Not every aspect of the onslaught of self-hate that has broken over America, warped its media, and turned most of the academy—and even apparently, most of its elementary and secondary schools—into centers of reorientation designed to convince Americans their national past is loathsome hypocrisy, is bad. Every country has a national mythos, and the larger, more complicated countries have relatively elaborate, conventionally agreed-upon versions of the raison d’être of their nationalities. In the case of the United States, there have always been some soft points in this rationale, and to a slight extent, there may be some merit in addressing them.
Despite the brilliant opening and ending of the Declaration of Independence, the indictment of King George III as a virtual Nuremberg Trial defendant who was trying to destroy America and indiscriminately kill its people, while dabbling in other atrocities such as the propagation of the Roman Catholic faith throughout the 13 colonies (an insane allegation—Jefferson was referring to the Quebec Act, which assured that population the practice of their language, religion, and civil rights) was an outrage. George III was a limited monarch who suffered from porphyria, but he was far from an evil man (and he was an arch-Protestant papaphobe).
The facts were that Americans really had no more civil rights after the Revolution than before, nor measurably more civil rights than citizens of England, Switzerland, most of the Netherlands, and parts of Scandinavia. But they had a resident government. Unlike almost all the nations of Europe and East Asia, in a world of only about 25 sovereign countries, the United States did not have a language of its own, and its founders, with great ingenuity, and eloquence invented for it the vocation of freedom and opportunity. The lore was not of the past but of the future. And with the dramatic emergence of the Americans, facilitated by Franklin’s stupendous feat in persuading the absolutist French monarchy to go to war on behalf of secessionism, democracy, and republicanism, the eyes of the world were on America and have never ceased to be on America these 245 years.
There was from the start the terrible problem of slavery, which belied the assertion that “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” The Civil War was conducted in the North to preserve the Union, and only the immense political dexterity of Abraham Lincoln achieved the approval of the emancipation of the slaves as a war aim, in part to stir unrest within the Confederacy.
Segregation continued to be enforced with an iron fist in the South and not infrequently in parts of the North as well, for over a century. The South was completely defeated but had received credit for 60 percent of the slave population in establishing their congressional and Electoral College representations before the war and henceforth received 100 percent credit for the African Americans who, though nominally emancipated, still could not vote in the South.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt was hassling Winston Churchill in the midst of World War II about granting independence to India and suggesting texts from the founding of America as models to use, Churchill was well within his rights in saying to his entourage (although, unfortunately, he did not say it to Roosevelt) that he would take his solicitude for the vast masses of India more seriously if he could pass an anti-lynching law in his own Congress.
A Question of Scale
If the Americans had resisted the temptation to revolution, then as Benjamin Franklin had predicted, by approximately the time of the Civil War, Americans would have been preeminent in the entire British world: a vast expanse of South Asia, Australasia, Africa, and all of North America north of the Rio Grande. There would have been much less pressure for independence from such a formidable empire, and the power and influence of the Americans this past century would have been much greater even than it has been. It is also doubtful that Germany or Japan would ever have dared warfare with such an immense power.
Even to those who wish America well, the whole argument of American exceptionalism became threadbare and tiresome decades ago, and is entirely now a question of scale, a measurement by which China threatens the United States more seriously than has any other country in over a century.
One of the most nauseatingly persistent American delusions is that the American justice system is one of the best in the world. As I have written here and elsewhere, it is an appalling, disgraceful, terribly unjust 360-degree cartel for the avaricious legal profession, and on the criminal side, it has been so undermined by the corruption of the plea bargain system that it is essentially the right of prosecutors to suborn false inculpatory testimony with no danger of sanctions for their misconduct.
The result is that the United States has six to 12 times as many incarcerated people per capita as other comparable large prosperous democracies: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Its conviction rates are much higher than almost all of these countries and so are its crime rates. Millions of innocent people are convicted and millions of innocent people are over-sentenced and millions are ground to powder in the conveyor belt to the bloated and corrupt American prison system. Everyone who is acquainted with the facts is aware of this.
The Bill of Rights guarantees of due process, a grand jury as assurance against capricious prosecution, an impartial jury, no seizure of property without just compensation, access to counsel of choice, prompt justice, and reasonable bail have been practically expunged.
But with all that said, the flag-waving, anthem-singing, traditional pride in America was and remains substantially justified. All nations have somewhat delusional self-images and though the American star system elevates many who are not stars, the current eruption of Americophobia is vastly excessive, utterly despicable, cannot remotely be sustained, and is propagated, not just by the faddishly and aggressively ignorant, but also by disturbed and often wicked people.
Self-Hatred as Virtue
America’s exceptionalism has been diluted by America’s success: once the United States realized that it was in a Cold War, it defined this as a life and death struggle between totalitarian communism and the free world, never mind that the free world included the dictatorships of Latin America, the House of Saud, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Syngman Rhee’s South Korea and many other dubious claimants to the title of champions of freedom. Most of them became democracies and the world must never forget nor fail to be grateful for the fact that the United States is chiefly responsible for the spread of democracy and the free market.
No nation in history has made the effort the United States has to eliminate racial discrimination and to assist minorities bootstrapping themselves up to parity. Whatever liberties may have been taken in national rhetorical puffery, there has never been anything remotely like America’s rise from a few million colonists in two long lifetimes after the Revolutionary War to, as Churchill said in his eulogy of President Roosevelt to a position of “might and glory . . . never attained by any nation in history.”
Possessed of a nuclear military monopoly and half the GDP of the world, the United States turned its energies to putting western Europe and Japan back on their feet. The attempt of the American enemy within to portray the United States as an evil racist enterprise based on slavery is a blood libel on the same level of pernicious mendacity as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The right of educators to teach falsely sourced self-hatred and of the media’s righteous replacement of reporting with subversive and defamatory advocacy is now proclaimed as a long-repressed virtue. It does not fall far short of treason and Joe Biden will pay for his endorsement of the false charge against his country of “systemic racism.”
The United States now has an official regime of lies, supported by an almost worthlessly dishonest media, and scores of millions of Americans have been brainwashed into the false view that they live in an evil country. This lie will not succeed because everyone in America can see that it is not true.
Most Americans are reasonable and fair-minded people most of the time, and their numbers, their patience, and the righteousness of their not-uncritical faith in and love for their country will ultimately prevail. There was no excuse for the secretary of state to turn a meeting with the Chinese on American soil into a confessional for a cringe-worthy recitation of America’s faults. Despite everything, America remains a proud country with much to be proud of, and no person nor any nationality can stand unlimited, unjustified, self-loathing. It will end sooner than we dare think, and it will take down its ghastly and contemptible preceptors with it, including the dismal Pharisees of this administration.