What Is American? 7 - Conclusion

We need to start calling anti-American beliefs for what they are.

It is human nature to assume that the way things are is the way things are supposed to be and that they'll remain that way indefinitely.  This is because, on a day to day basis, they do: in a single human lifetime, days on which everything change are exceptionally rare.

Even most of the days we describe that way don't usually change much.  Be honest: how, exactly, did your life change on 9-11?  Unless you are a member of the military, a resident of New York City, or closely related to someone affected, it probably didn't, now that you look back on it.

So did 9-11 make no difference?  Far from it: it just had effects that take a long time to become apparent and even now aren't fully clear.  It may be a century or two before they're understood, just as even now, the consequences of the Kennedy assassination are still debated.  Everybody agrees there were consequences, but don't always agree as to precisely what.

Only by stepping back and looking at events from the perspective of history, can we have any hope of understanding what's going on.  We would consider the America of 1790 to be a very different place from the America of 1770, and yet with only a few exceptions for relatively few people, only a handful of days would have seemed to have made much of a difference at the time.

It may not seem like we've had any changes as blatant as the American Revolution in the last half-century, and yet in important ways, the America of 2018 is utterly different from JFK's America 55 years ago.  In this series, we've explored both a cause and an effect of this change: while we may all live in the same geographic country, we no longer agree on what it means to be American.

Back then, Democrats and Republicans may have had different perspectives on what should be done, but all agreed on the fundamental principles underlying whatever decision was made.  We don't anymore.

We had our disagreements, but everyone's view was allowed to be aired.  Today, our major opinionmakers actively want to use the power of both government and society to shut up those who hold different views.  We see that desire to shut others up as proof that they don't believe that their ideas can stand scrutiny or debate; they say that speech they don't appreciate is the equivalent of violence.

In the 1960s as today, many people chose not to own firearms, but there was general agreement that firearms were not merely a fundamental American right, but an essential part of our history.  Today, too many powerful people view them as evil - except, of course, in the official hands of the government in case they need the "whiff of the grape" to keep revolting peasants in line.

Decades ago, patriotism and national loyalty was expected, required, and mostly always achieved by American citizens.  Today, we hear the constant drumbeat that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" as our institutions and traditions are trashed.

In JFK's America, it is the sad truth that a great many Americans believed that other Americans should not receive their full rights on account of their race, but a majority of Americans understood the colorblind promise of our Constitution and worked to make it so in both custom and in law.  Today, in contrast, we see open and naked reverse racism being celebrated, a sure route back to the days of race riots and lynchings, being cheered on by - once again - our elite opinionmakers.

So what has changed?  Somewhere along the way, too many of our self-anointed leaders and great ones have decided that they don't need America, or indeed, that they hate it.  That's what the election of Donald Trump was all about: a giant middle finger to the sanctimonious hypocrites who idolize sex-abuser Harvey Weinstein while firing lowly employees who dare to question feminist dogma at the office.

Unlike any other nation, Americanism has never been focused on being a member of an ethnic group or being born in a particular place.  It's about an idea - the idea of maximum personal liberty, equality under the law, and a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."  Does that truly describe our government today?

Alas, it seems like too many of "the people" no longer understand or agree on America's founding ideas.  And since that idea was the only force that held America together, it shouldn't be a surprise that we're tearing apart: in our families, our schools, our workplaces, our cities, our economy, and everywhere else we once were knit together by a common culture.

If America is to remain something more than a geographic designator on a globe, we must return to the "E pluribus, Unum" - out of many, one - at least as regards our foundational principles.

Otherwise, as that greatest of presidents put it, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."  For more and more so-called Americans, that's exactly what they want.

Should we, therefore, continue to call them Americans?  Or would it be more honest and clarifying to call them what they really are: treasonous anti-Americans?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

Well done Petrarch! So how do we get started with resolving this? I think it's two-fold - immigration and schools. My local park has a daily gathering of aged Indian women in full dress, no English, sorry. My son is 23 and knows a great deal about history, but couldn't name the current VP and is almost completely ignorant about our constitution. He was taught to view it as a list of rights granted to him, rather than a list of controls on the government. HELP!

April 16, 2018 11:15 AM

I think you may have underestimated the power of the unifying experience of living through the Second World War. The country was mobilized for about 5 years and there appeared to be a universal consensus that EVERYBODY had to do their part. Sons of the rich and powerful like JFK and HW Bush went into harms way just like the factory worker or farmer's sons and daughters.
People knew what they were fighting for and they all knew someone who had been mobilized and likely knew a family with a gold star. I'm sure there was dissension and some string pulling to get easy duty, but my sense of the time was that everybody had to do their duty.
Contrast that with now. Sons and daughters of red states by in large fight our wars while those in blue states barely remember to register for the draft. One of our political parties is pretty sure that the role of government is to take resources from those earn them and give it those who don't. It even imports more gov't supported non citizen " voters" to pad its lead. And individual responsibility seems to be an artifact of bourgeois thinking. Now the attitude seems to be " do your own thing... and if it doesn't work out, the government will pay..." .
I certainly don't hope that we have another World War. But it would be nice if the ideas of personal responsibility , equal opportunity over equal end results, hard work over rent seeking, and patriotism over permanent dissent became more fashionable.

April 16, 2018 12:03 PM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...