What Does “American” Really Mean?

In Lugo’s book, Containing (Un)American Bodies, Lugo makes many connections between how Americans defined themselves and others during the Cold War and again following the 9/11 attacks. One point that I fund very interesting is that Lugo states: “If the ‘American people’ knew that marriage should not be ‘messed with,’ then lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and even straight folks in support of same-sex marriage were placed outside the category ‘American.’ […] Consequently, to be in favor of same-sex marriage and to be opposed to war in Iraq held their exclusion from the category “American” in common” (Lugo 18). In this way, the word “American” is used not so much to define a people as it is to exclude a people. In Cold War rhetoric, “American” became a very exclusive term, saved for those who lived perfect lives with their nuclear families, trusted and supported to government in every way, and subscribed to capitalist ideals, rather than just those who lived in America. Thus, to fall outside of any of these constraints made a person un-American. In this way, “American” is not simply a description of heritage, but a weapon used against those who did not conform to a certain identity.


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