America: What is left?

Making news.— A quick scan of the American “news headlines” today reveals that so many of them are just that: news headlines. That is, headlines about “the news,” which is to say nothing but trumpeting reiterations of this or that news outlet’s, or news reader’s, or news pundit’s, latest loaded interpretations, exaggerations, or fabrications of “the facts.”

How many headlines today merely tell you what some TV news host said about this or that issue of the day? How many headlines are reducible to, “CNN talking head criticizes Republicans,” or “Fox talking head criticizes Democrats.” Well, isn’t that informative? The Democratic Party’s leading television propaganda voice supports the Democrats, and the Republican Party’s leading television propaganda voice supports the Republicans. And people are supposed to respond to such “news” with rapt attention, their minds and their digestive tracts just roiling with agitation at the startling, satisfying, or aggravating fact that Democrat mouthpieces cater to Democrats and their duped voters, while — you might want to sit down for this — Republican mouthpieces cater to Republicans and their duped voters.

What will get you nowhere.— Listening to celebrity political pundits rattling on about what you already believe. They only do this because it earns them money and fame. They have every vested interest in the status quo, and no interest whatsoever in any real “sacrifice” or hard choices in the name of principle. Expanding one’s media empire, to understate the obvious, is not a hard choice — although it is certainly a sacrifice, in the classical sense. You are the sacrificial animal.

Rules of the game.– Only people on “the right” can be racist. In fact, to be of “the right” is by definition a racist position. Leftists, by contrast, are by definition anti-racist. (The same rule may be restated precisely with regard to the whole litany of moral “isms” and “phobias” of our time.)

Liberty, to the extent it has ever existed, is systemically (i.e., inherently and irreparably) oppressive. It follows that ubiquitous state control of all aspects of life is the only possible remedy for oppression.

If a white male says, “Non-white people should not be given special privileges or advantages under the law,” he may lose his job and his privacy, and have his name and reputation dragged through the mud as a racist and potential terrorist, until he issues a public apology, the progressive public’s response to which will be, “Too late now.” If, on the other hand, a non-white person says, “White people are innately evil and should die,” he may get tenure at Harvard, a senior editorial position at the New York Times, a high-level appointment in the United States federal government, or public approbation for his courageous fight for justice by luminaries from the Obamas to CNN.

Becoming what they say about you.– For decades, cynics around the world, motivated by illiberal political agendas or by personal envy, fostered and clung to a conveniently belittling caricature of “the ugly American.” This imaginary American was presumed to be both arrogant and stupid, ignorant of the rest of the world and laughably certain that America is the only country that ever mattered. He was alleged to be crass and vulgar, completely lacking in artistic taste or nobler moral sentiments, and prone to spouting off in the most offensive and idiotic terms against anyone who did not live and think exactly as he, the ugly American, lived and thought. Outwardly, he seemed to care about little but making money and showing it off, although, being a boor and a philistine, he tended to flaunt his wealth in low-minded ways, favoring expensive tackiness over priceless beauty. His entertainment — he had no art — was mind-numbing kitsch, his religious temperament suited to the used-car-salesman sort of televangelism, his priorities all superficial and lacking any awareness of the profound, the subtle, or the intellectual. In short, he was a blustering, self-important fool striding through the world like the most obnoxious tourist.

For decades, those of us non-Americans who admired and appreciated what America was, and what it was founded to be, defended the country against those who accepted this “ugly American” caricature as fact. We were eager to remind all susceptible to this simplistic mockery of a great nation that anyone may be caricatured, if one is prepared to dispense with all of his virtues and talents in favor of merely highlighting and exaggerating his weaknesses and blind spots. 

Then America elected Donald Trump president, and the argument in its defense became a whole lot harder. What country would elect the rest of the world’s most unfair caricature of it as its president? What country would knowingly choose as its representative to the world a man who embodies and caters to every simple-minded falsehood that the cynics threw at it? What country would willingly make the most ignorant accusation against itself look perceptive after all?

I still believe in what America was and was founded to be. But as for America today, I have given up believing there is anything left to defend. If the so-called Republican Party ends up with Trump or a Trump surrogate as its presidential nominee in 2024, presumably running against a dementia patient propped up on a stick by Marxists — a predicament that seems very likely as things now stand — and if tens of millions of voters still insist on lining up behind the “binary choice” charade (as they absolutely will, forever), then I will have nothing left to say. That national idea I so admired will have vanished beyond all recognition or redemption.

To be honest, this latter outcome has already arrived, but the human mind has an amazing elasticity when it comes to prolonging irrational hope by recasting yesterday’s defeat as merely tomorrow’s threat, as though it might still, by some miracle, be avoided. I know it cannot be avoided.

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