Saturday, September 10, 2022

Good Country People

From American Greatness:

America has never been a simple nation. Its founding was borne of man’s inherent desire to be free and independent and his aversion to tyranny. It is a true and good country, but that does not mean it lacks complexity and variety. On the contrary, America’s revolutionary character remains. If things were static, there would not be any room for human flaws or perfection—no room, in other words, for individual independence. Americans would not be Americans unless they were shapers of their own lives.

Since human beings are imperfect, and since a nation is only as good as its people, it follows that America, like all nations, has flaws. The perennial question for America is how do we address those flaws while also acknowledging and appreciating America’s greatness as well as its potential for continuing greatness.

Today’s politics seems mostly to be a combination of action and reaction. It used to be that conservatives reacted to the liberal because liberals always wanted to push for change, even if it didn’t make any sense. A liberal (or a leftist) being perpetually dissatisfied with the state of politics lives by the mantra of change. Change is not necessarily bad, but for the leftists or today’s “woke,” change has become a euphemism for dismantling America’s founding principles and remaking the country in their own ideological image. The more chaos and disruption, the better. According to such a mindset, America is enveloped in sin and ill-gotten gains, and because of this, it must be punished.

The conservatives justifiably react to these claims with hurt and sometimes anger. Their reactions, because they are spurred by emotion, are often composed of sentimental reflections about America. In such accounts, America is a perfect country, we should be proud of it at every turn, and it is the only place in the world where liberty is possible. They look back wistfully on a time when people didn’t hate and despise America.

While we rightly deplore the deep contempt and cynicism of the woke and the Left as it reaches a level of fever-pitched anarchy fueled by darkness, there is something self-defeating about this reaction on the Right. For the woke Left, there is no “miracle of being,” as Hannah Arendt might have described it. But we miss something truly important and beautiful about America when we deny its complexity and its struggle with human weakness.

In the last two years, we have seen lawlessness and disorder, political and existential chaos, submission and rebellion, and mostly, uncertainty about how to proceed through the maze of astounding corruption all around us. How should citizens be citizens in this mess? How should we defend their rights? How should we deal with the fact that law seems to apply only to one side of the political divide (especially when there is little evidence of guilt), that justice is not blind, and that there seems to be no end to chaos? Are we really this powerless?

These themes, however, are nothing new for America. American film director John Ford confronted most of them in his films. This is true especially in Ford’s West. The American West exemplifies all the struggle and endless possibilities encompassed by being American—unfettered and fully alive—yet such independence comes with a full set of responsibilities attached. (Read more.)

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