Writing about the United States, Australian, Karen Pickering mused, “For a country that loves the idea of itself so deeply and passionately, I often wonder how it can hate its own people so profoundly and enduringly.”
Ms. Pickering has identified one strain of the schizoid nature of American society. As crazy as this sounds, we love the idea of egalitarianism and do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen.
Nothing says it better than Virginian Congressman, John Randolph comments when he said, decades after the American Revolution. “I love liberty; I hate equality.”
Colin Woodard, in his book, American Nations: A History of Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, makes the distinction of nations verses states. A nation is a group of people who share a common culture or set of values regardless of artificial geographic boundaries like states.
According to him, “When society was turned upside down by mass immigration at the turn of both the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, intellectuals counseled that America is in danger of losing the “Anglo-Protestant” culture and associated “American Creed” that supposedly kept the nation unified.”
The truth is the nation was never unified. It was dominated by an archetype from one of the eleven nations that make up America. And the upheaval we suffer is shaped by a futile effort of that group (think Republican Party here) to maintain domination rather than share power.
Think about healthcare and how much political energy they have put into resisting our attempt to assure everyone access to the medical services they need.
Think about how they resist everyone getting a decent education by underfunding elementary and secondary school programs and their recent attempt to increase the interest rates on college loans.
Think about how they fight raising minimum wages to a level that allows working people to survive on their earnings. And think about how they fight against paying these benefits that these same people need to survive.
They classify people into those who deserve and those who don’t. Deserve what? Deserve the equality in the American creed.
Generally speaking the deserving are those who meet specific criteria, which is generally organized into several categories like religious, financial, social, and racial.
So in America, certain people who meet the criteria deserve to be considered equal and those who do not, don’t. Let’s look at the archetype from which any deviation costs points.
A particular interaction in a movie titled The Good Shepherd portrays it well. Matt Damon, playing a CIA officer, is threatening to deport a mob figure played by Joe Pesci. Joe’s character says, “Tell me something. We Italian’s have our families and the Church. The Irish have their homeland. The Jews have their traditions. Even the blacks have their music. What do you have?” The CIA officer replies, “We have the United States. The rest of you are just visitors.”
The history of the power structures in the United States is the story of white, Anglo-Saxon, mainstream Protestant males who have reluctantly given as little as possible to everyone else while trying to keep the mob at the gate from coming in.
The mob is in and now we are engaged in a great transition being called a culture war. In fact, it is several culture wars between and among eleven nations within the United States.
Why is the great right-wing corporate propaganda machine willing to spend untold millions to convince us our first black president is a failure using a constant barrage of accusations that have convinced the great misinformed masses of his otherness?
The Republican party has given up the age honored process of politics for a deal and instead is holding the country hostage in the vain hope that the dwindling numbers of white Anglo-Saxon protestant males will someday rise again to dominate politics.
The result? The non-responsive, ineffective government we now suffer.