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Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 9781250179821224 Pages
Barnes & Noble
From a Pulitzer Prize finalist, an eye-opening account of what the call for a border wall reveals about America’s new sense of itself.
From this nation’s very inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been the central metaphor of American identity, a symbol of a future of endless promise, and the foundation of America’s belief in itself as an exceptional nation—democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America has a new metaphor: the border wall.
In this original revision of Frederick Jackson’s influential 1893 essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” Greg Grandin explores a remarkable reversal in the country’s sense of itself. Whereas America’s constant expansion in the twentieth century, fighting wars and opening markets, served as what Turner called a “gate of escape,” helping to deflect domestic economic and political conflicts outward, the combined catastrophe of our never-ending war in the Middle East and the financial meltdown slammed this gate shut, bringing political passions that had long been directed outward back home. It is in this inward turn that Grandin finds the sources of the conservative populism and racist nationalism, the extreme anger and polarization directed simultaneously at elites and foreigners that in 2016 catapulted Donald Trump to the presidency.
The border wall may or may not be built, but it will survive as a rallying point, an allegorical tombstone marking the end of American Exceptionalism.