Wednesday, October 20, 2010




Americans hold three views of their national destiny. The traditionalists with an enduring passion believe that America is exceptional, that she is as much an idea and creed as a geographic location, that she is a country blessed, made one, whole and immortal by a synthesis of humanist wisdom Greek, Roman and Christian.

The second view is cerebral. It holds, based on apparently irrefutable evidence, that all nations are born ignorant and vigorous, become mature, and corrupt, begin a decline—stayed perhaps by a brief renaissance— then fail and depart from history: Hence the fate of Athens, Rome and a 20th century Britain, upon which once the sun never set. The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, in his vivid poem Ozymandias, may have anticipated the magical Island’s fall from eternal grace.

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown

And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away".

The late Arnold J. Toynbee, author of the monumental 12-volume tour de force, A Study of History “…put forward a philosophy of history, based on an analysis of the rise and decline of no less than 26 civilizations.[1] He wrote that all civilizations, rise, decline and die. However, a historical autopsy confirms that death did not come by conquest or treason. Strangely, these nations, died willingly by their own hand. They committed suicide. Finally, Oswald Spengler in Decline of the West, and James Burnham in Suicide of the West describe regretfully the inevitable, cultural exhaustion of the United States. To the second view, I offer Mark Twain’s quip that, “The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated!”

The rallying cry of the third view is that the synthesis of Athenian, Roman and Christian philosophy is a self-aggrandizing myth. They allege that America is exceptional only in that she is the essence and source of all evil—a hysterical and a historically vapid accusation when one considers that America is barely over 200 years of age. Did America usher in the existence of evil in 1776? In the eons before America’s birth were all nations innocent and resplendent multicultural utopias?

The third view is also centered on an ignorance of European and American history, a utopian and impossible vision of a non-existent perfect state to which America is then compared and found grievously wanting or an ideological defiance of history—from the Christianizing of ancient Rome and the 17th century Puritan contribution to the American culture and Constitution.

David Guess, in his magnum opus, From Plato to Nato, explains the psychosis of the third view.

The West, according to the more outspoken members [of the left] were more or less overtly hoping for the end, in some cases the violent end of their own civilization. The West… was, of all civilizations, uniquely rapacious, racist, sexist, exploitive, environmentally destructive, and hostile to all human dignity—It was irremediable. Only if the West went down to destruction could the rest of the human race hope to survive. The historian Arthur Herman referred to the ‘sadistically redemptive’ outlook of those who, in this tradition, denied the West a right to a future.’

A more contemporary expression of the third view may be seen in the presidential declaration that America is not exceptional, is not a Christian nation, and in the President’s compulsive apologies for America to nations that have contributed to the well being of humanity despotism, slavery, misery and mass murder.

The third view may also be seen in the loud and justified condemnation of a preacher who announced to the world that he would begin the burning of Korans and the deafening silence of these same people as Muslims in response to the minister’s threat, burned bibles and violently desecrated the American flag. Of this spectacle, there was not the barest whisper of criticism from these same righteous moralists who condemned the minister. But why this selective condemnation and deafening silence? The third view holds that it is because America is so virulently evil she deserves the world’s condemnation.

In its first few hundred years the synthesis of Christian, Roman and Greek thought increased the stature of women and the sanctity of life. Christians even then forbade abortion and infanticide the victims of which were primarily newly born females. In fact, the average Roman male did not really think much of the gentler sex. Indeed, “The highest accolade a Roman could bestow on his wife was one found on a number of tombstones: the letters D M L F, standing for domo mansit lanam fecit, ‘she stayed at home, she span wool’…., a line analogous to “Keep the woman at home, bare-foot and pregnant.

Athenian democracy finally fell to Macedonian despots and Rome tragically to a Christian dark age. Christianity consumed the Rome built by Caesar and Octavius and became itself, for a while, profoundly corrupt The Roman Catholic Emperor Theodosius, by a decree of 381 A.D., declared Christianity ‘… the only permitted religion of the empire.’ Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his magnum opus Rise and Decline of the Roman Empire tells the tale. Theodosius, for reasons trivial and vindictive, invited seven thousand citizens of Thessalonica to the forth century equivalent of gladiatorial games.

As soon as the assembly was complete, the soldiers, who had secretly been posted around the circus, received the signal, not of the races but of a general massacre. The promiscuous carnage continued three hours, without discrimination of strangers or natives, of age or sex, of innocent or guilt; the more moderate accounts state the number of the slain at seven thousands…. The apology of the assassins, that they were obliged t produce the prescribed number of heads, serves only to increase, by an appearance of order and design, the horrors of the massacre, which was executed by the commands of Theodosius.

The relatively new political creed of Multiculturalism, part of the third world view, repudiates the existence of a common American ethos or the need for cultural assimilation. It condemns as fascist the American Founders’ hope that Americans would embrace a common creed, culture and language. While it praises the pleasant but ephemeral qualities of diversity it ignores those ethnic groups that do not make the cut. When for example, have we heard a determined multiculturist include in his multicultural praise the culture and accomplishments of a few dead, Anglo Saxon Protestants?

James Buchanan writes that “At Potsdam, Germany, this weekend, Chancellor Angela Merkel told the young conservatives of her Christian Democratic Union that Germany's attempt to create a multicultural society where people "live side by side and enjoy each other" has "failed, utterly failed." And so it has. Mr. Buchanan recalls how immediately following the murder of Americans on 9/11, Muslims in the Turkish section of Germany danced in the street, set off fireworks and joyfully celebrated their death and immolation.

What shall we Americans ever do? Well, the late Samuel Huntington warns of the consequences of multiculturalism in his final work Clash of Civilizations.

A more immediate and dangerous challenge exists in the United States. Historically American national identity has been defined culturally by the heritage of Western civilization and politically by the principles of the American Creed on which Americans overwhelmingly agree: liberty, democracy, individualism, and equality before the law, constitutionalism, and private property. In the late twentieth century both components of American identity have come under concentrated and sustained onslaught from a small but influential number of intellectuals and publicists. In the name of multiculturalism they have attacked the identification of the United States with Western civilization, denied the existence of a common American culture and promoted racial, ethnic and other sub national cultural identities and groupings. They have denounced, in the words of one of their resorts, the ‘systematic bias toward European culture and its derivatives’ in education and ‘the dominance of the European-American monocultural perspective.’ The multiculturalists are, as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr, said, ‘very often ethnocentric separatists who see little in the Western heritage other than Western crimes.’ Their mood is one of divesting Americans of the sinful European inheritance and seeing redemptive infusions from non-Western cultures.

The American multiculturalists … reject their country’s cultural heritage. Instead of attempting to identify the United States with another civilization, however, they wish to create a country of many civilizations, which is to say a country not belonging to any civilization and lacking a cultural core. History shows that no country so constituted can long endure as a coherent society. A Multicivilizational United States will not be the United States it will be the United Nations.

Robert Harkins’ new book will be published later this year. You may find it at Amazon in e-book or hard cover, and at all major bookstores. Its title:

America, Sweet Land of Liberty. Of Thee I Sing.

[1] Encyclopedia Britannica

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