The message from those who label politicians as un-American is clear: Real American candidates come from conventional American backgrounds. They don’t speak foreign languages fluently or sympathize with foreign political systems or cultures.
Until 2008 it was understood that American presidential candidates were also male and white. From that perspective, the flap over President Obama’s un-American birthplace and childhood home might actually signal progress of a sort. Americans have come far enough to elect a black man with an unconventional life story, but not yet far enough to feel universally comfortable about it.
History News Service
Rosemarie Ostler writes about the cultural history of American English. Her book Slinging Mud: Rude Nicknames, Scurrilous Slogans, and Insulting Slang from Two Centuries of American Politics will be published by Perigee Books in September.