Living in 21 America, it’s impossible to go a single day without hearing multiple mentions of “racism.” It seems to be the lifeblood of our political-cultural life.
Because of the ever-increasing rarity of overt instances of white-on-black “racism” (and make no mistakes about it, “racism” is used to refer only to white-on-nonwhite transgressions), the architects and agents of the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC) have had to appeal to what they call “institutional” or “systemic” or “structural” racism.
The idea here is that even the best-intentioned of whites are either racist or, at the very least, they subconsciously purvey American institutions which embed “racist” assumptions that impede black success. Eduardo Bonilla, a loyal RIC agent, sums up the gist of this notion in the title of his book on this subject:
Very rarely, though, do we hear much about It’s true, of course, that we’ll not infrequently hear politicians refer to the policy proposals of their opponents as “ -American.” Yet it’s supposed to be bad form to question another person’s patriotism. Given the ease with which people, particularly leftists, hurl the R-word (as well as many other derogatory terms) at their opponents, the conspicuous paucity of charges of anti-Americanism is more than a bit curious.
Well, it’s curious on its face. But once we scratch the surface, it’s not hard at all to see why those on the left prefer for the topic of patriotism to go the way of the dinosaur: Given its unequivocal commitment to the fundamental transformation of the Western world, the left has always derived its identity in large measure from its vehement opposition to the national identities that compose that world.
Thus, the left in America is practically by definition anti-American. Except for when appeals to them prove rhetorically effective and ideologically useful, for the culturally and historically-specific particularities and contingencies that constitute America the left has nothing but contempt. This is not hyperbole. Logically, it’s impossible to draw any other conclusion from the left’s relentless campaign against the allegedly “racist,” “sexist,” “classist,” “homophobic,” and “xenophobic” character of the country. How, we must ask ourselves, can those who tirelessly characterize America in these terms have anything but disdain for an entity that they (supposedly) think is so ugly, so evil?
Let’s be frank: America was founded white people, white Protestant Christians, to be exact, and white people of (mostly) the same description. As early on as 1790, just a short while after the United States Constitution was ratified, the Naturalization Act was passed. This law expressly limited citizenship in the new Republic to “free white persons of good character.” Until as recently as the 1960s, America remained nearly 90% white. Today, at about 63% of the population, America is still majority white.
Considering that it is the white, heterosexual, Christian male on whose shoulders the contemporary left lays the burden of all of the world’s problems, there is no way that leftists can, without being blatantly inconsistent, not seethe with disgust and hatred for this bastion of White Supremacy that they have long referred to as “AmeriKKKa.”
Still, there are indeed individual Americans of a leftist bent who will take offense at the charge of anti-Americanism, individuals who insist upon their love for the United States. Such folks are doubtless sincere. Their sincerity, however, goes no distance toward undercutting the anti-American logic of their ideology.
Nor does their intellectual confusion exculpate them from their responsibility for purveying anti-Americanism.
The illogic of the leftist who genuinely proclaims his love for America no more defeats the allegation of anti-Americanism than does the genuineness of the white person who insists on his commitment to racial equality relieve of responsibility for (supposedly) promoting “racism.”
Now, “institutional racism” is a fiction invented by RIC whose staying power owes to its enormous profitability: RIC needs to perpetuate this Big Lie.
Yet is all too real.
The ideas constitutive of leftist ideology are indeed anti-American: The cardinal leftist principle or ideal of Equality, i.e. the ideal of a more or less equal distribution of substantive or material satisfactions, leftists labor inexhaustibly to make a reality. Yet it is precisely a condition of this sort that the decentralized, Constitutional character of American government precludes. To put it more exactly, the American government, with its wide diffusion of power and authority, is antithetical to the sort of government whose existence is necessary to realize the Egalitarian fantasies of the left.
And, of course, the racial obsessions of the current left also render impossible any love for a country that the left insists is and has always been a bastion of White Supremacy.
But anti-Americanism is also promoted by way of other particularly popular terms and expressions that have become associated with “patriotism” and that are typically used by the conservative movement, what I call Big Conservatism, or the Big Con.
What all of these expressions share in common, and what makes them anti-American, is that they unequivocally deny the historical character of the country.
For example, Big Conservatives are at least as given, and, truth be told, probably much more prone than are their Democrat liberal counterparts, to characterize America as a “Nation of Immigrants.” Yet if this was a historically accurate characterization, then one would have expected for earlier generations of Americans, and certainly those members of the Founding generation, to have viewed it as such. They did no such thing.
In fact, anyone remotely familiar with American history can recognize the Nation of Immigrants line for the whopper of a Lie that it is.
Only if there is already an existent social order is it possible for anyone to immigrate to it. To put it another way, the logic of the concept of “immigrant” logically presupposes both an established society to which the immigrant immigrates and, importantly, the concept of “native” or “indigenous,” i.e. of the non-immigrant.
America was established by those who it. There was no America before specific people at a specific time decided to tame the vast wilderness that would become the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Those people were all white, all British, and, at the time of the War of Independence—about 170 years after the first settlers made a home for themselves in Virginia—they were at least 80 percent English and 98% Protestant Christian.
To repeat, there was no America until white, British Protestants created it.
Thus, the term of “Native-American,” designed to refer to those who were formerly described as “Indian,” are patent misnomers. Yet the movers and shakers of the Big Con use it just as frequently as do “Politically Correct” liberal leftist Democrats.
And Big Cons also have long endorsed the notions of “the Melting Pot” and “E Pluribus Unum,” both variations of the Nation of Immigrants Lie. Yet America was never meant to be a melting pot with ingredients from all over the globe, and “E Pluribus Unum,” every American from more honest generations would’ve insisted, refers, not to a single nation composed of immigrants, but the formation of the 13 original colonies into a single country.
According to another anti-American fiction promoted by the Big Con, America was founded upon “-Christian” principles or values. It’s true, of course, that Christianity spun out of Judaism, and that some of the fundamental metaphysical assumptions of the latter were transmitted to the former. This, however, does not justify, at least not from any remotely historical perspective, the nomenclature of “Judeo-Christian” when referencing the founding of America. To repeat what has already been repeated more than once above, America was founded almost exclusively by Christians. That in some abstract sense the “principles” that are read from the founding are embodied by both Judaism and Christianity no more warrants describing it as “Judeo-Christian” than does the fact that some of these same principles are affirmed by warrants characterizing America as having been founded upon Judeo-Christian- principles.
This, though, gets us to the heart of the problem, to that which is the most anti-American of all Big Lies purveyed by the Big Con.
This is the Big Lie of “American Exceptionalism.” Given the ease with which the language of American Exceptionalism flies from the lips of Big Conservatives, one would think that this terminology lends itself to more than one meaning. This being said, American Exceptionalists always imply that America is inasmuch as it is the only country in all of human history to have ever been founded upon or or
This, though, is anti-American because it is radically ahistorical.
Principles, ideals, values, comprehensively, —this is the stuff of thin gruel. Propositions are inherently abstract and general, i.e. they easily conceal the demographic-specific contingencies constitutive of America as it historically existed while conveying an air of plausibility. The 18 century Scottish philosopher David Hume puts the point well:
“It is easy for a false hypothesis to maintain some appearance of truth,” Hume said, as long as “it keeps wholly in generals” and “makes use of undefined terms [.]” He added that “ideas, especially abstract ones, are naturally faint and obscure: the mind has but a slender hold of them: they are apt to be confounded with other resembling ideas; and when we have often employed any term, though without a distinct meaning, we are apt to imagine it has a determinate idea annexed to it.”
Big Conservatives, in employing the terminology of American Exceptionalism, terminology with unmistakably positive connotations, mean to suggest that they are doing nothing more or less than affirming the singular greatness of the country. American Exceptionalism is meant to imply that anyone who doesn’t affirm the “exceptional” nature of America is less than fully patriotic.
The reality, though, is that this doctrine—and it an ideological doctrine—is designed to obscure the ethnic, racial, and religious particularities of the American founding. It is designed to veil the founding’s historically and culturally-specific character.
As such, it is anti-American.
Note, I do not mean to ascribe malevolent or unpatriotic motives to those who belong to the Big Con. Some may very well know what they are doing. Others, particularly those in the rank and file of the conservative movement, doubtless do not. The point that I’ve been trying to make here is that intentions aside, this sort of anti-Americanism is It’s anti-Americanism without anti-Americans, to paraphrase Bonilla.
Yet it’s precisely because ideas do indeed have consequences and that Big Conservatism, relying as it does upon key terms and phrases that are, functionally, of a piece with those of the left in facilitating the fundamental transformation of America, that it’s imperative for those of us on the right to call out the Big Con at every available opportunity.
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.