Updated: Aug 17
(Sky Moss) There is nothing new about overt nationalism. The concept of national pride and protection of national interest has reared its head throughout twentieth century history. Globally we are witnessing a resurgence in protectionism, celebrated patriotism and nation-state consciousness. The preservation of national interest is requisite for the long-term success of a country. Nationalism comes in many forms and motivations. It has always been somewhat of a myth. Transoceanic travel, flight, viruses and the internet all represent actual impediments to the concept. It is not unusual that events, trends and leaders foment ‘firstism’, a reflexive instinctive reaction to
uncontrollable forces. America is certainly not immune, both contemporaneously and historically. While examining historical documents from one of my students, Evan Salvagin ,we encountered some truly remarkable items. One was a pamphlet with three essays from the America First Committee, a short lived group that was founded in 1940. It had famous membership such as Gerald Nye, Charles Lindbergh and Robert E Wood, Sargent Shriver (Peace Corps) and Potter Stewart, future SCOTUS judge. There were socialists, conservatives and others with perhaps more insidious motivations. Henry Ford and former US Olympic Committee Chair, Avery Brundage who barred two American Jewish runners from the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller). Jesse Ownens was one of the replacements. On Semptember 11, 1941 in Des Moines, Iowa Lindbergh gave a famous speech. In it he said, “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.” Many contemporaries believed the group had pro-Nazi proclivities.
(Evan Salvagin) The American First Committee that existed for a brief period of time at the beginning of WWII.This entire era and most of American history is interesting to me because as an American and as a individual person, I’m a strong believer in remembering and preserving history especially for future generations of Americans and humanity. This article was inspired by an historical artifact that came into my possession recently. That artifact was a brochure that was from the America First Committee, and was perfectly preserved since the time of its publiclication in the early 1940’s. The pamphlet contained three essays, from three different authors. The title on the pamphlet read “Can Hitler Cripple America’s Economy?”. One of the authors of one of the essays was an American economist, Bernard Baruch. Another of the authors was an economist and journalist Raymond Moley who was the leader of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Brain-Trust” of advisers. The third author of the pamphlet was George N. Peek who was an economist and the first administrator of the AAA, during the FDR Administration. On the back of the pamphlet was a mail-in America First Committee membership application that had different tiers of membership ,which you could mail to the stated address. The pamphlet was perfectly preserved and looked mostly fresh off the press. The pamphlet is an educational and recruitment piece of literature. At its peak the organization had 800,000 members and vehemently opposed the Lend Lease Act of 1940. The organization disbanded three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. The phrase reappeared decades later in American Politics, first used by Reform candidate Pat Buchanon and then by recent former President Donald Trump. The idea and verbiage still circulate globally.
Globally, in 2022, the idea of America First can be witnessed in many countries. Wars, pandemics and climate change are causing nations to think more domestically. Foriegn policy decisions and the protection of natural resources has become more important. Oil and Natural Gas have become more vital due to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine. Russia, Hungry, Italy, Brazil, The United States are all making decisions through a more first person lens. The difficulty is the reality of the World’s interdependency. It is impossible to dissect the current situation. In 2022 while the idea of America First has its positives,in modern times it’s important to think more broadly.