A nation is a community characterized by two qualities – its limits and sovereignty. Both qualities usually have official and legal definitions for each particular nation. Also, these qualities, as well as other characteristics of a nation can be its internally perceived and promoted features. Specifically, the American nation is known for its perceived exceptionality as a part of its identity. However, as its roots and history are tightly connected to that of Great Britain, the US nation seems to have adopted the inclination to the strict class division that was enhanced by the ethnic diversity of its society. As a result, the American nation can be described as an imagined political community that was initially built upon strong racial prejudice and disregard for all the newcomers even though almost the entire nation is comprised of newcomers.
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My Kinsman, Major Molineux by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a good illustration of a treatment that most newcomers have been facing in America ever since the early history of this country. Young Robin is disrespected and laughed at by nearly every person he encounters. Additionally, a wealthy man regarded himself as Robin’s “better” just because he was rich. From this interaction, one can notice that class division was a significant feature of the nation starting from colonial times. In the book, Robin can be juxtaposed to the rest of American society based on the British values and elitist moods that were common at the time. However, viewing the history and social development of this country from the perspective of a modern person, one can notice that even though the political dependency from Great Britain was eventually broken, the cultural attitudes common among the colonizers continued to persist.
Discussing the American nation, it is necessary to mention its diversity. The United States was formed by people willingly traveling or forcefully brought from other areas. However, the attitudes of white Europeans who took over this land first dictated the culture and worldview of the society. Specifically, the white supremacy typical to European imperialists, who went off to submit the rest of the world, made its way to America to unravel its full potential. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson expressed his thoughts regarding the perceived differences between black and white people. From this text, it is clear that Jefferson’s insights about the immorality of slavery were not based on his faith in racial equality. He argued that the two races cannot be equal due to their different appearances. In Jefferson’s opinion, white people were more beautiful than black people. Due to their physiological differences, black people were regarded as inferior and compared to monkeys. The author concluded that, to his mind, God intended black people, as well as Native Americans, to stand lower in the social hierarchy than whites.
In that way, the American nationhood was initially based on two forms of exceptionalism – white supremacy and the value of money. In the future, the two features stimulated the spread of capitalism, the growth of consumerism, and the intention to take over the world-dominating in such spheres as the economy, business, entertainment, and production. At the same time, it is possible to notice that a high level of fragmentation is still present in American society as the nation is divided based on dozens of characteristics of its inhomogeneity.
To sum up, the American nation started as a group of separate colonies that eventually formed a powerful state. However, as centuries passed, the wholeness of this nation continued to be in question due to persistent internal divisions. Class and racial segregation that were described in early works of literature and political texts, such as the ones by Hawthorne and Jefferson, remained in place and still represent some of the major social and cultural issues in the country. Most interestingly, these divisions grew to become essential characteristics of the nation boosted by its rapid development and increased inhomogeneity.