The 50% American: Immigration And National Identity in an Age of Terror

By Stanley Renshon on October 13, 2005

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Georgetown University Press, 2005

The United States is the only nation in the world that allows its citizens to hold one or more foreign citizenships, vote in another nation's elections, run for or be appointed to office in another country, and join the armed forces even of a nation with interests hostile to those of the United States while retaining their citizenship. These policies reinforce the often already strong emotional, political, and economic ties today's immigrants retain to their home countries. Yet few studies have addressed what dual citizenship means for the United States as a nation and the integration of immigrants into the American national community. Is it possible to reconcile two different nationalities, cultures, and psychologies? How can we honor immigrants' sense of identity without threatening American national identity? What do Americans have a right to expect of immigrants and what do immigrants have a right to expect of Americans?

In The 50 per cent American political psychologist Stanley Renshon offers unique insight into the political and national ramifications of personal loyalties. Arguing that the glue that binds this country together is a psychological force - patriotism - he explains why powerful emotional attachments are critical to American civic process and how they make possible united action in times of crisis. In an age of terror, the idea that we are all Americans regardless of our differences is more than a credo; it is essential to our national security. Comprehensive in scope, this book examines recent immigration trends, tracing the assimilation process that immigrants to the United States undergo and describing how federal, state, and local governments have dealt with volatile issues such as language requirements, voting rights, and schooling. Renshon turns a critical eye to the challenges posed over the past four decades by multiculturalism, cultural conflict, and global citizenship and puts forth a comprehensive proposal for reforming dual citizenship and helping immigrants and citizens alike become more integrated into the American national community.

Editorial Reviews

"Renshon has made himself an expert on the issue of dual citizenship in the United States, but the book goes considerably beyond the specific issue of dual citizenship to deal generally with immigration policy and to ponder deeply the issue of what integration in a society means, what fosters it, what hinders it, and the relation of laws, regulations, and policies regarding dual citizenship to this larger question of the making of Americans." - Nathan Glazer, professor of education and social structure, emeritus; Honorary Associate of Adams House, Harvard University

"Stanley Renshon draws on his formidable skills as both a political scientist and psychologist to illuminate questions that should be of deep concern to all of us. What does it mean to be an American? What are our obligations as citizens of the United States? What should we expect of newly arrived immigrants who seek the privileges of citizenship? Should we allow dual citizenship on the assumption that continuing to be a loyal citizen of Korea or Mexico is in no way incompatible with being a good American? Even a well-informed reader will find surprising information in The 50 per cent American and powerful arguments conveyed in lucid, vigorous prose. With immigration issues looming large on the political horizon, this book could hardly be more timely." - Stephan Thernstrom, Winthrop Professor of History, Harvard University

"Starting from the strange concept of 'dual nationality,' Renshon gives us a comprehensive and disturbing survey of the current condition of American national identity. This is a valuable, thoroughly documented source book for any American concerned about our dwindling sense of common citizenship." - John Derbyshire, National Review columnist"