There is an interesting monument in the park surrounding the Puerto Rican capitol building in San Juan. In the foreground are various central-casting approved ethnic stereotypes in bronze, striking assorted poses. Behind them, carved on a rock wall, is an exhortation to take pride in the national culture. An unexceptionable notion, but a similar monument to our culture on the capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., would doubtless give the Southern Poverty Law Center and others of its ilk a cerebral hemorrhage.
To many on the Left, America can do no right. It has dispossessed, oppressed, murdered, plundered and raped, all in the name of perpetuating the absolute control of the white upper-class male. This is twaddle, but there are no end of intellectuals, politicians, journalists, educators and others who have gobbled it down whole and now regurgitate it ad nauseum.
To these, “American culture” is something to bemoan, belittle and forget, not to celebrate and remember. In that, they remind one of the French elite of the 1920s and 1930s, full of despair and je m’en fouisim; loathing for their country, themselves and everything that was France. The result, we know: they were quickly shown that there were worse things to be than French and free.
Our modern je m’en fouistes demand their criticism be heard, blind to the hypocrisy of indicting a culture whose longstanding respect for free speech allows them to do so without fear for life or limb. Some howl about materialism, without understanding that it is the cornerstone of economic progress. Others call the culture uncaring because it does not provide equal outcomes; they do not recognize that one of the requirements for a society of free persons is that citizens be responsible for themselves. Yet others find racism around every corner — even in the abolition of programs to provide favor based on race — the very textbook definition of this vice. A few even attack American culture’s religious aspects, embracing the dogma that, because they do not recognize a higher power than themselves, others should be forbidden from so doing.
If these were only the eccentric ravings of a few holdouts from the first Communist International, it would be one thing. But these efforts to subvert, wreck and undermine our national culture are widespread. High school teachers in Chicago suburbs embrace them, and spread them to credulous students. The “social justice” protest movement shares them, as do most of the broadcast and print media, which distributes and amplifies these simplifications and distortions. The president of the United States evidently shares them, which is why he has worked diligently to “fundamentally change” the country.
As an antidote to this poisonous nonsense we should remind ourselves daily of the good this country and its culture have done. Yes, we have committed evils over the course of our history — what nation has not? Sometimes they were of our invention, sometimes they were imported. Mostly, we repent of them — sometimes sooner, sometimes later, and sometimes at great cost. But if our culture has had episodes of nastiness, so too has it often exhibited profound altruism, great humanity, incisive practicality, dedication and principles.
Our culture values human freedom, so when Eastern Europe vanished into the 50 years of darkness that was the Soviet Empire, we acted — alone at first — to prevent the misery from expanding. Similarly, when we become aware of real oppressions in our own county, we call our better natures to respond, and usually succeed in righting these wrongs.
Our culture values charity and concern for the least of us; not only are we among the most generous of people, we prolifically endow private organizations for everything from pet care to education to public health.
Which makes our homegrown critics seem a little picky. They see nothing worthwhile in a culture inquisitive enough to send men to the moon and autonomous machines to other worlds; nothing positive in a culture so inventive it produced the aircraft in which I am flying, the laptop computer on which I compose this, and the Internet I use for research. Nothing worth emulating in a culture which had until recently successfully and quickly integrated enormous waves of immigrants; changed governments regularly and without bloodshed for well over 200 years; and is a model of religious and ethnic toleration.
In many ways our critics’ ideas confirm the old adage that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because we are not yet Utopia, there is nothing positive about us; we are hopeless pariahs. For the rest of the year, prepare to hear much of this, and to give it the inattention it so richly deserves.
Instead, let’s be more like Puerto Rico. Let’s be proud of our culture again.
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County.