Sometimes you read something by a mouthpiece for the status quo that’s so outrageously false, yet so widely and subconsciously accepted, that you want to scream. Here’s such a boner (in the first sense of the word, though Viagra could have inspired it): “Nationalism tied to universal democracy is uplifting and ennobling.”To beset the guilty, I won’t give the source. Suffice to say that he represents the antithesis of truth telling and/or the epitome of wishful thinking, since it’s impossible to know whether he’s cynically writing such drivel because his position depends on it, or he really believes it.
Is the Ukrainian conflict a civil war, unrest fomented by Russia, a proxy confrontation between Russia and America, or all three? Are America’s illegal invasions and extrajudicial incursions in the name of the ‘global war on terror’ the new normal, or a symptom of the agonizing breakdown of the international order?
At a time when the moribundity of America is culturally palpable and politically manifest every day, to wax nostalgic about how “Lincoln committed himself to the sacred truth that his country represented the “last best hope” of mankind” is to condemn humanity to permanent spiritual decline. As a human being, I cannot abide that.
A pathological need for heroes is the disease of zeroes. My countrymen flock to see “American Sniper,” a movie about a man killing people from long distance (considered cowardice in many countries) after America opened the gates of hell through our invasion of Iraq. The Hollywood sniper’s sad story is that he’s unable to integrate back into his family and society, epitomized (though it isn’t in the movie) by his bragging about sniping people in New Orleans during the Katrina disaster. It’s a perfectly syllogism for the Bush Administration’s arc of lies, and the Obama Administration’s covering them up.
The fragmentation and death of the nation-state is undeniable except to the most die-hard nationalist. Yet on the left as well as the right, nationalists continue to believe the puritanical poppycock that America “Has succeeded in uniting nationality and universality, civic and spiritual selfhood, sacred and secular history, the country’s past and paradise to be, in a single transcendent ideal.”
Walt Whitman’s refrain that America was “making a new history, a history of democracy…inaugurating largeness, culminating time” no longer speaks to anything, except the sorrow of America’s potential squandered. One truth whispered in the trenches at the right moment can have more impact than a thousand lies shouted from the towers of powers.
If you want to feel the truth of what I’m talking about, rather than process it through any words, watch a half hour of CNN, and then listen to Dvorak’s “Largo” movement from his “New World Symphony,” written in 1893 while the visiting Czech composer was director of the National Conservatory of Music of America.
It holds excruciating echoes of the possibility and promise of a new world, though one imperfectly formed and largely stolen from Native Americans. You hear the longing for homeland in the true sense (not the trillion-dollar trope of fear and false security), as well as the yearning of millions of immigrants who left forever the lands of their families and lineages stretching back into the mists of time.
Where did we go wrong? When did this become a nation of narcissistic consumers? Why did the fear of terrorism find such fertile soil here (even as the warning signs for 9.11 were ignored)? Who manufactured the mirror-image enemy of ISIS/ISIL/IS, milked dry by a media for news entertainment value in conjunction with a government for constant diversion?
Men, who always went first, gave up en masse a generation ago, leaving women, the culture bearers, no alternative except to hold things together for the sake of the children, given either absent fathers or uxorious husbands.
We stopped valuing the thing that the Founders valued most—telling the truth and standing for it, dying for it if necessary, rather than live under the yoke of encrusted tradition and enervating tyranny, much less the modern mendacity contained in words like freedom and phrases like protecting the homeland.
Can America have a rebirth? Or are there only the vestigial ‘birthers,’ who deny even the birthright and identity of our present mediocre president?
There can be no rebirth, here or anywhere, in the context of nationalism. It is dead in way that cannot be reborn, having fallen onto the midden of history. On the other hand, birthing a new conception of nationhood, or rebirthing it, is what Americans have done best when our backs were against the wall.
The biggest lie is that the spirit that Jefferson and Hamilton breathed into this nation’s conception, and for which Lincoln died, “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” still thrives.
If America is the “last best hope” of humankind, and we cannot have a rebirth of spirit (the human spirit, not the American spirit), humanity truly is entering a dark age for which no living person can see the end.
What too few of us realize is that at the ‘hinges of history,’ when rotting institutions and hidebound traditions can no longer hold the center, there is a tremendous opportunity as well as urgent responsibility to create a new culture and a new kind of nation, and secure a true future for humanity.
The great endeavor now is not in any national framework and perspective. The great endeavor, the vast unexplored territory, is, for the first time in human history, humanity itself, humanity as a whole.
Link: Dvorak’s “New World Symphony, Largo”: