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West-Leuer, B. (2018). The American Adam – Caught Between the Myth of Innocence and the Guilt of Perpetration An attempt to understand the “Trump” phenomenon against a backdrop of deeply rooted American myths.. IJP Open, 5:34.

(2018). IJP Open, 5:34

The American Adam – Caught Between the Myth of Innocence and the Guilt of Perpetration An attempt to understand the “Trump” phenomenon against a backdrop of deeply rooted American myths.

Beate West-Leuer

The collective sense of identity in the US is founded on a mythic hero that has permeated American literature since the 19th century: the American Adam. Like the biblical Adam before the fall, he takes his destiny into his own hands in an innocent paradise, a new world given to America by God. The American Adam is a symbolic mental representation which continues to be influential, today, as guiding principle for the political leadership of the USA which must fulfill the expectation of preserving this myth of innocence and protecting the nation from confronting its historical offenses. Most Americans are unable to forego this fantasy of innocence, as exemplified in the military biography of Vietnam veteran “Bo” Gritz. In this respect, the election of Donald J. Trump can be regarded as a response from reactionary America to his predecessor Barack Obama. Trump embodies the bitterly ironic variant of the Adam myth as characterized by the American writer Herman Melville (1857) in his satire “The Confidence Man”. Like Melville’s Confidence Man, who knows and ruthlessly exploits the weaknesses of his fellow men, Trump entices his voters to negate unpleasant aspects of their own history and blindly put their faith in him.

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