Your average American generally and your average flag-waving, parade-attending American specifically, is likely to be unaware of two facts.
First, when Republicans and Democrats, “liberals” and “conservatives,” in government and Big Media reference America, they have something very different in mind than that entertained by everyday Americans when the latter refer to their country.
Secondly, Republicans and Democrats, “liberals” and “conservatives,” in government and Big Media, despite the appearance of consistent disagreement, actually endorse one and the same conception of America. It is the conception of America that, for reasons that will later be disclosed, is championed by the Mono-Party, the Regime, or, as I call it, the Big GAME (Government-Academic-Media-Entertainment complex).
From this stance, America is an Idea.
America is depicted as the first and only nation in all of human history to have been “founded” upon a “principle” or “proposition.”
Thus, like any other idea, like any other mental phenomenon, it is fundamentally immaterial. What this in turn means is that while America is typically identified with certain particulars like a landmass, a government, a legal order, etc., ultimately it is a trans-historical, trans-cultural Idea that just happens to be instantiated—imperfectly instantiated—in such contingent, material forms.
In the last analysis, then, America is an Idea that, as such, is borderless.
As to the exact character of this Idea, proponents differ amongst themselves. Usually, however, America is conceived as a creed affirming “human rights,” “Democracy,” ideals of Freedom and Equality, or something along the lines of these abstractions. But however its proponents decide to construe the Idea, they agree that America’s identity is anchored in this timeless, immutable Essence.
This Idea or Essence is also normative. It is ethical: The Idea is something to which all human beings the planet over should aspire.
In this vision of America-as-Idea, we see ontology and ethics converge seamlessly: America, ultimately, is a moral reality.
America-as-Idea also implicates its own peculiar epistemology. Because the Idea purports to be a timeless object of discovery, it is said, as Jefferson says of our “unalienable rights,” that it is “self-evident.”
That is, the epistemology is unmistakably and inevitably rationalist. Knowledge of the Idea is a priori, independent of experience. Hence, in theory, it is accessible to all rational creatures in all places and at all times.
This conception of America is the official, contemporary understanding promoted by The Big GAME, the Regime. It is the vision of leftist ideologues and the Deputized Right, of “progressivism” and Big Conservatism (the Big Con) alike.
The question as to why or how it is that partisans of seemingly different stripes have managed to coalesce around the same conception of America can be answered easily enough even on the dubious assumption that such partisans really are of different stripes:
From the vantage of America-as-Idea, America is an ideological or creedal nation.
In other words, America so conceived is an ideology.
Admittedly, America-as-Idea—an idea that is racially, culturally, ethnically, and theologically-neutral—is a potentially (but by no means necessarily) conciliatory device in the increasingly multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious America of 2018. Nevertheless, it isn’t likely for the sake of reconciling rival racial and other interests that the movers and shakers of the GAME labor tirelessly to depict America as an ideological nation.
America-as-Idea serves purposes that are at once political and economic.
America-as-Idea, given its character as an ideology, can be concisely reduced to a small handful of propositions that, with minimal effort, virtually any person can learn by rote. Given that it consists of abstractions, and abstractions, by their nature, are general and vague, America-as-Idea readily lends itself to conscription in the service of virtually any agenda that its proponents seek to advance.
By annexing to itself the Nation of Immigrants myth, America-as-Idea not only permits endless immigration from everywhere on the planet; it positively encourages it. While it’s true that relatively few of its proponents explicitly advocate on behalf of a literally borderless America, and while it’s undoubtedly true that most proponents of this vision of America recognize the undesirability, or at least the impracticality, of welcoming the world’s population into their country, it’s no less true that any restrictions they seek to impose on immigration can’t but appear as arbitrary and, therefore, unfair:
If America is an Idea that, like every other mental entity, is literally borderless, comprised as it is of a principle or small set of principles that can effortlessly be confined to memory and affirmed by anyone with the inclination to do so, then any person in any location of the world in effect becomes an American the moment he or she pledges allegiance to these principles. Immigration law designed to impose caps and quotas, to say nothing of bans on immigrants from certain countries, can only appear as, at best, a practical and temporary expedient. Or maybe it will strike observers as a necessary evil.
At worst, restrictions on immigration will be viewed as unjustified, the expression of “discrimination,” “racism,” “xenophobia,” and so forth.
Even legislation regarding the steps for citizenship must appear morally suspect from the perspective of the champions of America-as-Idea, for, to reiterate, a person becomes an American the moment that he or she embraces the Principle that is America. The bipartisan chorus regarding the “brokenness” of America’s immigration system, I submit, reflects this belief. After all, it is virtually always and only those who want more immigration and amnesty (by some euphemistic name or other) who most loudly bemoan our “broken” system.
So, America-as-Idea, vis-à-vis endless, Third World immigration, serves the economic interests of Big Business and the Chamber of Commerce by way of supplying cheap labor, and it serves the political interests of Democrats and leftists by supplying votes.
Yet there is also an ideological interest advanced on this front: The “Anti-Racism/Diversity” offensive of the GAME requires America-as-Idea.
Since America is an Idea, it no more belongs to a person or exclusive set of people than do Plato’s Forms, Augustine’s Divine Ideas, or any other ontological or moral propositions purporting to be timeless, universal, and objective.
America-as-Idea, that is, is not a creation; it’s an object of discovery.
America-as-Idea, by way of the massive planetary immigration that it encourages, serves the ideological end of combatting “White Privilege” and “institutional racism” and promoting Diversity, Tolerance, and Inclusion. It as well facilitates “free trade” and “capitalism.”
On the foreign policy front, America-as-Idea provides the ideological underpinning for limitless military interventionism. If proponents deem that governments have insufficiently affirmed the Idea that is America—the ideal of Democracy, say, or Human Rights—then “regime change” is a moral necessity and the regime’s subjects ripe for “liberation.”
The policy of interventionism, like immigration, speaks to the ideological, economic, and political ambitions of the agents of the GAME.
Ideologically, the ideals of Freedom, Equality, human rights, and Democracy get an assist from the enterprise of going to war in their name.
Economically speaking, the Military-Industrial-Complex against which President Eisenhower long ago warned his fellow Americans is enriched. Not only do military contractors profit enormously, but so too do those in the media profit via ratings and circulation.
Politically, those in government can use the occasion of war to drum up fear and impress upon their constituents a sense of national “crisis,” which is a Godsend for politicians in that a crisis is always pregnant with possibilities for the consolidation of power, further centralization of government authority, and, of course, reelection.
And there is no crisis like that of war, the penultimate call for the mobilization and collectivization of human resources.
So, your garden-variety, patriotic American will do himself a good turn to bear in mind the many uses and interests that this ahistorical fiction of America serves the next time he hears a politician or pundit refer to America as an Idea.
Jack Kerwick [send him mail] received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture.
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