Searching for the pure thing

In my last post, I said that the patriot needs to be able to identify and cling to some aspect of their nation that is good and pure.  He can certainly acknowledge faults in his country, past and present.  Still, he can’t imagine that he himself and his generation are the source of the nation’s goodness.  There must be something entitled to judge them rather than they it, something to which they must aspire to be worthy.  For example, suppose God Almighty came down from Heaven and charged the founders of nation X with doing Y.  Suppose every generation of X has culpably failed to do Y, but they did at least carry on the memory that Y is what they’re supposed to be doing.  This would be enough; a divine charge and an active tradition of remembering it would be a pure thing on which patriotism might grow.

A people will fight hard to not have this, their North Star, taken away from them.  Sometimes it does happen.  Many Americans have come to accept the Civil Rights critique.  They see our past as utterly shameful, and they see injustice as the very essence of pre-Obama American society.  What can they do?  First, they may renounce patriotism altogether, become cosmopolitan liberals, and try to eradicate their despised homeland through mass immigration.  Those desperate for an alternative become neoconservatives.  These claim to admire the one pure thing from our past not in America’s actual, historical communities, but in a set of abstract propositions:  freedom of speech, limited government, checks and balances, the free market, etc.  This, of course, is really no alternative at all.  The neoconservatives are really liberal cosmopolitans of another sort; they also have traded a real community for abstractions.  In this sense, the neoconservatives’ Zionism is actually their most attractive feature, because at least they admit that somewhere in the world there’s a nation that is not “propositional”, but represents an actual people.

What about abortion, America’s other candidate for greatest crime?  In a comment here, rkirk argues that this is a guilt from which we Americans may actually be able to extricate ourselves.  After all, feticide is not a distinctly American practice.  Nor have we always accepted it.  Surely one could plausibly (and even truly) lay the blame for this massacre on liberalism, an ideological parasite that has attached itself to the American host but could theoretically be separated.

I think rkirk is right.  Liberalism, though, goes very deep in the American psyche.  It has been our ruling ideology from the beginning.  The task of American conservatives is to convince their countrymen that their community is good, but its legitimating ideology is dangerous and false.  This will be tremendously difficult, because America and liberalism (“freedom”) are so tightly connected in most Americans’ minds–a result of long years of childhood indoctrination.

I’ve addressed this issue more fully here.

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