From the NYT:
David Brooks FEB. 3, 2017
The Library of Congress’s main building is one of the most magnificent buildings in Washington, or in the country. It was built in a pivotal, tumultuous time. During the 23 years in the late 19th century that it took to design and build the structure, industrialization transformed America. More people immigrated to America than in the previous 250 years combined. …
In that story, America is placed at the vanguard of the great human march of progress. America is the grateful inheritor of other people’s gifts. It has a spiritual connection to all people in all places, but also an exceptional role. America culminates history. It advances a way of life and a democratic model that will provide people everywhere with dignity. The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind.
This historical story was America’s true myth. … It gave America a mission in the world — to spread democracy and freedom.
Admittedly, John Quincy Adams, who knew all the Founding Fathers from Franklin onward, said on July 4, 1821:
Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.
She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit. …
But JQA’s viciously Czarist rant is not who we are. JQA was America’s first minister to Russia, so, obviously, he was subverted there. Here’s photographic proof that JQA, long before Trump, was the original Siberian Candidate:
In defense of JQA, however, he never had a chance to see Fiddler on the Roof to learn the True Meaning of America. But what’s Trump’s excuse?
It gave us an attitude of welcome and graciousness, to embrace the huddled masses yearning to breathe free and to give them the scope by which to realize their powers.
The Zeroth Amendment requires us to be Huddled Masochists. It’s who we are.
But now the myth has been battered. …
And so along come men like Donald Trump and Stephen Bannon with a countermyth. Their myth is an alien myth, frankly a Russian myth. It holds, as Russian reactionaries hold, that deep in the heartland are the pure folk who embody the pure soul of the country — who endure the suffering and make the bread. But the pure peasant soul is threatened.
This alien Russian myth was made up by the notorious Czar Thomas the Jefferson.
It is threatened by the cosmopolitan elites and by the corruption of foreign influence.
Similarly, Czar George the Washington wrote in his notoriously virulent Farewell Address, with help from Grand Duke Alexander the Hamilton:
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.
Back to Brooks:
The true American myth is dynamic and universal — embracing strangers and seizing possibilities. The Russian myth that Trump and Bannon have injected into the national bloodstream is static and insular. It is about building walls, staying put. Their country is bound by its nostalgia, not its common future.
The odd thing is that the Trump-Bannon myth is winning. The policies that emanate from it are surprisingly popular. The refugee ban has a lot of support. Closing off trade is popular. Building the wall is a winning issue.
The Trump and Bannon anschluss has exposed the hollowness of our patriotism.
“Anschluss” … I thought Trump and Bannon were Russians, not Germans. It’s hard to keep up …
It has exposed how attenuated our vision of national greatness has become and how easy it was for Trump and Bannon to replace a youthful vision of American greatness with a reactionary, alien one.
We are in the midst of a great war of national identity. We thought we were in an ideological battle against radical Islam, but we are really fighting the national myths spread by Trump, Bannon, Putin, Le Pen and Farage.
We can argue about immigration and trade and foreign policy, but nothing will be right until we restore and revive the meaning of America. Are we still the purpose-driven experiment
As described in The Federalist Papers by founding father Rick Warren
Most famously in his Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our Proposition Generators brought forth on this continent, a new idea, conceived in immigration, and dedicated to the proposition that all imperialism is good:
Invade the World! Invite the World!
and Emma Lazarus
Founding Mother and authoress of the Zeroth Amendment in the Bill of Rights: “If anybody anywhere wants to move to America, you can’t stop them or even look at them funny because that would be racist, you racist.”
wrote about: assigned by providence to spread democracy and prosperity; to welcome the stranger; to be brother and sister to the whole human race; and to look after one another because we are all important in this common project?
Or are we just another nation, hunkered down in a fearful world?
Do you ever get the impression that David Brooks sometimes draws his inspiration for his columns by reading the latest satires on iSteve and then crafting the Platonic Essence of whatever thinking I had just parodied?