Why has American society developed so violently?

Essay by spickwickUniversity, Bachelor'sB-, April 2004

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Why has American society developed so violently?

Violence in American society is a vast topic starting at its birth in the 1776 Revolution and continuing to the present day. Despite the diversity of each period of violence there are common features that resurface in each one. The use of violence to found the nation and also to preserve it in Civil War, legitimatised it with the belief that "violence in a good cause pays" . In many ways this accounts for the spill over of violence into society in the countless hostilities including whites against blacks and also Indians, struggles of labour against industrialists, clashes of religious and ethnic factions and also conflicts of ideologies. Violence has appeared on both the extreme right and left and the overriding factor in all cases seems to be a fear of the unknown, whether it is fear of the alien, his religion, his ideology or of change in the status quo.

The first group to arise, that made use of violence to achieve its aims, was the nativists. The term nativism is broad in scope covering hostility and violence against un-American people including Catholics, Native Indians, Irish, Jews and Orientals. It also covers violence against foreign ideologies such as communism, mostly seen in the two Red Scares (1920's and 1950's). Although nativism changed its features and the context of each crusade of persecution was different, the underlying message remained the same. Peoples and ideologies were intruders into the promised land of America threatening its paradise and all that it stood for. In many Americans' eyes they stood for disorder and were scapegoats for all the political, economic and social instability/change that was occurring. And they were prepared to use violence to stop them.

One group of nativists whose violence has been well documented...