Assignment: Anglo-conformity Case Study
One answer was that enforced assimilation in an English mold, or Anglo-conformity, was the most promising pattern that would unify the population. It made English the dominant language and turned Amer- ica into a graveyard of spoken languages other than English, except only among recent immigrants; currently that means speakers of Spanish and of Asian languages. Anglo-domination also meant that a historical con- sciousness of American culture as an offshoot of England had to be devel- oped and instilled in the population.
Though it may always have sounded somewhat odd to hear children with thick immigrant accents sing “Land where our fodders died,” the assertion of Anglo-American patriotism by non-Anglo Americans could sound hollow, at times even duplicitous, when the United States was at war with the countries of origin of millions of immigrants, as was the case during World War I. Furthermore, racially differing groups, most especially blacks and Indians, were excluded or severely marginalized in Anglicization projects. Their status as citizens still needed to be fought for, even though they were clearly a continued and
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8 • Werner Sollors
strong presence in American cultural productions. Could the invocation of shared English origins really serve as a “connecting link” between Ameri- ca’s “different elements”?
Religious typology, examined in the opening essay “Literature and Eth- nicity,” was particularly adept in making sacred biblical stories prototypes of secular American tales that could then be seen as their fulfillment on Earth, and the Puritan method of reading migration history in the light of the biblical text has left many traces in the culture. Biblical stories could provide answers to such questions as: Why did we leave? What did we come here to find? And how may we still be connected to the people and places we left behind? For nonadherents to messianic religions and even for nonbelievers, American “civil religion” (Robert Bellah) helped to transfer religious to political sentiments, leaving the meaning of “God” relatively unspecific in the formula “In God We Trust.”
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