Myths America Lives by (Paperback)
University of Illinois Press, 9780252072208, 203pp.
Publication Date: June 15, 2004
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In this book Richard T. Hughes identifies the five key myths that lie at the heart of the American experience--the myths of the Chosen Nation, of Nature's Nation, of the Christian Nation, of the Millennial Nation, and of the Innocent Nation. Drawing on a range of dissenting voices, Hughes shows that by canonizing these seemingly harmless myths of national identity as absolute truths, America risks undermining the sweepingly egalitarian promise of the Declaration of Independence. The Chosen Nation myth led to the wholesale slaughter of indigenous peoples during the pioneer era. More recently the Innocent Nation myth prevented many Americans from understanding, or even discussing, the complex motivations of the 9/11 terrorists. Myths America Lives By demonstrates that Americans must rethink these myths in the spirit of extraordinary humility if the United States is to fulfill its true promise as a nation. Hughes locates the roots of each myth in a different period of America's development, and from each of these periods he finds stirring critiques offered by marginalized commentators--especially African Americans and Native Americans--who question the predominant myth of their age. Myths America Lives By is a dialogue between the mainstream mythmakers and the many critics--including Martin Luther King Jr., Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, Black Elk, Anna J. Cooper, Booker T. Washington, Malcom X, Angela Davis, and W. E. B. Du Bois--whose dissent, rather than being un-American, was often grounded in a patriotic belief in the "self-evident" equality of America's fundamental creed.