Is anybody in America happy? The economy is doing just fine (so far), but it doesn’t get much play. Doom and gloom dominates the public “discourse.” There are two distinct entities, red and blue (as opposed to blue and gray), that are contesting for the soul and future of the country. One recognizes the past and political liberty; the other would discard the past, deny liberty, and start over. In between is the people and, like all wars, this one is also ugly.
Even football is angry, with the social agendas of players now prominent. Many kneel at the national anthem to attract attention and protest police “brutality.” Definitely, police can be brutal, as are street criminals, Hells Angels, Bloods and Cripps, the Mafia, the Westies, terrorists, dictators, bosses (it’s a human trait). Has anyone reminded these athletes that their profession just happens to be the most brutal pastime short of war on the planet? Thousands of ex-NFL players are suffering from concussions and are suing the league for redress. Since 80% of the players are black, the issue of slavery hovers over the sport. The men who pay the huge salaries, stadiums, uniforms, concessions, and all else important now have to rename themselves, from “owner” (as in “slaveowner”) to something else. “Governor” is the favorite so far, as in Faubus, Wallace, Maddox and all other southern politicians who controlled slavery and segregation with a tight rein.
Perhaps the ex-owners should go un-named since there is no word in the language that fits.
New Social Agendas
The negative side of life inhabits nearly all else today. Most of it is derived from the new American ideologies, racism, sexism, and “white” nationalism. History, biology, and language are being transformed to accommodate the “cultural warriors.” Pronouns, like “he” and “she,” are suspect since to “misgender” another is insulting. Gender-free institutions, such as bathrooms, are now in vogue, while the campus culture is transforming from intellect to social adjustment. “Diversity” is adopted to accommodate “marginalized” personalities, people “of color,” and disaffected youth seeking “safe” places to recover from something (yet to be clarified).
“White” people (“Caucasians”) are accused, usually by themselves, of having “privilege” or of “supremacy.” Thus, most Americans, including those who founded the country and discovered many of our conveniences, from pencils to airplanes, are now defensive, having to explain their existence or at least what it means to have “supremacy” or “privilege” (definitions of these expressions still being sorted out). One white presidential candidate explained that targeting white supremacy will “strengthen our communities.”
American political culture has been called “deranged” or “hysterical.” Wonder why?
Society is being transformed, promoted by political and media elites who maintain control by manipulation, invention, and exaggerated propaganda. Few speak against the wholesale dismissal of American history from a benign record derived from political virtues to a grotesque engine of oppression, imperialism, privilege, and hate. A brief “neo-Nazi” encounter in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 has been elevated to a symbolic reminder that Nazi-style hatred dominates society. Comparisons with the Third Reich and Adolph Hitler are supposed to represent the true nature of “white nationalism” in both Nazi Germany and today’s America. The former Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, has a new book, Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism.
Would this include George Washington, who looked white and was a nationalist, (at least the British thought so)?
Even a slight review of Adolph Hitler’s twelve years in power would expose the gross and deliberate comparison of American society with the Third Reich: systematic attempt in genocide, especially the murder of six million Jews, total elimination of domestic protest, invasion of practically every surrounding country, occupation of them all plus Norway, forced labor throughout Europe, dozens of concentration camps, daily and nightly bombing of most European target cities, but especially Great Britain, including 76 consecutive days and nights over London. Not to mention history’s greatest war and the deaths of an estimated 70 to 80 million individuals.
There are two types of Americans who would presume to make this comparison: those who believe it and those who think that’s what they are. Swastikas and tattoos do not necessarily make Nazis.
A Choice and a Future
But ignorance is a necessity to disparage what was once history’s “last, best hope.” Consider the effort, begun by the New York Times, to “reframe” the interpretation of American society from a “land of liberty” to a “land of oppression” requiring a total and definitive makeover. Focusing on slavery, the movement (which includes the Washington Post and certain presidential candidates) will revise July 4, 1776 as the national birthday to August 20, 1619, when the first slaves arrived (allegedly).
From that point on, it only gets worse. Like the Nazi symbol, the comparison can be sincere, but so was Hitler. The effect, tragically, will mislead millions, as did Hitler. On the surface, it can be argued, as can any case with an articulate prosecutor and a trusting jury. It is not difficult to emphasize faults, with both individuals and countries. But why does one choose the bad against the good? What is the ultimate purpose? In the final analysis, it is the tension between tradition and progressivism, i.e. to preserve what we have or to start over.
But are the two mutually exclusive? The past is not really “prologue,” but is a guide, and the future is not completely unknown but can be designed. We can accommodate both Lincoln and Martin Luther King.
Recently, a friend had a severe cut on his arm. I asked, can you lose the arm? He replied, “it depends on how much I scratch.”
Please note that the views expressed by our faculty, research fellows, students, alumni, and guest lecturers do not necessarily reflect the views of The Institute of World Politics.