The main purpose of this document, called "One Hundred Per-Cent American" by Ralph Linton, is to show that globalization has been occurring for a very long time, and that what we think of as a distinctive and separate "American" way of life is really a melting pot of customs, innovations, and inventions that come from all around the world. Our pajamas were invented in India, our silk comes from China, our bathtubs come from Roman models, the glass we use was invented in Egypt, and soap like ours was first made in ancient Gaul. The average American male getting ready for work "puts on close-fitting tailored garments whose form derives from the skin clothing of the ancient nomads of the Asiatic steppes."
What the author calls the modern American breakfast also comes from all over the world: the cantaloupe was first domesticated in "Persia," (modern Iran), the waffles are Scandinavian, and the cereal from grain first domesticated in the Near East. Even the language in which this American thinks his very "American" thoughts comes from Europe and India.
This essay attacks isolationism, puncturing the idea of an America set apart from the rest of the world. It uses irony, saying the opposite of what it really means, in its opening statement ("There can be no question about the average American’s Americanism or his desire to preserve this precious heritage at all costs"). We know this statement is ironic because the author then spends the rest of the essay showing that this "Americanism" in fact comes from all over the globe. The essay also ends ironically, stating,"As he scans the latest editorial pointing out the dire results to our institutions of accepting foreign ideas, he will not fail to thank a Hebrew God in an Indo-European language that he is a one hundred percent (decimal system invented by the Greeks) American (from Americus Vespucci, Italian geographer)."
In other words, rather than pretend we invented our culture and that foreign ideas are dangerous (lead to "dire results") and are not "American," we might recognize our debt to the rest of the world and the extent to which other cultures have enriched our own. We are all interconnected, and that is good.
It it interesting that this essay was written in 1937, when a debate raged about how far the US should involve itself in the tensions heating up in Europe that would lead to World War II--and yet today we are having a similar debate about how involved our country should be with the rest of the world. This essayist would almost certainly say we should not build walls or keep out immigrants.