In the course of American history, the American people have been confronted with different threats to its politics, economy and way of life. At present, the continuing threat of international terrorism and the unceasing wave of Anti-Americanism are constantly putting the lives of simple Americans towards fear and uncertainty, notwithstanding all the different social issues they face each passing day, such as gay marriage, abortion, and stem-cell research, among many others.
These threats had their own counterparts in previous years, and it is worthy to note that different side of the American political fence all had their own positions on various matters of serious concern then, and seemingly, those old issues remain as hotly debated up until this moment. The paper will examine the actual threats and pre-conceived threats by Americans through the different decades such as racism, immigration, government regulation, evolutionism, and many other issues and social questions that have made the United States the brimming democracy of ideas it continues to be until today.
Evolution and the Origin of Man and the Earth In the twenties, a most important concern has been the continuing discourse on evolution vis-a-vis fundamental Christian preaching on the ancestry of human beings. In Reverend Dixon’s Sermon on the Evils of Darwinism and Evolution, he is clearly mistaken for lumping the theory of evolution per se, with the racist theory of social Darwinism of Herbert Spencer.
He is clearly mistaken in doing so, because never had the theory of evolution posited that evolution is merely a matter of survival of the fittest, thus, the weak may necessarily be oppressed, thus, may be destroyed in the conduct of human evolution. (165) Such a position is clearly misinformed, because what the theory of evolution merely suggests is that humans, as per the evidence culled in the development and evolution of other species, may have descended, not from the biblical Adam, as many fundamental Christians believe, but from apes and monkeys.
The trouble with Reverend Dixon, and all other purveyors of the biblical interpretation on the origin of man is that their answers to the scientific question on evolution was never based on a scientific reply itself, but merely on a reassertion of Bible verses that never could man have descended from apes, precisely because he descended from God himself. Then and now, the reason why creationism remains absolutely discredited among scientific circles is the basic fact that no scientific reply has ever been posited to the Darwinian challenge on the origin of man.
The evolutionary scientists are no less Christian by continuously asserting their Darwinian position. Defense Attorney Darrow’s interrogation of Prosecutor Bryan during the Monkey Trial is helpful in better understanding the fundamentalist Christian views of the day, which permeates much in the evolution debate of today. Darrow’s line of questioning clearly seeks to debunk the literal biblical interpretation of fundamentalist Christians, which in this case might be Prosecutor Bryan.
While Bryan asserts that the creation of the world occurred six-thousand years ago, Darrow insists that the Chinese civilization had been in existence thousands of years more than that, and rightly so, but Bryan remains unfazed with such statements, firmly believing, in mocking fashion, that the truth is on his side. (167) In the discourse of the origin of man, and the creation of the world, fundamental Christians have remained unfazed, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, especially on the age of the earth, that the truth as stated in the Bible is the only truth that needs to be believed by any God-fearing person.
Such a position is dangerous, because it creates a faith that is blind and dogmatic, and obscures believers from the well-intentioned truth provided by science in determining previously unknown facts about humans and the natural world in which they exist. Unfortunately, this position remains the subject of intense debate until today, with creationism advocates appealing School Boards and lobbying Capitol Hill to cut funding for the instruction of evolution, and/or to provide equal educational exposure to creationism and its corollary theory, Intelligent Design.
White Supremacy and Racism Another threat during the twenties was the rise of white supremacy in the face of a nascent anti-racism and black civil rights movement as represented in the literary works of Langston Hughes and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Klan treatise on Americanism is nothing but empty rhetoric on the need to assert white supremacy in all corners of America, through patriotism, Protestantism and the glorification of the white race.
(171) The trouble with their position on Americanism is that much of their assertions are based on their normative conception of the world and its history, without due regard to other history narratives on the founding of America, the role of Protestantism in exposing the excesses of Roman Catholicism, and the absolute poverty of a discourse based on the mere historic successes and failures of races.
It is clear, however, the Klan remains stuck on their unrepentant Southern position on the continuing subjugation and slavery of African-Americans to be treated like chattel, and the relegation of other colored races as mere secondary citizens to American whites, precisely because the conflicts and contradictions that occur in this world is race-based, instead of class-based.
It is a successful racist position though, because rich whites American obfuscate the apparent class contradictions between peasants and landowners, regardless of race, in order to completely gain the trust of poor white Americans against the hapless African-American who remains to exist as chattel in the racist eyes of the white supremacist.
On the other hand, the Klan’s position on Protestantism is without any causal connection to their white supremacist cause, except for the assertion that without Protestantism, there would have been no America. (171) Sadly, it is based on this simplistic formulation on Protestantism vis-a-vis Americanism that the Klan discriminates against whites who do not share their same belief system, in much the same manner that, precisely because other races are non-white, they deserve to be discriminated, ipso facto.
Nonetheless, such simplistic and flawed logic is also the reason by which the Klan has only remained and self-degenerated in the poorer, uneducated sections of the American South, and never really expanded into the large coastal cities where racial prejudice is much less because of continuous racial intermingling and higher levels of educational attainment. It must be stated, however, that despite the apparent rise of white supremacy in the American South, the seeds of the black civil rights movement of the fifties and the sixties had been planted as early as the twenties, through the prose and poetry of Langston Hughes.
In his poetry, One-Way Ticket, it laments about the situation in the American South, and the persona would rather be in the cosmopolitan cities where African-American are better respected and given their fair share of human dignity, in comparison to the lynching and ridicule of the South. (173) It is a good thing, nonetheless, that the struggle between white supremacy and black civil rights had been quite successful for the latter, not only from Brown v. Board of Education and desegregation, but until today, with the election of Barack Obama, African-American, and 44th President of the United States of America.