You are posting a comment about...
A Mirabilary Of The Passing Parade: The Unknown American
by Cynicus Americanus (September 2017)
Signs And Wonders of The Devolution Of Man And The Decline Of Western Civilization In The Wake Of Obama In The Age Of the Gnostics In A Republic of Dunces, A Federation of Twits, An Accommodation Of DumbAsses.
And The Rise Of The Criminally Insane Class
The Passing Parade
As Observed by Cynicus Americanus
Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses.
If I am misunderstood it is on account of willful obtuseness.
The Unknown American or, Is He A Peculiar Sort, Or What?
The Great Unknowns
We have memorialized, lest we forget, The Unknown Soldier—and for good reason. No-one unknown who had sacrificed so much should be forgotten—left without regard. We "know" all that we can know of him. It the best we can do.
We have also in the annals, one JS/07 M 378, The Unknown Citizen, memorialized in W. H. Auden's poem of the same name. JS/07 M 378 was also worthy of a marble monument. The upshot of the productive citizen's memorialization by the poet is that no-one could say who, precisely, he was. He was well known statistically; he was a soldier once, and factory worker, was married and had five children, properly comported himself, and was in all respects a right proper conformist. But that's the full extent of it. Auden writes at the end:
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
It hadn't mattered much. Nor did it matter what JS/07 M 378 thought on this or the other matter. JS/07 M 378 was, in effect, memorable for being utterly forgettable. Neither the soil nor the air had made of JS/07 M 378 anything more than the technocrats had fabricated him to be. As the anti-hero is to the hero, so the Unknown Citizen was the anti-human to the human. I'd bet most anyone would have expected the anti-human to be something of a monster, terrifying, but no, he is mundane in most all his moments, un-extraordinary, an unknowable soul.
All of which brings us to the topic of the moment.
The Unknown American
A Mac, a Mick, a bloke, a guy, and an hombre, walk into a bar. How many of them are Americans? Go figure.
Nothing has become so difficult as a discriminative evaluation of 'American'. Distinctions are usually dismissed out of hand; inclusiveness does not readily suffer exclusivity. It's not American.
England’s American colonies were settled overwhelmingly by white Englishmen and Englishwomen, from which there issued little bundles, looking for all the world like typical white Englanders, chock-a-block with Englishness. Details, huh? They’re of no matter. Sure, sure, sure . . . there was a flag and the government, and a foundation, the Constitution, and all the white Englishmen spoke English, consulted English political philosophy, and resorted to English Common Law. They spoke in terms of a nation among nations, and there were borders, and newly minted American citizens of English stock within them . . . but . . . it was all metaphor. America was first, and always, an idea. The conclusion had come to us post hoc—way post hoc. This idea, the idea-nation must have something substantial to give it legs. It need not be able to run or dance—just look viable, at least ambulatory.
Never forget that America remains the only nation on the face of the Earth founded on an idea, not an identity—an idea that free people can govern themselves, and that government’s powers are endowed only through the consent of the governed.
—House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH), American Legion National Convention
America is the first nation founded on an idea, built on a foundation of belief.
—Phyllis Stenerson, Progressive Values e-newsletter 2007
America is much more than a country. It's an ideal, a value system. Put simply, it's the best idea the world has ever had. That's why American greatness and leadership is indispensable to civilization, as we know it.
—Nick Adams, FOX News, February 25, 2016
France was a land, England was a people, but America, having about it still that quality of the idea, was harder to utter . . .
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Swimmers", Saturday Evening Post, Oct. 19, 1929
We take foreigners to be incomplete Americans—convinced that we must help and hasten their evolution.
—Saul Bellow, "A Second Half Life", It All Adds Up
America is not just a country, it’s an idea.
Our nation is the enduring dream of every immigrant who ever set foot on these shores, and the millions still struggling to be free. This nation, this idea called America, was and always will be a new world—our new world.
—George H. W. Bush, State of the Union Address, Jan. 31, 1990
The United States was the “first nation to have been founded on an idea.
—Margaret Thatcher, Speech to the Heritage Foundation
Well then, it's settled it is, we have consensus among the smart set. What's more, the rest of the world—all those foreigners—are incomplete Americans . . . but we will help them. We will scout the globe and scour off their myths, and superstitions, and make them complete Americans.
And hubris exploded.
Every age, every epoch seems under a great deal of pressure to legitimize itself and make itself relevant, most have chosen to travel the 'progressive' road. It's difficult being against progress as progress is the road of good intentions. And here, the intention is we—Americans—are the world and the world is American . . . or damn well ought to be.
It Makes the Heart Leap; America is, as it must be, first . . . always:
. . . the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea—the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like 'What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?'
—Barack Obama, State of Union Address, January 25, 2011
Convinced yet? C'mon! Bono and Maggie . . . and Bush, and the American Baraka.
There are another dozen or so of such, in the nature of "proposition nation"; and more in the form of "nation of immigrants". There's even highfalutin' aerie faerie-ism and delusion. Samples abound. Here, America rises like a phoenix:
Americans were a chosen people delivered from corruption and evil to a New World and destined to serve as an example to the world.
Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, The Silence of the Rational Center
Here . . . delusion:
What joins the Americans one to another is not a common ancestry, language or race, but a shared work of the imagination that looks forward to the making of a future, not backward to the insignia of the past. Their enterprise is underwritten by a Constitution that allows for the widest horizons of sight and the broadest range of expression, supports the liberties of the people as opposed to the ambitions of the state, and stands as premise for a narrative rather than plan for an invasion or a monument. The narrative was always plural; not one story, many stories.
Lewis H. Lapham, "Them", Lapham's Quarterly: Foreigners, Winter 2014
It's 2014. Mind you, 2014! And Lapham writes—"supports the liberties of the people as opposed to the ambitions of the state." I laughed, I laughed some more, my side began to ache. How have these pixies the nuts to write paeans to bilge. Open and daily treachery rapes the Constitution and they prattle about the wondrous assignations. If a lady had been violently gang-raped before Lapham's very eyes, all Lewis would note is she'd been smartly attired with matching accessories.
Down To Earth and On Solid Ground
Ever since the ideation of America had become necessary, the notions of the Framers had to be dealt with, specifically:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity . . .
—Preamble, U S Constitution
The world’s tired, and wretched, and poor were nowhere in the equation.
White Englishmen rebelled against white Englishmen and became Americans. To these Americans and their posterity, the new nation would belong. Everything went along splendidly until . . .
About the time four score and seven years after conception, the perception began to wander. About two score years after that, the perception had marginalized the original intent and incubated a concept of its very own. The time was the late nineteenth century. It was the advent of the immigration nation. The Founding of America, the history of it, was "rethought". Clever men had got a better idea than the Founders'. Posterity had been, not disinherited precisely, but taken down a peg and the "other" was advanced two. After all, all Family Hominidae are equal . . . or soon would be.
It was then daybreak and the dawn brought with it two things: the "idea" nation, aka the "proposition nation", and the first instance of leveling by demotion. And though no-one could see so far, for it was still beyond the horizon, the time was coming when all could become Americans—even the tribesmen of yet to be found lost tribes of West Papua, everyone would come to America to be a "real life nephew" of Uncle Sam. I suspect now, even a Martian, if one was found—that was not too fussy about the company it kept—could become American.
And that's not the all of it. Think on it. Here was, finally, land of equality, where all things are made possible. The idea that a Hussein can become President; that a Mister can be made a Miss; that gay is the "new normal"; and that the most well-adjusted people are those who routinely torture reality. It's not right—the older I get the more I need explained to me.
Just what is it that provides the extraordinary leap of faith that all mankind, the world over, has it in them to be Americans, let alone desire it? By dint of what is this possible? Is it equality? All are equal, ergo all are fit candidates for 'American'.
Is it inclusiveness—the new and improved "equality"—equality stripped of all prerequisites for equal? Is it insanity? That sequela is prevalent and near epidemic.
Are You Feeling It Yet?
This conviction distresses the idea-logically inclined, the conviction that you (perhaps), and I, are not Americans. The distressed happen to be exercising their right to believe things not as they are but as they deem they ought be. Yes, it's now a right to think reality wrong.
The insistence on being a Yankee-doodle American is, more often than not, a sincere apologetic. It is not treachery though can be treacherous. It stems from the idolatry of equality/inclusiveness. And that too is sincerely desired—for the good of the world. Imagine if everyone should alight sometime in America, the canyons of New York, or Arizona, or the dairy lands of Wisconsin, or the sultry South, or any of our many Main Streets throughout America and thereby, by contact with the soil and breathing 'free' air, and with propinquity to the national celebrations, become true Americans—osmotically. What a wonderful world it would be. No longer would "Americans" need be delivered to some foreign land for some foreign misadventure to make "them" more like "us". That is, if you hadn’t guessed it, what is wrong with the world—it is not yet all "American".
Coming To America
Of my own experience—as an immigrant—I have gathered this and am more than comfortable with it.
Becoming 'of America' took some doing. "Magic dirt" could not make me a proper citizen anymore than it could make me American. To be a good citizen takes will, resolve, and alertness, and no small amount of education. America was impressed on me. Grammar school and high school both insisted I, and all, even natural born citizens, absorb great doses of Americana. Grammar school provided more of the historical notes, and high school, more the notes on civics. Both schools were unwaveringly Catholic, both willfully 'of America'—to dispel and bury notions that Catholic loyalty was reserved entirely for the magisterium and there was none to be had for the nation. The nuns and priests made it a point to share our devotions between God and Caesar. God came first. It was not close, but neither was it walk over. This was all just prior to the advent of John F Kennedy. Perhaps good Catholic citizens would breach Protestant anti-Catholic bigotry. When the time came, Catholics were all in with Kennedy. Catholics had finally arrived, in good stead, or good enough. Perhaps not thoroughly trusted but trusted enough. Too bad the candidate was a cockerel whose father would throw his entire family overboard if need be, but was faithful to his Irish heritage and loved best not America but the American displays of power. From such an "American" came the fanciful—Camelot—a yet further extension of idea/ideal nation.
That's Not It, Not Even Close
"Americans" are, with each passing day it seems, less and less of America and daily, ever more and more enamored with the "idea". Move the benchmark, give relief, make it undemanding, believe it just so, that—"We are a radical experiment, a nation not of blood and genes, but a nation of heart, of mind, of belief." And what have you? Void substance, and hollow essentiality; embrace tightly the abstract, and there you’ll find nonsense gasping in reverential tones.
To what may it be ascribed—our need for the hyphenated American? What can be gleaned from the hyphen? That the hyphenated human is of two (or more) natures, DNA codes, minds, and allegiances, of two hearts, two tugs?
I am this. I am genetically Polish from a long line of Poles from a longer line of Slavs with possible DNA portions of Tatar, Teuton, Swede, Cossack, Austrian, Prussian, German, Russian (all invaders) and who knows what more. And none of it has a damn thing to do with heart, or mind, or belief. I am a naturalized "American" citizen, not essentially American but essentially citizen. My loyalty is on record. This, my allegiance, is very much a matter of heart, mind, and belief. One may engage the heart, mind, in pursuance of an association, alliance, a faith, and devotion. But the same cannot be employed to make what is, essentially, substantively, immutably, one thing, something else. Fidelity is made of human nature; the alternative, the ideational alien American, is made of human insanity.
Who The Hell are You?
Who is Abidemi Adesimbi? An African-American, An African, a Nigerian-African, a Nigerian-African-American, an American?
Is Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American, really only that? Or maybe also Mahometan-American, or Palestinian-Mahometan, or Mahometan-Palestinian- American? Venture a guess.
Is Miss Rostopenskaya, a Russian-American, Lithuanian-Russian, or Lithuanian-Russian-American, or an American?
To say a hyphen makes impossible a determination as to who is precisely what, is understatement.
How Radical? This Radical
This nation was radical only in the motivation for its liberty. The rebels' side of war had been one of irregular forces, guerrilla tactics, and a standing Army that engaged/retreated as tactic—so's not to be wiped out by the superior force of the greatest Empire on earth. And there was also French assistance. The colonists hadn't a great complaint against the Crown—not really. What the rebels were radically set on was their independence—little more, and certainly not a Nation upon a hill upon which streaming rays of light showered it with the aura of the eternal hereafter on earth.
In the accomplishment of its nationhood, America was not radical. If you would look for radical nation building there is the example of the French revolution—now that Republic was radical.
The Founders Echo
Although as to other foreigners it is thought better to discourage their settling together in large masses, wherein, as in our German settlements, they preserve for a long time their own languages, habits, and principles of government, and that they should distribute themselves sparsely among the natives for quicker amalgamation, yet English emigrants are without this inconvenience.
Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our settlements, and by herding together establish their languages and manners to the exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion?
The opinion advanced is undoubtedly correct, that foreigners will generally be apt to bring with them attachments to the persons they have left behind; to the country of their nativity, and to its particular customs and manners. They will also entertain opinions on government congenial with those under which they have lived; or, if they should be led hither from a preference to ours, how extremely unlikely is it that they will bring with them that temperate love of liberty, so essential to real republicanism?
In fairness, there was Thomas Paine. Though he'd said nothing of ideas and propositions he was sanguine in the matter of non-American Americans:
If there is a country in the world where concord . . . would be least expected, it is America . . . Made up as it is of people from different nations, accustomed to different forms and habits of government, speaking different languages, and more different in their modes of worship, it would appear that the union of such a people was impracticable . . . [yet] there is nothing to engender riots and tumults,” and “all the parts are brought into cordial unison.
—Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man
There was a caveat—if the government protected the equal rights of all.
The revolutionary man of Human Rights was not nearly the man of the Rights of Englishmen—Edmund Burke. The conceit of Payne with his Rights of Man, put him in thrall to the government ensuring equality and tranquility. What would the dear rouser think of the government today? I wonder, would he have it in him still to depend upon the government—to bring hodge-podges into cordial unison?
Seek out history. The "idea" nation, the "proposition nation" had a late start, long after the founding of the nation. It coextends with the height of American political Progressivism, though there was an inkling of it earlier, projected by, who else, the Puritans:
The English Puritans pulled down church and state to rebuild Zion on the ruins, and all the while it was not Zion, but America, they were building.
—James Russell Lowell, (New England Two Centuries Ago)
Wacky Puritanism gave way to great men, the Founders, steeped in the Rights of Englishmen. These were serious men who would not consider the 20th century's 'airy fairy' Idea nation, Proposition nation, as anything but preposterous.
The Ad Council television public service ad "I am an America" is hooey. It is a rainbow coalition of everyone NOT an American; and the lunacy became the message.
The more America becomes an idea, the faster it swirls down the drain. An idea will have rhetorical exponents but very few fighters. We defend, and we fight, for what we love. Ideas are always unlovable.
A Final Echo
Hippias of Elis (To the Greeks):
I regard you all as relatives and family and fellow citizens—by nature, not by convention. For by nature like is akin to like, but convention is a tyrant over humankind and often constrains people to act contrary to nature.
Hippias and I rest our case.
GOD bless all.
Cynicus Americanus was born, had as marvelous and happy a childhood as could be imagined, went to school, got a job, and several more, retired, was torn between wiling away the time writing or exposing rubbish, gibberish, claptrap, balderdash, hogwash, baloney, rot, garbage, jive, tripe, drivel, bilge, bull, guff, bunk, piffle, poppycock, phooey, hooey, malarkey, hokum, twaddle, gobbledygook, codswallop, flapdoodle, hot air; bunkum, tommyrot, bullshit, and crap. He decided to merge the projects. He is not as cynical as he appears . . . but almost.
To help New English Review continue to publish original and thought- provoking articles, please click here.
If you enjoyed this article and want to read more by Cynicus Americanus, please click here.
Recent Posts at The Iconoclast