American Lit 10/26 – “Rugged Individualism”

Take a look at the sources below. After you’ve read/watched them, answer the following two questions w/ evidence. This should be at least a page’s worth of writing.

  1. Is the “rugged individual” archetype available to all? If not, why not? Who (or what) is missing? Explain.
  2. Watch/read Obama’s speech about healthcare and his invocation of the term “rugged individualism.” After what we’ve learned about collectivism and what you’ve pieced together about “rugged individualism,” is Obama’s use of the phrase in this context a contradiction? Can we be rugged individuals in a collectivist society?

Here are your sources:

#1 – Theme song and lyrics from “Daniel Boone” TV show (1964), a fictionalized version of the life of frontiersman Daniel Boone (1734 – 1820).

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
With an eye like an eagle
And as tall as a mountain was he!

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
He was brave, he was fearless
And as tough as a mighty oak tree!

From the coonskin cap on the top of ol’ Dan
To the heel of his rawhide shoe;
The rippin’est, roarin’est, fightin’est man
The frontier ever knew!

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
And he fought for America
To make all Americans free!

What a boon, what a do-er,
What a dream come-a true-er was he!

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
With a whoop and a holler
He could mow down a forest of trees.

With a knife and a gun he never did fail
There was nothin’ he could not tame.
He blazed a big wide liberty trail
Through history’s hall of fame.

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes, a big man!
With a dream of a country
That would always forever be free.

#2 – Opening scene of “There Will Be Blood” (2007), a movie about a young oil prospector who finds oil below a small town and becomes a rich tycoon. Set in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

#3 – Ending of the movie “Shane” (1953), set in the 1860s.

#4 – “First Blood” (1982). Loner Vietnam veteran John Rambo drifts into a small Pacific Northwest town called Hope, Washington in the early 1970s.

#5 – Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968) “The Other America” speech, as part of his “Poor People’s Campaign”

And I was about to say that to free, to have freed the negro from slavery without doing anything to get him started in life on a sound economic footing, it was almost like freeing a man who had been in prison many years and you had discovered that he was unjustly convicted of, that he was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted and you go up to him and say now you’re free, but you don’t give him any bus fare to get to town or you don’t give him any money to buy some clothes to put on his back or to get started in life again. Every code of jurisprudence would rise up against it. This is the very thing that happened to the black man in America. And then when we look at it even deeper than this, it becomes more ironic. We’re reaping the harvest of this failure today. While America refused to do anything for the black man at that point, during that very period, the nation, through an act of Congress, was giving away millions of acres of land in the west and the mid-west, which meant that it was willing to under gird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor. Not only did they give the land, they built land grant colleges for them to learn how to farm. Not only that it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming and went beyond this and came to the point of providing low interest rates for these persons so that they could mechanize their farms, and today many of these persons are being paid millions of dollars a year in federal subsidies not to farm and these are so often the very people saying to the black man that he must lift himself by his own bootstraps. I can never think … Senator Eastland, incidentally, who says this all the time gets a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars a year, not to farm on various areas of his plantation down in Mississippi. And yet he feels that we must do everything for ourselves. Well that appears to me to be a kind of socialism for the rich and rugged hard individualistic capitalism for the poor.

#6 – Barack Obama (2011?)

The rugged individualism that defines America has always been bound by a set of shared values; an enduring sense that we are in this together. That America is not a place where we simply ignore the poor or turn away from the sick. It’s a place sustained by the idea that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper. That we have an obligation to put ourselves in our neighbor’s shoes, and to see the common humanity in each other.

So after nearly a century of talk, after decades of trying, after a year of sustained debate, we finally made health care reform a reality for America.

And despite the constant doom and gloom predictions, the unending chicken little warnings that somehow making health insurance fair and easier to buy would lend to the end of freedom, the end of the American way of life, lo and behold it did not happen, none of this came to pass. In fact, in a lot of ways the Affordable Care Act worked out better than some of us anticipated.



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