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In Real Americans, Jared A. Goldstein boldly challenges the conventional wisdom that a shared devotion to the Constitution is the essence of what it means to be American.
In his careful analysis of US history, Goldstein demonstrates the well-established pattern of movements devoted to defending the power of dominant racial, ethnic, and religious groups that deploy the rhetoric of constitutional devotion to express their national visions and justify their violence. Goldstein describes this as constitutional nationalism, an ideology that defines being an American as standing with, and by, the Constitution. This history includes the Ku Klux Klan's self-declared mission to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," which served to justify its campaign of violence in the 1860s and 1870s to prevent Black people from exercising the right to vote; Protestant Americans who felt threatened by the growing population of Catholics and Jews and organized mass movements to defend their status and power; native-born Americans who resisted the rising population of immigrants and who mobilized to exclude the newcomers and their alien ideas; corporate leaders arguing that regulation is unconstitutional and un-American; and Timothy McVeigh, who believed he was defending the Constitution by killing 168 people with a truck bomb.
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Goldstein's richly detailed account of how the U.S. Constitition has been the rallying cry for movements ranging from Christian nationalism to white supremacy to laissez faire capitalism to the Civil Rights movement to violent anti- government militias is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand US political discourse -- and is a rollicking good read.
How the Constitution binds and divides us
This book examines the history of how various political, religious and hate groups used the U.S. Constitution to fit their ideology and agendas.
A KKK member will look at the ethnicity of the ruling class that wrote the Constitution and believe that by committing atrocities he is actually defending and protecting the US as its way of life.
A libertarian will cherry-pick a phrase or a sentence in the Constitution and then use that as a premise to argue that private property is sacrosanct, taxation is theft, and regulations that ensure that we drink clean water and breathe fresh air is government tyranny.
A protestant will find a way to argue that the Constitution was made for the Protestant nation even though god is not mentioned in the constitution at all.
A Southerner thought that he was actually defending the constitution when he attacked Fort Sumter.
A 45 supporter will argue that he stormed the capitol because "Constitution", despite never having read it.
The scariest part is that all of these groups believe (or purport to believe) that their cause is just and right.
People will do what they want to do and then assign valor to it.
Ultimately, this book encapsulates how logical fallacies and personal agendas distort and cherry-pick history to fit a particular world-view, which often results in violence and occasional treason.