The anti-American Century began with a bad moon rising. Our new possessions across the sea were awash in colonial gore. Surveying from afar the corpses of Filipino independence fighters and our blood-spattered flag, Mark Twain suggested that we substitute the skull and crossbones for the stars and stripes. The Indiana-bred poet William Vaughn Moody, a Grover Cleveland Democrat, despaired that “We have changed our birthright for a gourd.”
Is it too late to get a refund?
How appropriate that Henry Luce, minter of that counterfeit phrase “The American Century,” was born in Tengchow, China, the son of missionaries who devoted their lives to pestering Chinese persons who had never done them any harm. For the architects and wardens of the American Century have been distinguished largely by the tenuity of their connection to any of the thousands of little American cultures they have worked so assiduously to stamp out. The Wise Men of the 1940’s and 50’s who offered our gold, frankincense, and men to their god of anti-communism were the Anglophilic products of eastern boarding schools—placeless persons from the age of 12 or whenever it was that their invariably alcoholic parents packed them off to Groton or Hotchkiss.
The politicians and propagandists of the Serbian massacre are just as countryless. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is Czech, and in full possession of the unwarranted arrogance of that notable people. Senator John McCain, a military brat, was born in the malarial symbol of American imperialism, the Panama Canal Zone. The hawkish Weekly Standard is owned by a drably sinister Australian and edited by a warmongering (if war-avoiding) TV celebrity beside whom the epicene George Stephanopoulos looks like Chesty Puller. Bill Clinton, alas, is American, albeit a recipient of Cecil Rhodes’s blood money.
We are in a real fix—the fix is in, and we are out, so it seems—but what are you gonna do except trust that there remains enough independence and spunk and hey-boss-go-to-hell defiance in the character of Americans that a patriotic resistance, or perhaps even restoration, might develop. “I should hate to spend the only life I was going to have here in being annoyed with the time in which I happened to live,” said Robert Frost, who placed his faith in “insubordinate Americans.” As the beginning typing drill goes, now is the time for all good insubordinates to come to the aid of their country.
The American Century has been a disaster for Americans. We lost our republic, local self-government, community stability, and hundreds of thousands of our sons and brothers and fathers. But we are not vanquished. Not yet. A popular pin from the 1900 presidential campaign of William Jennings Bryan read, “No Foreign Alliance, No Trusts, No Imperialism For U.S.” A century later, the pin still fits.