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But the fact that such expressions as "Americanism," the "American way," the "American outlook," and so forth, have had to be coined seems to indicate that Americans are the first to feel the need of qualifying themselves when they say, "I am an American." More than that, the American consciousness gives an impression of growth.It is not static, and one feels that it still contains tremendous possibilities of expression.
Even they feel that faith in America is what makes them Americans. Roosevelt were removed, all their confidence restored. Americans are tolerant to all creeds and to all convictions, but few people express their distrust and indignation with more vigor whenever some of their beliefs are offended.The one serious crisis of this kind that America has known, the Civil War, showed the frightful results of a real political conflict. But this experiment in dissension seems to have served as a lasting lesson.It is difficult to believe that it would be repeated.To define precisely what nationalism means to each individual would fill a volume.A Frenchman once said that nationalism is a certain number of illusions shared by a group of men and women concerning their origin, combined with a common hatred for any other group of men and women sharing another set of illusions.This attitude has both historical and psychological reasons.Most Americans believe today the following facts concerning their nation: (1) that this continent was peopled by men who rebelled against the tyrannies of Europe; (2) that these men dedicated themselves, from the very beginning, to the purposeful establishment of a kind of freedom that should endure forever; (3) that they succeeded, by a "revolution" in breaking away forever from the oppressive domination and the cupidity of European imperialisms; (4) that in establishing a democratic government they determined forever the course of political perfection, and that whoever followed another course was on the road to damnation; (5) that although European nations were becoming progressively harmless in relation to the increasing power and resources of the ever-growing America, they remained a potential danger to the integrity of this great nation on account of their deplorable habit of wandering away from the true path of civilization, which is democracy, the pursuit of material comfort and more happiness for everybody on this earth as soon as possible.It may also be that in one or two hundred years historians will study this manifestation as one of the most extraordinary examples of mass neuroses that the world has known.Nationalism as we know it may pass, but for the moment it is more powerful than any other idea or even than any religion.For the moment, however, there is a very important trait in the make-up of the American nationality which does not exist, I believe, in any other.And that is the fact that America is a permanent protest against the rest of the world, and particularly against Europe.