I appreciated very much Scott P. Richert’s comments on what passes nowadays for American identity and how we wound up with rootless, abstract notions of “Americanism” (“Last Ride,” The Rockford Files, May). Referring to the Americanization campaigns of the past, Mr. Richert pointed out that “It is relatively easy, in a modern, affluent, industrial society with a strong public-school system, to strip people of their ethnic identities.” What the Americanizers failed to realize, however, was that their own sense of identity was already being undermined; The Pledge of Allegiance, Hollywood, and Irving Berlin, themselves thin gruel next to the organic patriotism that sustains real nations over time, were already being replaced by something even thinner, a globalized anticulture (“the unholy trinity of Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and McDonald’s”) that wasn’t really American at all. I can only wince when conservative pundits crow about the spread of “American culture” and alleged “American values” around the globe. We shouldn’t have had any problems figuring out “why they hate us,” especially when the “unholy trinity” is being forced down the throats of “undeveloped nations” by the Pentagon.
Mainstream conservatives often lament the lack of assimilation by the ongoing flood of immigrants, but I wonder just what it is they would have them assimilate to—the “unholy trinity”? The nonstop pornography that is “American” pop culture? The abortion cult? The views of the “liberal media” that most who are on the right love to hate? This kind of intellectual and emotional confusion has done more to facilitate the seizure of the “conservative movement” by neoconservative leftists than all the machinations of all the Kristols and Podhoretzes in Manhattan and Washington could muster. What we are left with is a post-America “unprepared for the multicultural invasion” to which Mr. Richert refers—and, thus, an easy mark for the neocon globalists’ flag-waving. In post-America, if young males don’t become John Walker Lindh clones, they can aspire to be jingo windbags (like, say, Toby Keith), straight guys with queer eyes (if not “sexual preferences”), or “gangstas” (pick any rap star or NBA luminary).
Have we already taken “the last ride” as a distinct nation? The jury is still out. In a past issue of Chronicles, I wrote that “making a real home for ourselves, a place where we can set down roots, is not only a question of curtailing immigration or rolling back the Federal Leviathan, but of drastically reorganizing our lives and our economic and social priorities and institutions. I’ll admit this is strong medicine: I don’t know whether we can go home again . . . but I do know that we have to try.”
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