It’s a hoary old tradition on the progressive left to use Independence Day to hold forth on what America “is”, invariably defining it in ways that would have made the Founders appeal to King George to be readmitted to the empire if they saw it coming.
More often than not it revolves around black grievance and historical resentment. Black American failure reinterpreted as American failure has been the means by which they’ve attempted, and largely succeeded, in redefining America as existing entirely to atone for slavery–which, as our cardinal sin, cannot be atoned for.
Exhaustion at such nonsense, and recognition of the damage it’s still doing, feeds the growing white American nationalist identity, whether it’s the “alt right” or a relatively apolitical Trump voter. Rhetorically, the Overton Window has shifted to allow a more vigorous defense of America (which really means, to both sides, white America) and critique of these critiques. Some have even gone as far as to point out the ethnic self-interest of progressive Jews, without whom the leftist narrative would gain little traction outside of those groups it flatters with demagogy, such as blacks.
A good narrative adapts. People are tiring of defining America by the well-being of its least virtuous, its least liberal, its least American (sorry blacks, that’s you) people. These critiques have grown cruder and more rigid in pace with their dissipating influence on normal intelligent people who aren’t compromised by their reliance on this system of white guilt cultivation.
For the left black failure is like a nuclear fuel rod, producing demagogic energy in perpetuity. It does not dissipate in recognizable time. As the goal of equal representation isn’t possible without massive discrimination and distortions (the necessity of competence keeps getting in the way of, say, equal representation in the sciences). Destruction of the myth of white racism is the only way to avoid an eventual meltdown.
For the left the idea blacks aren’t up to the demands of modern life and western standards of behavior is either incomprehensible or the Truth That Must Not Be Known. So they drive further into radical interpretations of America, its institutions and founding. What would have been laughable or terrifying to even their own liberal forbears becomes convention.
In an opinion piece in New York Times Roger Cohen says America is kind of like Madonna, adopting a whole new persona for every tour:
This magical capacity for reinvention lies at the root of American greatness. Other nations fetishize the past, rewrite it in blood; America’s genius is the facilitation of forgetfulness. To be unburdened of history, for many immigrants, enables the pursuit of happiness.
I wonder of Mr. Cohen would view Judaism, or any other group’s natural inclination for cultural and ethnic preservation, as fetishizing the past.
But the reality is the nation has only reinvented itself once, in the postwar period culminating in the sixties’ split with the past definition. The people, that is the actual nation, were not consulted. They acquiesced; it all sounded good. Who would deny another man his rights out of bigotry?
We are waking, belatedly, to the con. The stubbornness of the elite suggest they believe the same con they push. Nothing makes a better liar than someone deluded into believing his lie. Delusional people turn from immediate reality to find harbor in, among other things, the past:
I began my July 4 by reading the words of a black poet, Langston Hughes, written in 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression. This, today, is not a good American moment. Truth is under attack. The law is under attack. The press is under attack. Moral depravity seeps from on high in a viscous torrent that infects everything and is hard to cleanse from the skin. It cloys. The White House stands for white males, above all, not 325 million Americans of every creed and color. I wanted to remind myself, again, of America’s spirit.
It’s notable how much the proponents of progress turn to the past, to a, say, fetishized version of it, as they rail against any historical awareness of real meaning in real people. So it’s inevitable. Mr Cohen, dipping his bucket in the kitsch well and citing the authority of Langston Hughes, has decided America does not exist at all, and only will after blacks have (are we even sure any more what exactly we want for them?). It was inevitable that, absent the impossible but non-negotiable goal of peaceful multi-ethnic equality they would seek to define the nation away all together, so as to start over.
In his poem, “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes writes: Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free. (America never was America to me.) The parenthesis punctures the myth. The American idea is a journey toward a receding destination, driven by the pursuit of perfectibility. The nation was not born of a piece with the Constitution. Its contours were outlined, with sufficient clarity and flexibility to endure, for future generations to usher closer to an ideal of liberty and justice for all. That is why for a black man, Hughes, writing 83 years ago, “America was never America.”
This is basically stating what has been policy and cultural convention since the civil rights movement. America only exists to create “equality” for Africans, and an ever-growing list of similarly aggrieved. An impossibility–without a totalitarian system of redistribution that would destroy the very civil liberties these people cite when they demand it. We won’t get there, in other words, before we’ve destroyed ourselves, because it isn’t possible and there’s a whole world out there that doesn’t share our delusions or interests.
I think it’s time for the likes of Cohen to “reinvent” themselves. Indeed, they do not exist until they’ve realized their own potential for perfection. But the piece wouldn’t be complete without another old cliche:
Nowhere else is becoming somebody else so easy. There is space, still, to be free. Sure there is. The divisions between those who came first and those who came later are fungible.
Fungible divisions is a cool story bro, for a misconception. If the last few decades have shown us anything it is the durability of divisions, which grow with diversity, provided you have enough people on each side of the divide to create dissension, and the political consensus represented by Cohen: you don’t even exist, white America.
Individual reinvention doesn’t really happen. Group or national reinvention (leaving out the remarkable history of the Jews, which can be seen as one of serial reinvention while maintaining the core element of identity, which Cohen sees as pure evil in white gentiles) likewise doesn’t happen–unless it’s forced on you from without. Reinvention is imposed from without in defeat by the victorious. Cohen is one of the victorious elite that imagines themselves as designing a new way for a defeated country, like General MacArthur in Japan.
Sadly, they may have pushed things so far along reinvention may be our only option.