The Irrational Racism Of Theodore Roosevelt
Last night I wrote of a political code for racist nationalism that has been used in past Republican presidential contests, and is already being activated in the 2012 election. It’s found in the old KKK motto, One Country One Flag One Language.
It’s not just current politicians who have spoken in code to appeal to sentiments favored by the KKK. Theodore Roosevelt used the meme of One Country One Flag One Language so habitually that he eventually began to roll the ideas out automatically without realizing the absurd inconsistency of demanding loyalty against foreigners while insisting on the use of a language of foreign origin. In 1919, when the KKK was the height of its powers, Roosevelt wrote,
“We have room but for one flag, the American flag… We have room but for one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room but for one soul loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.”
(“soul”, rather than “sole” is the spelling chosen by Roosevelt, perhaps a play on words)
How, if Theodore Roosevelt wanted to ensure that the American people had an American nationality, did he imagine that this nationality could be achieved with a European language, brought to the North American continent by an empire determined to keep North America in a mere colonial state, under European power?
Roosevelt’s blind spot for the foreign English language shows that, when bigotry is at stake, simple logic is readily abandoned.