Understanding American identity: an introduction
Widmer, Mark A.
Erickson, Bradley M.
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Why are Americans' identity narratives important for national security? This thesis utilizes a qualitative approach to analyze American identity narratives in U.S. history and contemporary society. The historic disagreement over the distribution of the fundamental American value of liberty makes the possibility of a cohesive national identity challenging. Given the effects of globalization, advances in technology, and changes in traditional demographic and sociocultural trends, any form of a national-level, narrative-based identity is not a feasible means to unify Americans. Leaders must make domestic policy decisions that increase inclusiveness in American society and avoid valuing one identity over another. Policymakers must depart from divisive identity policies in favor of those that unify Americans. Any attempt to shape the existing conflict in terms of identity is contrary to a cohesive society and, more importantly, threatens national security. This research led to two policy recommendations. First, the United States must encourage separable identities and emphasize citizens as individuals rather than groups. Second, policymakers must promote cross-cutting ties, since much of the division in the United States stems from the isolation from one another that many citizens experience. Revamped civic education and national service programs can serve to form those cross-cutting ties.
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