America the Frontier or America the Nation of Immigrants Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

AMERICA: Frederick Turner vs. Oscar Handlin

America through the lens of Turner was essentially a world that grew out of the frontier. Its ideals, hopes, dreams, and government were fashioned by the frontier -- by the "Wild West" so to speak. Turner's vision of America was one in which the country's character grew up organically out of the pioneer spirit. It had nothing to do with England or Puritanism or the Magna Carta or the Enlightenment. It had everything to do with the rough and ready adventurism of men like Daniel Boone and Lewis and Clark. This lens has shaped the way Americans think of themselves, too. They view themselves as expansionists, always pushing the borders to acquire new territory. True, the anti-Imperialists have voiced their objections throughout the years, by Manifest Destiny and New Expansionism are purely Tunerian ideas just taken beyond the frontier. The whole world becomes open to American colonization when one looks through the Turner lens: for everywhere is a new frontier and the American spirit is always ready for a fight in order to prove its mettle, its worth and its place in history.

Through the lens of Handlin, America is viewed as a nation of immigrants, who shaped the country as they poured into the urban areas in the 19th and 20th centuries. Handlin's view is that the immigrants brought with them ideas, ethics, cultures, but that all of these were melded into one entity -- the American identity, fostered on dreams of rising up in the world. The character of the immigrant experience was forged in the melting pot, so to speak, and this melting pot of diversity is what has made America into what it is today.

These two different stories appeal to wildly different Americans because the former, the Turner lens, depicts a strong, leader-like America -- an Empire that is Exceptional. The latter, the Handlin lens, shows an America that is humbler, made up of diverse patches, which woven together tell a unique story that is at once sentimental and realistic, full of hopes and dreams yet also encumbered by calluses and worn…

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