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America Will Survive: But at What Price?Daniel Johnson Salem-News.com
America will survive, but it will become the class structure it has always publicly eschewed itself to be.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - I’ve written a lot of critical commentary about what I see as the Decline of America, and I’ve been consistently taken to task about how I don’t see or understand America’s resilience, entrepreneurial spirit, etc.—from the American viewpoint. My friend and colleague Hank Ruark, regularly refers to the “wit and wisdom” of the American people who will somehow overcome adversity and obstacles. With all due respect to his years of knowledge and experience, he is looking backward, not forward. The fundamental document of the U.S. is the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to which is:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. There are three errors or contradictions in this opening sentence.
First, is the concept “self-evident” which was an 18th century philosophical conceit. “Self-evident”, it turns out, is idiosyncratic. What is self-evident to one person, is not self-evident to another. We see this everyday in ordinary discourse. Herein lies the essence of both toleration and conflict. Toleration if individuals can allow that there are legitimate differences of viewpoint; and intolerance (fanaticism) as its opposite. “Fanaticism”, says psychoanalyst Richard Johnson “is always a sign that one has adopted one of a pair of opposites at the expense of the other. The high energy of fanaticism is a frantic effort to keep one half of the truth at bay while the other half takes control. This always yields a brittle and unrelatable personality. This kind of righteousness depends on ‘being right’.” American patriotism is basic fanaticism.
The second error is that “all men are created equal”. I believe this to be true, but the Founding Fathers did not. They did not believe in the fundamental humanity of any person whose skin colour was not white. This was the poison pill in America’s founding and it has still not been resolved and haunts the nation still. The third is of an inalienable right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. This is not quite an “error” but a failure of vision.
In his 1936 presidential acceptance speech, FDR said: “An old English judge once said: ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ Liberty requires opportunity to make a living—a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives a man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.”
If you look around at your fellow citizens, you’ll see that many do not have liberty. Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed what he called a hierarchy of needs. A person suffocating is not going to be concerned about food or water; a person trying to cover the rent or mortgage to forestall homelessness or trying to get food to feed himself and his family is not going to be concerned with such bagatelles as democracy. Thus is laid the groundwork for fascism, to which some believe America is already a fertile ground. I agree with this conclusion. Just examine the Patriot Act.
America will surely survive as a nation, but at what cost? Diane Francis is a high-end conservative columnist with the National Post newspaper in Canada (founded by Conrad Black). She wrote a column recently about Black who had been imprisoned in the U.S. Black, she wrote, believed in American justice.
“But he braved on, based on a misconception that he was dealing with the same culture as Canada or Britain.” This is an issue that my critics have not understood. They seem to believe that Canada and the U.S. are sufficiently similar to make direct comparisons. But, says, Francis: “The United States, where I was born and raised, is NOT an Anglo-Saxon country. It is not a country where people aspire to become members of a leisure class or to create a welfare state. It's a country where many hate government, but will march at the drop of a slogan in to some tinpot country and viciously shame, or call un-American, those who criticize the misadventure.
“The United States is the greatest country in the world to live in if you are not old, sick, poor, a minority or too rich and privileged. It is changing, I hope, but it's still a paradox which still believes ‘In God we Trust’ and social Darwinism.” (Her comment about too rich and privileged is a sop to her friend Conrad Black; the rich and privileged in America do very well, thank you very much.)
There it is.
America will survive as a nation, but at what cost to how many tens of millions of ordinary men, women and children who will suffer and die from the political results of ideology?
There are more medically uninsured residents of Texas—6.1 million—than there are people in 33 states and yet the government in Texas is opposing national health care and the State’s citizens are apparently in favor of such an anti-people stance. This is additional support for my argument that the weak part of democracy is that voters can usually be counted on to vote against their own self interests. America is notexceptional in this regard, but the voting results of the last half century in America support the thesis.
Unemployment is high and the number is going to come down slowly, if it does. This has devastated the lives of millions of families who have just believed. As David Brooks concludes: “America is not a nation of risk-embracing pioneers. It is a nation of heroic bourgeois families who want to thrive within a secure social order.”
To many Americans, it doesn’t matter what happens to their fellow citizens, so long as the Republic goes on. (I could have used the term “it doesn’t seem to matter” but I believe that American Social Darwinism, while not a majority sentiment, is alive and malevolent in U.S. society). The result is that tens of millions of Americans are being and will continue to be sacrificed on the twin alters of mythology and ideology. Diane Francis wrote: Ironically, Conrad used to tease me all the time about living in parochial Canada instead of the U.S. But now he has joined those of us who were, but are no longer, die-hard Americans, psychologically. I left family and friends behind there in the late 1960s due to the thoroughly stupid Vietnam War whose domino effect never happened and where 60,000 American kids died.
In the end it, for me, comes down to this about America: Many Americans, Hank Ruark is one of a legion, believe that America is Exceptional, a term coined in the 19th century by Tocqueville (Democracy in America). I’m not being patronizing when I acknowledge their right to believe whatever they want. My irritation arises from the Exceptionalists inability to allow others to disagree with them. On an individual basis this is no problem. But it’s the attempt to force this belief on the rest of the world that I have always found offensive. There are hundreds of millions of others around the world who agree with me on this.
America will survive, but it will become the class structure it has always public eschewed itself to be. There are the very rich; a shrinking middle-class; and a huge underclass of the working poor, economically disenfranchised and deprived of liberty in the FDR sense.
Addendum: Aug 2/10 Read Paul Krugman's column in today's New York Times for an analysis of America abandoning its citizens. He opens his column saying, "I’m starting to have a sick feeling about prospects for American workers..." http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/opinion/02krugman.html?hp
Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place
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