I’ve been playing with the idea of creating a blog of passages taken from pre-War literature that display an American sense of identity that I feel has faded over the course of my lifetime.
I am thinking especially about two authors I read heavily as a child, like Mark Twain and L. Frank Baum. I don’t have particular passages in mind, yet, but I do have a strong sense of Americanness that I believe I acquired from them:
- pride in one’s own humble roots
- a taste for directness bordering on roughness, delight in dispensing with dainty niceties
- extreme practicality — take action without hesitation or theorizing
- a stubborn sense of equality (often demonstrated in a disdain for class airs and thoroughgoing non-participation in aristocratic self-importance games)
- “live and let live” elevated to the highest moral principle — commitment to defending the rights of others to think and do whatever they please with an expectation that this commitment be reciprocated
- impish irreverence toward merely formal propriety
- a cheerful can-do work ethic of plucky, industrious optimism
- Settling an issue with one’s fists — followed by a handshake of respect, then friendship
- thinking big — tastelessly big — Vegas Big
- frankness, with non-concern for offending others with one’s opinions
- self-sufficiency, ability to survive by one’s own wits
- willingness to help a person in trouble, regardless of who the person is
- disregard for irritable, moralistic, formalistic, sophisticated sensibilities
I am imagining a photoblog consisting of images of pages of books, each tagged by theme, and prominently featuring a tag cloud which hopefully over time might reflect the qualities of the ideal American character.