March 08, 2019

Credit: Getty Images

In 21st century America, citizens assert their individual rights loud and clear. Media coverage shows that Americans defend, debate, and demand individual liberties, including freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. Yet just over 100 years ago, Americans valued the greater good of the country more than their personal freedoms, according to Christopher Capozzola, the author of “Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen.” Capozzola explains that the change from prioritizing one’s country to one’s self occurred during World War I. As the federal government gained more power during the First World War, its growing control was countered by a demand to protect individual rights, Capozzola says. The changing relationship between citizen and country would powerfully shape the society we now live in.

Three Takeaways:

  • American society was a “culture of obligation” before World War I. Capozzola explains that this means that Americans gave up some of their personal rights in order to prioritize loyalty and obedience.
  • Neighbors and community members would hold each other accountable to behave like loyal citizens during WWI. Pressure to support the war effort sometimes turned into mob violence and discrimination against German-Americans and minority groups.
  • During the First World War, a new type of American citizen began to emerge - one that championed individual rights. Conscientious objectors to the war and pacifists opposed some of Uncle Sam’s demands. They made claims to their individual rights, spurring groups like the ACLU and the NAACP to grow during this time.

More Reading:

WWI, Culture, ACLU, World War I, history

Previous Post

China Deal, or No China Deal?

Next Post

Crime Is Declining. So Why Don’t We Feel Safer?

comments powered by Disqus