Author(s): Sarah Churchwell
What does America stand for in the twenty-first century'
Behold, America confronts this urgent and searching question by looking at the origins of the country 's most contentious self-identifying phrases- the American dream ' and America first '. Is America a racial melting pot, a democracy, a winner-takes-all economy, or a place of political refuge' When these values collide, which will win'
America first ' and the American dream ' were born nearly a century ago and instantly tangled over capitalism, democracy and race. Invoked most recently in Donald Trump 's presidential campaign, they came to embody opposing views in the battle to define the soul of the nation- one on the side of liberal democracy, the other on the side of authoritarianism.
Behold, America recounts the unknown history of these two expressions using the voices that originally engaged in that debate. These voices from Capitol Hill to the newsroom of the New York Times, from students to senators, dreamers to dissenters tell us that the American dream was not initially one of material prosperity, but a democratic dream of equality. America first, meanwhile, was engaged with racist, nativist ideas from birth. The phrases have been harnessed for good and bad in the battle for America 's heart and a vision of what the country stands for.
A nation losing its way might do well to contest these terms once more. Insightful and revelatory, Behold, America overturns everything we thought we knew about the American dream, America first and the struggle for the identity of modern America.