Preambles to Revolution

In my neighborhood lawn signs are popping up, declaring, in all capital letters, “WE BELIEVE”:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • No Human Is Illegal
  • Love Is Love
  • Science Is Real
  • Disabilities Are Respected
  • Kindness Is Everything

Such nostrums are more empty than not, but that’s beside the point. These front-yard litanies in bright rainbow colors might be preambles to revolution. 

In San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park the graceful statuary of Francis Scott Key, Miguel Cervantes, Junipero Serra, and U.S. Grant are vandalized. In a matter of weeks, the target has shifted from police brutality to Western civilization and society and its heritage.

As giants topple, Americans suffer the demoralizing spectacle of legislators kneeling for the television cameras in kente cloth. Presidential candidate Joe Biden—and former senator and vice president—proclaims that ending “systemic racism” is the “moral obligation of our time.” Is Black Lives Matter becoming a state religion?

A growing camp with enormous institutional power is positioning itself against the white race, men, Christianity, capitalism, private property, and heterosexuality, in other words, against the people, institutions, belief systems, and worldly activities that drove the nation’s development and dreams. 

Slouching Toward Sedition

The New York Times’ extraordinary “1619 Project” recasts American history to discredit its Anglo-European foundations. Its architect Nikole Hannah-Jones and others like her insist American society past and present is steeped in anti-black racism. She is proud to call the metro rampages of recent weeks the 1619 Riots. Hannah-Jones currently calls for reparations. With extraordinary nerve, she demands contrition and boundless good feelings from those whose past, reputations, and assets she hopes to rummage. 

Launched barely a year ago, the “1619 Project” is on fire. It seeks to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” Editor Jake Silverstein claims, “Out of slavery—and the anti-black racism it required—grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system.” 

Insinuating the U.S. is a criminal enterprise not worthy of survival, the 1619 Project has ambitions bordering on sedition. 

As the eminent historian Gordon Wood reads the manifesto, the “Revolution occurred primarily because of the Americans’ desire to save their slaves.” The Declaration of Independence is a fraud. Wood is especially disturbed that this effort to undermine the nation’s political legitimacy intends to flood schools with the “authority of the New York Times behind it.” When the 1619 Project appeared, The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher similarly warned of its toxin. More recently, he revealed the complicity of the Pulitzer Foundation. Yet many media executives and educators view its contents uncritically, as scripture.  

Andrew Sullivan, John McWhorter, and others correctly perceive contemporary radicalism’s religious dimension. Woke radicals demand greater temporal power to redeem virtue and punish the recalcitrant, mindful of their responsibility to crush heresies. Convinced of their own superior moral vision and divine duty, revolutionaries are constructing a creed that “could only be enforced by coercive, even totalitarian, methods,” notes John Fonte at the Hudson Institute.

A Dangerous State Within a State

Think of the culture wars in ancient Rome. To educated pagans, unreason and blind faith rendered early Christians contemptible. But what was a fringe nuisance and curiosity in the early Roman Empire came to threaten its stability and security: a state within the state. 

And Christians, once in power, shut down everyone else. In 380, Theodosius I declared Christianity the official religion of the Empire, proscribing all other religions. Freedom of conscience was an idea that only flowered during the 18th-century enlightenment, enshrined in a First Amendment that is now under siege. 

In the highest reaches of government, universities, and courts today, a powerful line of thought holds that justice demands equal outcomes. Not just equal opportunity or equal treatment but equal results. The larger the institution, the more likely that ascription will drive entrance and advancement, and that managers will embrace specious ideas—disparate impact, equal outcomes, systemic racism, white privilege, rape culture, transsexualism, and more. Differences in individual achievement are perceived as evidence of racism, prejudice, inequity, and social injustice. 

A priestly caste—a state within a state—allots value and rewards arbitrary human attributes such as race, ethnicity, gender, or disability. It is one thing to try to level the playing field from the standpoint of opportunity; it is another thing to get everyone to the finish line at the same time. The catechism permeates not only information and thought centers—academe, media, advertising, and entertainment—but increasingly steers the military, government agencies, corporations, and finance.

Americans Cannot Believe What They’re Seeing

But if Western civilization is declared anathema, what will comprise alternate ideals and standards of achievement and governance? Barack Obama’s promises of racial healing and harmony were, in hindsight, counterfeit. Where indeed has Obama the healer been during recent weeks of social wrecking and mayhem—and where will he be in November? 

Millions of peaceful Americans uncomfortably behold a racialized, poly-sexual, deracinated future—the deformed heir of one nation, under God. They foresee a nation challenged by high unemployment, aging infrastructure, impossible debt and pension plans, rampant homelessness, and rising lawlessness. Functional Americans of all backgrounds will seek to minimize and overcome these ominous conditions, changing location and lifestyle if they must to avoid pandemonium. Call it racism or white flight or anything you want. 

Yet those Americans who possibly can will make individual decisions involving their own location, safety, and tranquility; and collaterally, what schools their children will attend and what their children learn. They will determine the places they will shop and congregate, what and whom they will avoid, and what makes them feel safe and comfortable. They will go to any length to avoid living near Section 8 and public housing projects. They will avoid—if they can—blight and dangerous neighborhoods. 

Normies say nothing. They’ve learned the rules. They’ve been shamed and silenced so long. Some can spout revolutionary creed to protect themselves. Others really believe it. Condemning “ghetto” pathologies gets anyone into trouble—and has since the days of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action” (1965).

Today’s progressives might wave away or disfavor two-parent wedlock, hard work and savings, patriotism, and good conduct. The faculty at the University of Pennsylvania might condemn these preferences articulated by law professor Amy Wax as “assertions of white cultural superiority.” But that’s not what most Americans—including blacks—think or want. 

“Who We Are” Revisited 

You might hate the idea—I do—but retreat into like-minded, class- and race-divided communities will almost surely accelerate during the 2020s. As author Bill Bishop documents in his influential The Big Sort, Americans are already choosing to live among those with common affinities and voting patterns. Coercive racial integration has failed. 

Rising Democratic Party politicians openly taunt native-born white Americans. Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and vice-presidential frontrunner declares, “We won’t be silent about race. We won’t be silent about sexual orientation. We won’t be silent about immigrant’s rights. These are the very issues that define our identity as Americans.” 

Most Americans still define themselves otherwise. They relish traditional law, family, enterprise, and culture—the very things that New York Times journalists and political opportunists condemn as malignant “white supremacy.” 

Invigorated ideologues surely feel they are breathing the air of liberation—or they sniff big-time power in the air. Another America watches helplessly as time-tested social bonds are suffocating. Painfully aware that inciting envy and revenge is not in the public interest, few any longer expect an amicable resolution. 

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About Gilbert Sewall

Gilbert T. Sewall is co-author of After Hiroshima: The United States Since 1945, and editor of The Eighties: A Reader.

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

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