This compelling book argues that American patriotism is a civil religion of blood sacrifice, which periodically kills its children to keep the group together. The flag is the sacred object of this religion; its sacrificial imperative is a secret which the group keeps from itself to survive. Expanding Durkheim’s theory of the totem taboo as the organizing principle of enduring groups, Carolyn Marvin uncovers the system of sacrifice and regeneration which constitutes American nationalism, shows why historical instances of these rituals succeed or fail in unifying the group, and explains how mass media are essential to the process. American culture is depicted as ritually structured by a fertile center and sacrificial borders of death. Violence plays a key part in its identity. In essence, nationalism is neither quaint historical residue nor atavistic extremism, but a living tradition which defines American life.