even in a history book - there can just be too much information and too many minute details. Certainly it's not a book for the casual reader, but it is one which will definitely reward those who make a closer study of its arguments. My thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for the chance to read this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    This is a well researched book with academic rigor written for a wide audience. I used to think that fascism couldn’t take hold in America. I was wrong. This book shows the morphing of the American Dream to an American First style of fascism until 1942 and with a little post script added for its recent history. The KKK is irrelevant today. They’re too extreme in their hate and exclusive in their thought. In 1924, when Mussolini took over, they were very relevant and the NYT saw them as America’s This is a well researched book with academic rigor written for a wide audience. I used to think that fascism couldn’t take hold in America. I was wrong. This book shows the morphing of the American Dream to an American First style of fascism until 1942 and with a little post script added for its recent history. The KKK is irrelevant today. They’re too extreme in their hate and exclusive in their thought. In 1924, when Mussolini took over, they were very relevant and the NYT saw them as America’s Fascists which ended up having to re-brand themselves into various forms of American First. The hate had to recode itself beyond the hate espoused in 1924 by that Indiana senator in Munster Indiana with his hateful speech about everyone who was not 100% American, or the similar letters posted to the Chicago Tribune. (BTW, Barack Obama’s last campaign speech in 2008 was given in Munster Indiana. I wonder if that Indiana Senator turned in his grave. I can only hope.) At its core the hate morphs in to different labels, but in substance it always has three components: someone not a member of the self-appointed privileged tribe must be feared, traditional values must be reclaimed, and equality is not necessary for liberty since fairness to the privileged is all that is required. The author spoke about ‘the myth of the lost cause’ three times in this book. That’s the belief that the Civil War was really a war of independence and they were fighting for a noble cause and only lost because they were betrayed. If the absurdity of that belief is not obvious to you, I would recommend ‘The Myth of the Lost Cause’ by Bonekemper III. At the core of the American style of fascism is a requirement of a mythical betrayal of the past. It can label itself ‘make America great again’ because it’s in search of a past that never should have been, and where their hate of gays, blacks, browns or non-Christians made them bigger only because they made the others smaller. I knew Fred C. Trump, the father of the current President, was strongly supportive of the KKK in his day, but I did not know the ‘C’ stood for Christ. So, when the President gives a speech in the Oval office and he has his father picture facing towards the nation, he has an avid racist and Christ in the back ground. The book quoted somebody to the effect that for fascism to succeed in America it will wrap itself in a flag (have you ever seen Trump hug the flag, I have; it is creepy) and will come with a bible and a cry for a return of ‘traditional values’ (or in other words: make America great again). Also, as someone else was quoted to have said, it will need its own newspaper or network. William Randolph Hearst provided that in those days and gave the American brand of fascism the coherence they needed to almost succeed. Dorothy Thompson, who I’m embarrassed to say that I did not know about, provided some of the intellectual bulwark against the American fascist and she is often quoted throughout this book. Dorothy Thompson pointed out how Hitler laid out what he was in his speeches and in his book ‘Mein Kampf’ and nobody should have been surprised by what he did and those who enabled that are responsible for that. Iowa comes out looking presciently. Be it the Des Moines Register with their warnings against Charles Lindbergh and American fascism or the University of Iowa putting the final nail in American fascism after Lindbergh's December 11, 1941 speech. It’s somewhat ironic that they have a racist congressman today who channels those same American first principals. The author notes that what we know about history is couched in the myths that we believe about the past. In order for us to understand who we are today sometimes we need to unveil the myths so that the same tragedies don’t repeat themselves. This is an incredibly well researched book that unveils our past and is relevant to who we are today, and as always, shows why learning about the past is vital, because it almost happened here in the past and it can happen here in the present.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Sarah Churchwell's Behold, America examines the long and fraught history of "America First" as expression and ideology, from the late 19th Century through the present day. Churchwell shows that the phrase's provenance, most often associated with Charles Lindbergh and other opponents of American entry into WWII, dates much farther back, though its precise meaning often varied. For a time, progressive internationalists like Woodrow Wilson intended it to mean that America should lead the world in f Sarah Churchwell's Behold, America examines the long and fraught history of "America First" as expression and ideology, from the late 19th Century through the present day. Churchwell shows that the phrase's provenance, most often associated with Charles Lindbergh and other opponents of American entry into WWII, dates much farther back, though its precise meaning often varied. For a time, progressive internationalists like Woodrow Wilson intended it to mean that America should lead the world in forging a peaceful new order; in other hands, it became a more generic assertion of American supremacy. By the 1920s, however, it became irrevocably interwoven with the uglier impulses in politics: Wilson's wartime crackdown on disloyal "hyphenated Americans'; conservatives Harding and Coolidge using it to denounce the League of Nations; the Ku Klux Klan and homegrown fascist groups who associated it with a defense of white, Protestant American values against immigrants, Catholics, Jews and blacks; opponents of the New Deal who invoked it to brand FDR a traitor; and, of course, the America First movement before Pearl Harbor. Along with an ever-nebulous idea of an American Dream (which, Churchwell shows, more often eschewed wealth for wealth's sake than its post-WWII incarnation), it embedded itself in the national psyche. Churchwell does a brilliant job not only in illuminating this fraught subject but showing how progressive writers of the early 20th Century (John Steinbeck, Dorothy Thompson, Walter Lippman, Sinclair Lewis, etc.) explicitly identified it with fascism and the retrograde elements of American society. Perhaps it's too neat to draw a straight line between Churchwell's subjects and Donald Trump, as she does in an extended epilogue, but it's undeniable that it fits. Trump knew what he was doing in invoking the phrase, and the history Churchwell outlines shows that his white supremacy, autocratic style, incuriosity and contempt for democratic values is perfectly in keeping with the phrase's traditions.

  6. 5 out of 5

    11811 (Eleven)

    "If history is to the nation as memory is to the individual, then all history is contemporary history." "If history is to the nation as memory is to the individual, then all history is contemporary history."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Peter Geyer

    My professional life has been spent in a field where history has had little purchase. People ignore the past and say that the future will be different, so ignoring the ideas and events that are represented or have caused current issues. Curiosity about names and labels in this field – their origins, intent, meanings and contradictions – has been mostly absent, at least from my position as a lover and valuer of history for what it can tell us about the here and now and what might come. Sarah Churc My professional life has been spent in a field where history has had little purchase. People ignore the past and say that the future will be different, so ignoring the ideas and events that are represented or have caused current issues. Curiosity about names and labels in this field – their origins, intent, meanings and contradictions – has been mostly absent, at least from my position as a lover and valuer of history for what it can tell us about the here and now and what might come. Sarah Churchwell goes down the historian's road to investigate two currently prominent slogans in American politics – America First and the American Dream. The varieties of meaning attached to them, the kinds of people and views attached to specific meanings including the entanglements of white supremacists and various sectarianisms, Ku Klux Klan, pro-Nazi groups, democracy, immigration, race and anti-Semitism, materialism, corporatism, the free market and so on. There are committees, newspaper articles and editorials, commentators, novels, rallies and lynchings. Intermittently, she refers to the current situation in American Politics, notably Donald Trump and his origins. The period of history is essentially the first half of the 20th century, although there are forays into other times when required, and Churchwell finishes up in the present day. She writes well and her interjections and comments are pertinent, particularly in untangling the multiple meanings of the phrases that form the theme of her book. In some respects, an underlying theme is how little people appear to investigate meaning and definition, and also how different circumstances and times throw up different interpretations. Her work also implicitly criticises the sloppy investigation of these terms over the past few years. The first part of the 20th century is of professional interest to me, particularly around psychology, personality, eugenics and so on and I found this book extremely informative regarding context, whilst also creating new questions or avenues of discovery. My understanding of the racial history of the United States, for want of a better term, has also been enhanced. I would recommend this book to anyone. .

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Everything old is new again. Sarah Churchwell lays out the history of the phrases “America First” and the “American Dream,” and the result is a relentlessly grim accounting of racism, bigotry, isolationist bombast, and intellectual vulgarity. Churchwell knows her stuff. This is a scholarly book, sandwiched between a prologue and an epilogue that seethe with disgust for its context—the raison d'être of the book’s genesis: the ascendance of Trumpist “alt-right” nonsense in the American political l Everything old is new again. Sarah Churchwell lays out the history of the phrases “America First” and the “American Dream,” and the result is a relentlessly grim accounting of racism, bigotry, isolationist bombast, and intellectual vulgarity. Churchwell knows her stuff. This is a scholarly book, sandwiched between a prologue and an epilogue that seethe with disgust for its context—the raison d'être of the book’s genesis: the ascendance of Trumpist “alt-right” nonsense in the American political landscape. Surprisingly, there is something calming—even therapeutic—about taking this trip down memory lane. Monstrousness is made less menacing when you learn that it is not new. A phrase we hear so much nowadays is “We’ve never seen anything like this!” That is flatly untrue, as Churchwell explains. What is dispiriting is that we are likely going to keep seeing it, generation after generation.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    I've been looking for a book that provided a history of the America First movement and Charles Lindbergh. This book doesn't do that. But it did provide an interesting tour of 20th century Americana, through a comparison of the genealogies of the terms "America First" and the "American Dream." The first term meant more or less what we think it meant (or at least I think it means) but the latter was once more closely tied to an idea of moral virtue rather than middle-class consumerism let alone ex I've been looking for a book that provided a history of the America First movement and Charles Lindbergh. This book doesn't do that. But it did provide an interesting tour of 20th century Americana, through a comparison of the genealogies of the terms "America First" and the "American Dream." The first term meant more or less what we think it meant (or at least I think it means) but the latter was once more closely tied to an idea of moral virtue rather than middle-class consumerism let alone extreme wealth. That's about the gist of it. The book argues strongly in favor of America's high-minded liberal traditions and goes out of the way to draw comparisons between the past and present. The writing sometimes meanders around in a confusing manner and I feel that it could have done with better editing. But Churchwell also pauses here and there with a captivating turn of phrase that you have to read over and over. The first line of the book about "loaded phrases" blew me away immediately. There is a lot of information in here that is useful and is drawn entirely from primary sources, so perhaps it is as elegant as it could be and that's not bad. As an aside I tweeted about the book and the author engaged graciously with my commentary. That's always nice and really adds to the enjoyment of reading, as well as advertising the book to others. A solid read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Such an interesting genealogy of the words "america first" and the "american dream" and how they evolved over time. There are several recent books that put Trump into historic context and this is one of the better ones. I mean Fred Trump actually shows up throughout the book at Klan rallies and as discriminatory slumlord. What I also loved was her highlighting the opposition to America first--especially to Charles Lindberg's embrace of the Nazis. The American dream bit is interesting too--it was Such an interesting genealogy of the words "america first" and the "american dream" and how they evolved over time. There are several recent books that put Trump into historic context and this is one of the better ones. I mean Fred Trump actually shows up throughout the book at Klan rallies and as discriminatory slumlord. What I also loved was her highlighting the opposition to America first--especially to Charles Lindberg's embrace of the Nazis. The American dream bit is interesting too--it was only after Eisenhower that the American dream was linked with free enterprise and prosperity. Go figure

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jo Stafford

    As Sarah Churchwell demonstrates in this fascinating survey of the uses of the expressions 'the American dream' and 'America first' during the first half of the 20th century, the phrases have acquired different meanings over time. In recounting the history of these phrases, Churchwell takes the reader into some dark places, particularly when she links 'America first' to ideologies of white supremacy, nativism, and eugenics. Although Churchwell ends her inquiry in the 1940s, it seems the current As Sarah Churchwell demonstrates in this fascinating survey of the uses of the expressions 'the American dream' and 'America first' during the first half of the 20th century, the phrases have acquired different meanings over time. In recounting the history of these phrases, Churchwell takes the reader into some dark places, particularly when she links 'America first' to ideologies of white supremacy, nativism, and eugenics. Although Churchwell ends her inquiry in the 1940s, it seems the current political situation in the United States under Donald Trump is never far from her mind. Indeed, at times it felt like she wrote Behold, America to remind us that Trump is the latest manifestation of a strain of xenophobia and racism that has long been part of the body politic. I found the sections on the shifting definitions of 'the American dream' especially interesting. I'd always thought of it as referring solely to aspirations of individual wealth and success. Learning that the American dream once encompassed broader visions of democracy and the collective good was eye-opening.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alex Taylor

    This is fascinating and frightening in equal measure.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lori Walker

    Behold America by Sarah Churchwell, Published by Perseus Books on 9 October 2018 I received a free egalley of this title for review via NetGalley. This book is so my jam. I have a Master’s in History. At my first committee meeting, one of the members asked for a list of every history class I had taken. Upon furnishing the list, he told me I needed to venture out of the 20th century. I sadly did so in my remaining semesters. BUT I love 20th century American history. I keep returning to it. I think Behold America by Sarah Churchwell, Published by Perseus Books on 9 October 2018 I received a free egalley of this title for review via NetGalley. This book is so my jam. I have a Master’s in History. At my first committee meeting, one of the members asked for a list of every history class I had taken. Upon furnishing the list, he told me I needed to venture out of the 20th century. I sadly did so in my remaining semesters. BUT I love 20th century American history. I keep returning to it. I think the century is rich in topics to study. I think that this is a great topic because of how timely it is. The subtitle of this book is “The Entangled History of ‘America First’ and ‘The American Dream.'” Two phrases that are thrown around like beads at Mardi Gras nowadays. Churchwell examines the origins of these phrases and how they have changed meaning over time as different groups have adopted them and used them. Spoiler–today their usage bears little resemblance to their initial meaning. The concept of “America first” has historically been tied to white nationalist groups. The “American dream” initially had little to do with personal, individual prosperity, but focused on the ability to live a more generous life. Churchwell traces these changes in meaning from their earliest usages in the Gilded Age up through today. Churchwell takes the perfect approach in her study. She uses the words of ordinary people as opposed to the words of politicians or writers, which better highlights the widespread understanding and meaning of these phrases over time. Their meaning for ordinary people shows why they are used by politicians. Politicians use phrases that either prey on the fears of their followers or inspire them to action. For me, this approach helps make the connection of why politicians keep turning to these phrases. This use of primary source material creates a much stronger basis for her arguments. Her writing is extremely accessible. I hate wading through incredibly dense histories. Fortunately, though a heavy topic, Churchwell wrote about it in an engaging way. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes history or likes reading about current events. I appreciate how she kept tying together the parallels between the past and current events. In order to create a better future for the country, we have to know where we came from. Bottom line–I really enjoyed this book. It’s the kind of history book I enjoy reading. It’s the kind of history book I went to grad school to write. It’s very informative and it’s very timely. Read it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Thomas

    A Very Comprehensive historical review of the origins -- and adaptations -- of two popular stereotyped concepts: America First, made recently famous by the current president's campaign, and The American Dream. America First has a more obvious core nationalistic meaning, if only because it was actually the name of several committees and organizations in the mid-twentieth century. Yet the author details how it was claimed by several viewpoints in an effort to support their cause. After all, if we A Very Comprehensive historical review of the origins -- and adaptations -- of two popular stereotyped concepts: America First, made recently famous by the current president's campaign, and The American Dream. America First has a more obvious core nationalistic meaning, if only because it was actually the name of several committees and organizations in the mid-twentieth century. Yet the author details how it was claimed by several viewpoints in an effort to support their cause. After all, if we want America to be First in the world, then it could be first in engagement, thus more heavily involved in international activities! However, the primary nationalistic use became so closely associated with Lindbergh and Hearst's fascism-supporting views, it is what we all learn in US history class now. Those of us who remember history class have definite reactions to the phrase. The current president evidently does not remember much of any class, so he can speak ignorantly with his gut. The American Dream is a more malleable concept -- here the author's contribution is more important, as she points out the early associations with The American Dream focused on equality and justice; only after WW2 did it symbolize home-ownership. Three short sections reviewing the stunning shameful history of lynching, particularly shameful as it extended into the 1930s, actually disturbed my sleep: Read this in the daytime! There are also a few intriguing Britishisms inserted: spelling, word choice, and grammar, that actually give the book a more objective feel, as if an outsider were viewing our bleak history. The book is unforgettable, especially now, as it is clearly aimed at current year 2018, with many references to Trump and his father. It is also chockablock with primary sources and references to beat any doctoral dissertation -- the use of obscure newspapers and resources is a thicket: for example, is the Ironwood Daily Globe a reliable source? Overall, an excellent resource for a History class, and a good read for current history buffs. And the descriptions of lynching are really powerful as well, particularly when connected to the 100%American movement...truly American, indeed.

  15. 5 out of 5

    C. Patrick G. Erker

    I found this book after a friend asked me what I thought was the book, article, speech, or other item that best encapsulated the "American Dream." I wasn't sure. Grapes of Wrath? The pledge of allegiance? MLK's I Have a Dream speech? The Great Gatsby? So, naturally, I turned to Google, which directed me here, to Behold, America. The book, as the subtitle makes clear, is about the American Dream but also about its evil twin, America First. I listened to the book at 2x speed through the Libby app. I found this book after a friend asked me what I thought was the book, article, speech, or other item that best encapsulated the "American Dream." I wasn't sure. Grapes of Wrath? The pledge of allegiance? MLK's I Have a Dream speech? The Great Gatsby? So, naturally, I turned to Google, which directed me here, to Behold, America. The book, as the subtitle makes clear, is about the American Dream but also about its evil twin, America First. I listened to the book at 2x speed through the Libby app. Overall, I liked but did not love it. I was turned off by the author's clear leftward bent. The book felt reactionary, a response to Trump's shocking victory in 2016, and a hyperventilating alarm-bell ring regarding Trump and his administration. I had read Sinclair Lewis' It Can Happen Here after the election, to understand some of the concerns over whether Trump's election represented a turn to authoritarianism and dictatorship. And I have thought a lot about whether the election does indeed represent such a turn. And, while I have one more year of hindsight than the author does, I tend to fall on the side of the optimists who believe in the strength of our admittedly fragile institutions. And I also tend to believe that while Trump's antics are taking us down a dangerous path, they are part of a broader desecration of general gentility that is the responsibility of politicians of many stripes. That being said, I did enjoy learning more about some of the purveyors of the American dream as the author sees it: from Walter Lippmann to Dorothy Thompson to James Truslow Adams (who apparently coined the term "American Dream" in his Epic of America, which I immediately bought and look forward to reading soon). I would only recommend this book if you're really curious about the history of the term American Dream, and how folks who advocate for America First detract from it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ben Cullimore

    With Donald Trump in the White House and the United States of America dangerously divided along ideological and ethical lines, Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream is a timely study of what those two important terms mean and where exactly they came from. Tracing them back to their earliest origins, Sarah Churchwell brilliantly examines the way in which they have transformed over time; both in response to the natural evolution of society and, more worryingly, in the s With Donald Trump in the White House and the United States of America dangerously divided along ideological and ethical lines, Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream is a timely study of what those two important terms mean and where exactly they came from. Tracing them back to their earliest origins, Sarah Churchwell brilliantly examines the way in which they have transformed over time; both in response to the natural evolution of society and, more worryingly, in the service of corrupt and hateful figures. “America First” is a phrase often utilised by Trump and adopted by his followers, and Churchwell explains how it is inexplicably related to white supremacist ideas from the early twentieth century. Used to justify racism, isolationism and nativism, “America First” is an incredibly dangerous phrase with a dark past, and its return to the political lexicon is a serious worry. Churchwell’s study of what constitutes the “American dream” is equally riveting, and it is here that Behold, America: The History of America First and the American Dream is arguably at its best. Her examination - bolstered by dozens of examples from newspaper articles, books and speeches - highlights the way in which the phrase has evolved, with each successive period reimagining it for their own time. It is fascinating to read how, in its earliest form, the meaning behind the “American dream” was closer to social democracy than ideas of individual wealth and success, and how this has unfortunately been lost to a far more selfishly libertarian interpretation. Behold, America: The History of America First and the American Dream is well-researched and brilliantly presented, and it represents an eye-opening account of two misused and abused phrases that continue to be adopted for nefarious purposes.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sorrento

    Sarah Churchwell’s timely book was a real eye opener for me. Whilst I knew of some of America’s shameful past including slavery the KKK and Charles Lindberg’s support for the Nazis, I didn’t really know about the significant proportion of the American public who supported fascist and Nazi ideas by attending Nazi rallies uniting around the slogan America First (the campaign slogan of Donald Trump). I was also sickened to learn that the American state condoned the abhorrent cruel torture and murde Sarah Churchwell’s timely book was a real eye opener for me. Whilst I knew of some of America’s shameful past including slavery the KKK and Charles Lindberg’s support for the Nazis, I didn’t really know about the significant proportion of the American public who supported fascist and Nazi ideas by attending Nazi rallies uniting around the slogan America First (the campaign slogan of Donald Trump). I was also sickened to learn that the American state condoned the abhorrent cruel torture and murder of black people, called lynching, until the late 1930s. Churchwell’s well researched book quoting extensively from news reports of the time also discusses what the meaning of the American dream has meant to successive generations of Americans. Is it a materialistic everyone can get rich and be president dream or a dream of a more equal, tolerant, less fearful, democratic society? Churchwell quotes extensively from journalists and authors who vehemently opposed the America firster fascists and who had a more liberal egalitarian view of the American Dream including the newspaper columns of Dorothy Thompson and the fiction of Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck. Towards the end of the book there is a discussion of how these ideas of the American Dream and America First are being expressed in America’s politics today and particularly by the Trump administration. Fred Trump Donald’s racist father we learn was KKK member.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Notes of a Curious Mind

    In her enlightening book Behold America, Sarah Churchwell looks into the history of these two phrases and explores how their evolution, both their myths and their truths, had shaped reality in ways that are not yet fully understood. She looks into how did people use these phrases in the past across the U.S., how they emerged, about the same time, a hundred years ago, in 1916, and how they both became part of the American political conversation in different ways, not as ideas but as catchphrases. In her enlightening book Behold America, Sarah Churchwell looks into the history of these two phrases and explores how their evolution, both their myths and their truths, had shaped reality in ways that are not yet fully understood. She looks into how did people use these phrases in the past across the U.S., how they emerged, about the same time, a hundred years ago, in 1916, and how they both became part of the American political conversation in different ways, not as ideas but as catchphrases. The way a phrase evolves and the chains of association that are formed intuitively or unconsciously as one idea, define the political and social realities. It is surprising and instructive to see how these associations explain the situation that the U.S. is now. In order to fight the danger of resurgence of fascism, you need to know the history. Fascists are masters of political theatre, they feed on peoples’ grievances; they demonize groups of people, and they present themselves as national saviours. They seek to subvert and eliminate liberal institutions. With her book Behold America, Sarah Churchwell remind us of the danger that U.S is facing and presents arguments to fight back against authoritarianism and white nationalist policies.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ben Holmes

    "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme". This is an engaging and often surprising history of two ideas, 'The American Dream' and 'America First', one older than you might think, one much younger than I realised. Churchwell shows how the two ideas have been used by groups and individuals across the political spectrum. It is particularly interesting to see the variety of definitions the American Dream has had throughout the twentieth century, becoming more and more based on economics as "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme". This is an engaging and often surprising history of two ideas, 'The American Dream' and 'America First', one older than you might think, one much younger than I realised. Churchwell shows how the two ideas have been used by groups and individuals across the political spectrum. It is particularly interesting to see the variety of definitions the American Dream has had throughout the twentieth century, becoming more and more based on economics as the progressive era gives way to the more materialistic society of the postwar years. Of course there are obvious parallels to our own time. These are skilfully alluded to for the most part, although the book's biggest strength is that it shows how these ideas were received and debated at the time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    The first surprise in Sarah Churchwell's book about America First and the American Dream is that the phrase "American Dream" only started to be used in the 1930s. Even then, its meaning was fluid, signifying different dreams at different times. Another surprise is that at the same time American Dream was taking shape as a shorthand for the potential of America, "America First" was already being used by political candidates and newspaper editors calling for the exclusion of "hyphenated" Americans The first surprise in Sarah Churchwell's book about America First and the American Dream is that the phrase "American Dream" only started to be used in the 1930s. Even then, its meaning was fluid, signifying different dreams at different times. Another surprise is that at the same time American Dream was taking shape as a shorthand for the potential of America, "America First" was already being used by political candidates and newspaper editors calling for the exclusion of "hyphenated" Americans. At that time, almost anyone who did not have roots in England was considered hyphenated and suspiciously foreign. Churchwell's history is fascinating, well-researched, and pertinent to our own times.

  21. 4 out of 5

    gnarlyhiker

    the introduction, prologue and epilogue makes for a solid read. the in-between is borderline filler-up. do recommend a short documentary by Marshall Curry. link below & summary: In 1939, 20,000 Americans rallied in New York's Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism. A Night at the Garden, made entirely from archival footage filmed that night, transports audiences to this chilling gathering and shines a light on the power of demagoguery and anti-Semitism in the United States. https://f the introduction, prologue and epilogue makes for a solid read. the in-between is borderline filler-up. do recommend a short documentary by Marshall Curry. link below & summary: In 1939, 20,000 Americans rallied in New York's Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism. A Night at the Garden, made entirely from archival footage filmed that night, transports audiences to this chilling gathering and shines a light on the power of demagoguery and anti-Semitism in the United States. https://fieldofvision.org/a-night-at-... good luck

  22. 5 out of 5

    James

    This is a history of two phrases, with origins different than even history readers might expect. It's of course loaded with parallels to the present moment, but it is also good to be aware that America First came into being way before even Charles Linbergh and The American Dream when originally conceived was about reducing inequality as a way to prosper, not unbridled capitalism. This is a history of two phrases, with origins different than even history readers might expect. It's of course loaded with parallels to the present moment, but it is also good to be aware that America First came into being way before even Charles Linbergh and The American Dream when originally conceived was about reducing inequality as a way to prosper, not unbridled capitalism.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Goldenberg

    A very timely book which traces the origins and regular reincarnations of the America First movement and the gradual change in what is meant by ‘the American Dream’. Meticulously researched, this history constantly nods, both consciously and subconsciously, to the present appalling incumbent in The White House.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    What an interesting way to present history through the history of two phrases, “America First” and “The American Dream.” It’s fascinating and disturbing how our present so accurately mirrors our past. I’m not a fan of trigger warnings in literature, but I do want to say that there is a description of a lynching on page 178 written by a white undercover investigator with the NAACP. It is essential to the text and therefore should be included, but I did come *thisclose* to throwing up my dinner an What an interesting way to present history through the history of two phrases, “America First” and “The American Dream.” It’s fascinating and disturbing how our present so accurately mirrors our past. I’m not a fan of trigger warnings in literature, but I do want to say that there is a description of a lynching on page 178 written by a white undercover investigator with the NAACP. It is essential to the text and therefore should be included, but I did come *thisclose* to throwing up my dinner and I had to sit for some time before I could continue reading. Perhaps keep that in mind as you read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    Enormously overrated yet mildly interesting. This is an anti-tRump work based on the use of the phrases "America First" & "The American Dream" over time beginning early in the 20th century. It is a history of US xenophobia & racism. I'm not sure it tells us much we didn't know except as a historical literary survey. Enormously overrated yet mildly interesting. This is an anti-tRump work based on the use of the phrases "America First" & "The American Dream" over time beginning early in the 20th century. It is a history of US xenophobia & racism. I'm not sure it tells us much we didn't know except as a historical literary survey.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carly

    “Americans have acted as if democracy could survive anything thrown at it.” Insightful, prescient, clear-eyed and at times delightfully wry, Sarah Churchill’s book is a timely reminder of America’s history and the evolution of the idea of the American dream. A book about yesterday that is relevant more than ever today, it asks frank questions about who Americans want to be as a people, what we value, and what we disregard at our peril.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jason Payne

    Another brilliant study of US culture by Sarah Churchwell, author of "The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe," a book I frequently teach. In this one, Churchwell uses two well traveled slogans/phrases/ideas, the American Dream & America First, as a vehicle to plumb the depths of US culture in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Given the current (2019) political and cultural climates, this book should be a must read for all member of the US Congress, the Administration, and the US populati Another brilliant study of US culture by Sarah Churchwell, author of "The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe," a book I frequently teach. In this one, Churchwell uses two well traveled slogans/phrases/ideas, the American Dream & America First, as a vehicle to plumb the depths of US culture in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Given the current (2019) political and cultural climates, this book should be a must read for all member of the US Congress, the Administration, and the US population in general. When DJT decided to drop "America First" as one of his campaign slogans in 2015/16, it raised the hackles of a whole lot of people who had an informed sense of the racist, xenophobic, and antisemitic history of the phrase and those who used it. Churchwell excavates this history thoroughly. The other half of the book, a look at the American Dream from its inchoate genesis to its original meaning (social democracy, gasp!), and from its shift in meaning (way to go, Harry S.) to the idea with which a 21st century American would be far more familiar. An urgent and exceptional book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    The phrase “America First” is so loaded now that we forget the long and tainted history that’s associated with it. The author takes us through the background on this saying over the first 40 years of the 20th century stopping along the way to get a peek at some of the unsavory men who championed its use and abuse. She also looks at how other empty phrases such as “The American Dream” and other catchphrases that were also ginned up and planted in the American psyche. Currently those of us watchin The phrase “America First” is so loaded now that we forget the long and tainted history that’s associated with it. The author takes us through the background on this saying over the first 40 years of the 20th century stopping along the way to get a peek at some of the unsavory men who championed its use and abuse. She also looks at how other empty phrases such as “The American Dream” and other catchphrases that were also ginned up and planted in the American psyche. Currently those of us watching Roth adaptation of ‘The Plot Against America’ might have a difficult time buying into the “what-if” scenario had a figure like Lindbergh or one of the many other demagogues come to power in the 30’s or 40’s, but Churchwell gives the reader a dose of what the reality was like on the ground, and has photos at the end reminding us of the large rallies showing the Stars & Stripes propped up next to the Swastika. Scary stuff and scarier still to think of the times we’re currently in and the large portion of the country absolutely fine with this.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris Demer

    This is a fascinating book about 20th century political history. What becomes clear and resonates over the course of changes in the country, are the similarities between what we are experiencing now and movements in the earlier part of the 20th century. More specifically we see current trends toward nationalism, isolationism, racism, anger at and resentment toward immigrants, violence against the "other" and a president who gained office on his supposed "merits" as a businessman, rather than a p This is a fascinating book about 20th century political history. What becomes clear and resonates over the course of changes in the country, are the similarities between what we are experiencing now and movements in the earlier part of the 20th century. More specifically we see current trends toward nationalism, isolationism, racism, anger at and resentment toward immigrants, violence against the "other" and a president who gained office on his supposed "merits" as a businessman, rather than a politician, and who disdains the rule of law. This latter, is a refrain of Warren Harding - who ran as a "businessman" in 1920 and who claimed "government is a very simple thing! (Like Trump declaring how easy it would be to develop a "great" healthcare system for all Americans.) The "American Dream" first seen in literature, speeches and the press in the 1920s and 30s has changed meaning over time. (more than once in fact) It began as a reference to America as a land of opportunity for those who work hard to move upward socially, and apply their "grit", intelligence and skills to that endeavor. This social mobility was tied to a vision of democracy and economic equality. In current parlance, the phrase generally refers to the possibility of getting rich quickly and without much effort. Opportunity may occur for the few, but in general, social mobility is very limited with an ever wider gap between the obscenely wealthy and the rest of the population. Needless to say, this situation is not due to lack of intelligence, skill or effort. The author recounts the isolationist philosophy that emerged before WWI, as well as the huge Nazi rallies in the U.S. -right up to the eve of the German invasion of the Sudetenland and Poland. These far right movements reflected concepts of "racial purity", "America for Americans" (white only!) --with no contemplation of American's o0wn immigration history. Eugenics theory became prominent and the fanatics were concerned about "dumbing down" the gene pool with an influx of Southern and Eastern Europeans. Miscegenation, of course, was illegal. Many Blacks paid a heavy price. Seeing so many similarities in current politics is depressing. Have we nor come farther than this in a century??? We must remember, though, the intervening periods post WWII and up through the 60s and 70s, there truly was a development of more equality (legally, at least) and more open-mindedness about the U>S> being an important citizen of the world in an ever more connected way. I am a bit hopeful that we can move on from this stagnation, divisiveness, hatefulness and regression. The reason for this is that the history of the past century demonstrates some cyclical movement from dark isolationism to a more engaged nation, where the American Dream - of democracy and economic equality. I found the book to be very informative, not only in the broad coverage of eras which have been forgotten - to our peril - but for specific individuals who never gave in or gave up in the darkest of times: Walter Lippman (Journalist/writer), Sinclair Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Thompson, FDR,and others. Along with these we need to remember the darkness they railed against: the fascists, The Klan, Nazis and Nazi sympathizers (including Charles Lindbergh), Neo Nazis, nationalists, racists, and corrupt politicians. These forces are still with us. We need to remember that.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrewh

    This is a timely book which examines the true roots of the phrases 'American Dream' and, more importantly, 'America First' in American culture. These are both, inevitably, linked to the rise of Donald Trump to become President 45. The former phrase has come to mean unlimited materialism and individualism, but the origins of the term in the culture, as shown here, are to do with American ideas of tolerance and loftier ideals of equality, rather than mere acquisitiveness. The original meanings came This is a timely book which examines the true roots of the phrases 'American Dream' and, more importantly, 'America First' in American culture. These are both, inevitably, linked to the rise of Donald Trump to become President 45. The former phrase has come to mean unlimited materialism and individualism, but the origins of the term in the culture, as shown here, are to do with American ideas of tolerance and loftier ideals of equality, rather than mere acquisitiveness. The original meanings came to be distorted during the 20th century and especially during the Cold War era, as the phrase was co-opted for the general propaganda effort of that conflict. It is presented here mainly as an indicator that America was a country founded as an idea(l) in essence, albeit one propounded by slave owners, and that idea has been subject to multiple revisions over time (and can be so again, therefore). The 'America First' phrase was born out of the '100 per cent' movement (one in favour of Nordic immigration only into the US, an idea resurrected by 45 recently), and was then personified by the administration of Warren Harding, one of the first attempts to get a businessman to run the country (Harding was, of course, totally incompetent and utterly corrupt and generally regarded as the worst US president in history - until now). The book also makes clear that the phrase was also linked to US isolationism and, more worryingly, not unconnected to the revival of the KKK in the early 20C and then US neo-Nazism in the 1930s [it is noted that a certain Fred Trump was known to attend rallies]. The book quotes liberally from contemporary writers such as Walter Lippmann and Dorothy Thompson, who was once married to Sinclair Lewis [the author of the famous novel 'It Can't Happen Here', which satirically relates the tale of a populist-fascist president coming to power]. The book stops in the 1940s, when the USA decided not to follow the Nazi-phile Charles Lindbergh's suggestion to join with Hitler and instead went to war (but not necessarily in defence of any ideals). The author does not need to point out the parallels with the current political situation in the US, with a corrupt businessman in power, openly supported by far-right groups and drawing support by fomenting racial antagonism among the poorer sections of society. The author makes the point that the American Dream is one of democracy in the end, and that is something that should, er, trump materialism and can recreate a social contract.

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