President Obama has spent the first year of his presidency running around the world apologizing for America and its culture. He sides with those who preach that America‘s Eurocentric, white, Christian heritage is responsible for colonialism, imperialism, racism and sexism. He apparently takes no pride in a culture that: fostered liberty and prosperity for the American people; offered hope and freedom to mankind around the globe; welcomed and integrated multitudes of immigrants into a dynamic civil society; saved the world twice from totalitarian evil; promoted philanthropy, both domestically and internationally; and encouraged self-correction of flaws in its own structure. He would rather replace it with a multicultural strain that: regards no culture as superior to any other; denigrates religion in favor of a statist, humanist mentality; appeases thugs who bear ill will toward America; favors equality of outcome over equality of opportunity; and renders the US Constitution subservient to ‘international law.’ Should we do so, it would be a tragic mistake for our country and for the world. In order to understand why, let us conduct a quick review of the history, achievements and components of the traditional American culture that Obama so despises.
For approximately 250 years, roughly from 150 years before the birth of the USA until a century after, the culture of the American people was fairly constant. It was dominated by British political philosophy, liberal Protestantism, a Calvinist work tradition, and a taste and admiration for, albeit mixed with more than a little suspicion of, European arts and science. Beginning about 120 years ago, this culture was challenged and weakened by two great waves of immigration and a concomitant loss of self-confidence on the part of the defenders of the traditional culture. The first great wave brought southern and eastern Europeans, Catholics and Jews, and a small horde who admired socialist, utopian political/economic/cultural theory more than they valued Adam Smith, John Locke, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, or Alexander Hamilton. Although the vast majority of those immigrants adopted the traditional culture as their own, they and their offspring sowed the seeds of subtle change, which in many ways deeply enriched the culture, but also loosened its roots.
The second great wave of immigration began slowly in the middle of the twentieth century, accelerated in the ensuing decades, and continues to this day. Raining down on our shores are huge numbers of non-European, non-Christian, peoples of color. Many profess allegiance to what they understand as the traditional culture: political freedom, individual liberty, economic advancement, pop culture (sports, music, movies, etc.). But I wager that tremendous percentages of these new Americans have no comprehension of a stiff British upper lip, a Protestant work ethic, the English concept of justice, the Federalist Papers, or the suffragette movement. Nor have they heard of manifest destiny, the Magna Carta, Nathan Hale, Dolly Madison, Francis Scott Key, fifty-four forty or fight, robber barons, or Jesse Owens.
Well, perhaps this is a good thing. Certainly organisms that remain stagnant often wither and die, or are swept away by new dynamic competitors that embrace and adapt to change. The multicultural onslaught has enriched American culture in many interesting and exciting ways. But I believe that an organism, which has no memory or appreciation for the underlying roots that spawned it, will not long survive and prosper. The central cultural dilemma that faces America today is to find a way to integrate what is vibrant and vital from the new cultures invading our shores without shedding the authentic and time-worn fundamental culture that has sustained us for so long. To purposefully not study, indeed to disparage Western Civilization is not a wise strategy for coping with that dilemma. Nor is the castigation of DWEMs (Dead White European Males), a pejorative that usually includes the likes of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin along with Beethoven and Newton. Deluding ourselves and our children that American history is replete with undiluted evil (to wit our poor historical record vis-à-vis blacks and Indians—oops, African-Americans and Native Americans), while ignoring or ridiculing our monumental achievements, which include ridding the world of fascism and communism, creating the most prosperous country in history, acting as a beacon of freedom and liberty to the world, and establishing the most successful true multicultural society on the planet, not to mention correcting our faulty behavior toward the two afore-mentioned groups, is not a recipe for cultural success. It infuriates me to see a black man—who rose from obscurity and who, despite his obvious lack of credentials, was entrusted by the American people with the nation’s highest office—belittle the culture that enabled his meteoric rise. Furthermore, it saddens me to watch white Protestant men, direct descendants of the pioneers who created our great nation, denigrate the culture that is their heritage. Cultural Appeasement! Political appeasement never works; cultural appeasement is just as short-sighted and doomed to failure.
A healthier attitude toward contemporary American culture would encompass the following principles:
- The traditional American culture is exalted and worthy of preservation.
- We should adopt the best of the new cultures that are washing our shores, but they should meld with, not displace, the old.
- The amalgam, however it evolves, must preserve at its irreducible core the classic American Creed. (Now there’s a word that was popular in my youth but has fallen from favor.) That Creed embraces at least:
- An absolute allegiance to the U. S. Constitution.
- An acknowledgment that faith and religion played a critical role in the motivations of our founders and the fundamental tenets they laid down, that it continues to animate a substantial majority of our citizens, and that it is valuable to maintain and respect its role in the American experience.
- A belief that America has a manifest destiny to show the world the road to a better life—politically, economically, socially.
- That we conduct ourselves morally and with decency toward each other.
- That we conduct our political affairs civilly.
- That we have the highest regard for education and knowledge, and that we seek to have the most educated citizenry possible—but that that education is the responsibility of the citizenry, not the government.
- That we maintain a healthy respect for the history of our land and that we will teach it to our children forever.
- That we will remain committed to immigration and acculturation, welcoming and reveling in the achievements of new citizens¾provided that they adopt the Creed.