Term Paper: American Studies - Anthology

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[. . .] I didn't hit him hard, but that sealed my doom. They took me to a room and they locked the door behind me and there was four guys, four cops there kicking me in the head…" (pp. 2-3).

Tyranny is also aided in this country "under color of law" by people who are prejudiced but wield the power given to them as guardians of the public order. Though this incident is focused on prejudice against a Hispanic in 1942, America's history contains many incidents of police power being used against a minority: Bull Connor's use of police dogs and high-powered fire hoses against blacks in the 1960's is nearly legendary, for example. The use of the courts to condemn and execute "witches" in the 17th Century is another example.

8. Langston Hughes, Let America Be America Again, from A New Song (1938) in The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (1995):

"I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars. I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek -- And finding only the same old stupid plan Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak." (pp. 189-190).

Hughes complains that tyranny in America, in the form of "dog eat dog" and "mighty crush the weak" is the true modern America. He illustrates how downtrodden people who seek the promises of America find only the same old tyranny. From the title, Let America Be America Again, Hughes apparently believes that the spirit of America was once a place of freedom and hope, lost that spirit, and should return to that spirit.

9. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Address to the first Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) Mass Meeting, at Holt Street Baptist Church (1955):

"You know my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression ... If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until 'justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'"

King speaks of tyranny as though it is against a supreme, abiding law of God, Jesus, the U.S. Constitution, Justice and the Supreme Court. Believing that justice is the natural order, King vows to keep fighting until a biblical prophecy of justice running "down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream" will be fulfilled. In aspiring to this idea that freedom is in the natural order of things, King was able to attract and inspire masses of people during and after his lifetime.

10. James Baldwin, "The Crusade of Indignation," The Nation (New York, 7 July, 1956)

"Words like 'freedom,' 'justice,' 'democracy' are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous and, above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply."(Page unknown).

In contrast with the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin seems to say that concepts like "freedom" are not the natural order. Baldwin was a contemporary of King but seems to lack or reject the notion that freedom is natural. In Baldwin's view, freedom takes effort and cultivation.

11. Claudine C. O'Hearn, ed., Half + Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural (1998), quoting from Garrett Hongo's Lost in Place (pp. 1-12):

"Well,' I said, improvising, 'you're just unique, man. That's all.' 'I'm tired of being unique, Dad,' Alex answered. 'I'm tired of being easy to pick out.' I had to admit I could understand his feelings. Being different wears you down." (p. 4).

Hongo writes about the weariness experienced by minorities because they have to deal with their "otherness" constantly. This example speaks of blacks in America; however, the same could be said of any minority. Those who are not white and/or not gentile and/or not heterosexual and/or not male have to deal with that "otherness" in America. One irony of this "otherness" is that America's population has morphed so much that white, gentile, heterosexual males may be, or perhaps already are, the true minority. It is their power and money that fuel the treatment of the majority as the minority.

12. Christopher Isherwood, "Los Angeles" from Exhumations (1966):

"You've got to think, to discriminate, to exercise your own free will and judgment. And you must do this, I repeat, without tension, quite rationally and calmly. For if you give way to fury against the hypnotists, if you smash the radio and tear the newspapers to shreds, you will only rush to the other extreme and fossilize into defiant eccentricity." (p. 161).

Isherwood gives advice on meeting American society's tendency to force the individual into a mold As Isherwood points out, society has already planned who you are and will be, depending on your "place" in society. In order to counteract that, Isherwood advises the individual to calmly and continually stay awake and counter society's tendency; however, he warns against reacting in anger, as that angry fight will make you eccentric.

13. Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street (1853):

"Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance." (p. 21).

Though Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street was written before the lives of Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he touched upon one of the main tools used by Gandhi and King to fight tyranny. While Isherwood gives instruction on surviving in the City, Melville gives a clue to Gandhi's and King's method of passive resistance that was used, in part, to aggravate the oppressor. The aggravated oppressor strikes against and strikes against the passive resistor but ultimately must lose.


Freedom and Tyranny are threads that have run through America's history. Though the Founding Fathers supposedly risked everything for the freedom of people in America, the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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