By Wayne Allensworth
On Veteran’s Day, Tom Piatak reminded us of some veterans who will never be thanked for their service, men who, after heroically performing their duty on the U.S.S. Liberty, have been all but forgotten. None of the hawkish GOP presidential candidates, much less any Democrats, will ever ask for a moment of silence for the men lost, and none have or ever will demand that their attackers be held accountable. Lindsey Graham, who never saw a war he didn’t like, will not offer a resolution in remembrance of them, and the hordes of bumper sticker patriots who telescoped their normal feelings of patriotism onto Israel will not take down the Israeli flag banners that have replaced their previously prominent Ukrainian flag banners on their social media pages. The poor fools probably don’t know anything about the Liberty, but what if they did? It’s not as if the fate of that ship and its crew is a tightly held secret. Numerous books and articles have been written about it. I personally doubt that it would faze many of them if they did know. To paraphrase T.S. Elliot, people can’t bear too much truth, especially a truth that disrupts the fantasy world they live in.
But our country’s sovereignty, and, indeed, its identity as a distinct nation, was traded away decades ago. So, it’s not surprising that our Rah-rah flag waving types have to get their juvenile rush of patriotic gore somewhere else.
Back in 1994, the late Samuel Francis wrote an article entitled “A Banner with a Strange Device,” on the Washington elite’s intent to ram the North American Free Trade Agreement down the collective throat of what was then a still reasonably coherent Middle America that was skeptical, to say the least, of NAFTA. Their skepticism probably wasn’t prompted exclusively by what Ross Perot called the threat of that “giant sucking sound” of American jobs being vacuumed out of the hollowed carcass of the American industrial base. NAFTA, as Francis wrote, represented a giant step toward globalism and the undermining of national sovereignty. In a stately conference room in the Capitol building, as related by Francis, the high panjandrums of globalism, our supposed representatives, traded away the nation for the sake, as one banner hanging in the conference room boldly declared, of building a better way of life “not only for America alone,” because, I assume that would have been selfish, even “racist” and “xenophobic,” but “for all mankind.”
Francis linked the NAFTA battle to Washington’s foreign adventures. Adventures that had nothing to do with any national interests anyone could tease out of vague official justifications for American servicemen fighting and dying and killing in exotic locales few Americans had much, if any, previous knowledge of. Francis wrote,
Sovereignty, of course, has been an issue at the heart of American foreign involvement in the Gulf War, the Balkans, and Somalia under United Nations authority, although for most Americans it has been a rather abstract and elusive concern. Only when President Clinton actually transferred military command of American troops to foreign officers under U.N. authority last year and only when body bags began to come back to the United States from Somalia was the issue of national sovereignty in the continuing adventures of New World globalism rendered concrete.
Thirty years ago, your humble servant was working in the global capital that was then taking shape. And I sensed that easily distracted Americans were about to step off a precipice. I watched those banners on the global aspirations of the regime go up, along with barricades around the Foggy Bottom digs of “our” State Department, signifying the bunker mentality of the practitioners of the Great Globalist Game. It was distressing to say to the least, to watch “our” capital gradually at first, then in leaps and bounds, come to resemble the motley assortment of foreigners who gathered around Rick’s Café in Casablanca, then later morph into a freakish assortment that more closely resembled the bar scene in the original Star Wars movie.
I copied Francis’s Banner article and took it to work with me. I shared it with a colleague who had worked on Middle Eastern affairs at Foggy Bottom for a time. He agreed to read it and I later dropped by his office to see what he thought. I mentioned the power of the Israeli lobby during our conversation. My experienced colleague quickly got up and closed the door before venting his frustrations about how much influence that lobby and its minions had on U.S. policy. I was somewhat taken aback. I hadn’t expected that.
Nearly thirty years on, the situation is far worse than it was then. And it’s not simply the indignity of the Israelis bitch slapping their benefactor at will, or arrogantly spying on that benefactor. It was the realization that global empire means global blowback. The colonization of America not only demographically, but psychologically in the form of “strange devices.”
As American identity has disintegrated under the pressures of “identity politics,” “anti-racist” propaganda and “universal nation” abstractions, core Americans are increasing falling back on what were secondary identities that had been subsumed in a larger national identity. The hyphenation of American identity is not only an artifact of mass immigration, but of social fragmentation and the defensive reactions of Middle Americans who have been besieged and belittled for as long as I remember. Those people I call “Holy Terror” Christians fall back on an eschatologically oriented crusader identity, while Ellis Island Americans increasingly flout their hyphenated origins to dodge association with the most cursed of all, us old stock, unhyphenated Americans. People who check “American” as their ethnic identity on census forms. The Ellis Islanders can proclaim that their ancestors couldn’t have been slave owners, and that they had nothing to do with, say, the Trail of Tears. Others lose themselves in identification with sports teams or an alma mater or will claim “Native American” ancestry to differentiate themselves from the core. Or they can proclaim themselves “advocates” for “the environment,” or as representing some version of “identity politics” the regime approves of.
Nations in the form of nation states are a modern creation. Apart from sheer brute force, nations were forged by forced assimilation around a national core via cultural homogenization, standardization, industrialization, bureaucratization, centralized education, and the development of national transportation systems and communications technologies, such as the printing press and the telegraph. Culture, including religion, language, and history, as well as race, are elements that can be melded into a national identity—so long as “diversity” is localized, and the “big tent” is not stretched too wide. As such they are fragile entities, as mankind’s natural inclination is more localized and tribal. Nations can’t bear too much diversity. But postmodern America passed into a phase where the big tent became a Tower of Babel some time ago. The new origin mythos has been set to the 1960s, or even the Obama presidency, with the shade of 1619 cast over the old America like a deadly veil.
It’s heart rending to watch the destruction of the cultural markers that once helped sustain an American identity. The meltdown of the Robert E. Lee monument removed from Charlottesville in Lee’s own home state is but one sign of an America in its agony phase. But Lee’s nobility and his work for sectional reconciliation are passé in the brave new world of post-America. I’ve written previously on why the direct attack on Lee and the Old South is simply a part of a continuing attack on American iconography and identity that foretells the dissolution of the nation. Other monuments have come down and more will follow. I heard no cries of dismay or sharp protests coming from the super patriots about this desecration, this abominable step toward our cultural genocide. They were too busy sporting their Ukrainian or Israeli flag pins, the bulk of their “American” identity too much wrapped up in the trappings of superpower status for them to take much notice. That is their shame and our humiliation.
The Russian patriot, philosopher, and theologian Sergei Bulgakov once wrote that “suffering love gives one the right to chastise one’s own nation.” True patriots suffer and must chastise. But nations die, and new identities take shape. Our task now is to preserve an American remnant and some space for our progeny to build something new, hopefully using the best aspects of their heritage, in the future.
Chronicles contributor Wayne Allensworth is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, and a novel, Field of Blood.