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  • The Assault on American Identity and Cohesion

    Posted by David Foster on April 17th, 2011 (All posts by )

    Reading Sgt Mom’s new historical novel inspired me to research some additional sources on that era of history. At the library, I picked up A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory, by Randy Roberts and James Olson. The first half of the book is devoted to the actual historical events, the second half to the differing ways these events have been portrayed in legend and in formal history over the century and a half that has passed since they occurred.

    At the end of the book, the authors describe a commemoration that was held at the Alamo in 1999. There were thousands of people there–one attendee they noticed was “an Anglo graduate student from the University of Texas, filled with passionate intensity…plain, metal-rimmed glasses rested down on his nose, and his goatee was trimmed a la Leon Trotsky.”

    They also noticed a Hispanic family with three girls ages 8 to 12. The father, a CPA with a Wharton degree, photographed his family in front of the limestone walls of the chapel and told them briefly about the Alamo, telling the girls that “it stood for courage and integrity, virtues they needed to cultivate in their own lives.”

    At that point, the Anglo graduate student arrived at the chapel door. He asked, “Why are you even here today? Don’t you know what this place stands for? It represents the rape and destruction of your people.”


    The Hispanic man replied politely at first, but the graduate student was persistent:

    “You don’t understand, you just don’t understand,” he continued. “You shouldn’t be teaching your kids this stuff.”

    …at which point the CPA replied with understandable irritation:

    Soy tejano (I’m a Texan]. Mind your own goddamned business. It’s my Alamo too.”

    The grad student’s behavior was, of course, not just obnoxious but racist. He did not care about the background, beliefs, experiences, profession, or emotional life of the man he was addressing–all he saw was skin color, and all he heard was accent.

    I don’t know how this particular student came by his opinions, but the belief system he demonstrated–in his fundamentally racist worldview and his view of America as an imperialist power–is available for purchase, and is heavily promoted, at many American universities. (See this post on how American history is being taught at Bowdoin College today.)

    According to Robert and Olson, the teaching of American history has been greatly influenced by the New Western History movement, which emerged from Yale University in the early 1980s. “Traditional historians, alienated by the crusading zeal of the revisionists, accused them of examining the past from a neo-Marxist perspective and seeing only class conflict, imperialism, and racial tension..For some traditionalists, the New Western Historians had bulldozed the profession, formulating a party line that brooked no opposition and tolerated no dissent.”

    It is true that American history, as taught many decades ago, did tend excessively toward uncritical hero-worship. But it is equally true that much teaching of that history today tends toward unreflective demonization. Politically-minded intellectuals often like to talk about the virtues of “nuance” and their superior understanding thereof, but nuance seems to quickly go by the wayside when there is an opportunity to portray the U.S., its civil society, and its people in a bad light: all those shades of gray turn into black and white pretty rapidly. And the obsessive focus on group identities, as reflected in the views of the grad students at the Alamo commemoration, is particularly destructive.

    Neptunus Lex:

    The innate character flaw of the political right, with its thrumming appeals to the logic of blood and soil, is its lamentable tendency to go in search of enemies abroad. The left, on the other hand, with its own appeals to the politics of envy and class warfare, is content to find mortal enemies closer to hand.

    Today’s “progressive” movement seeks to reduce American society to nothing more than an arena for a neo-Hobbesian struggle of group against group–and its obsessive focus with race and ethnicity as core determinants of group identity, as exemplified by the behavior of the grad student cited above, show that today’s “progressivism” borrows as much from Fascism as it does from Marxism.

    This worldview has gained great power and influence–most notably in academia, journalism, and entertainment–and has declared war on American civil society. If not checked, the spread of the “progressive” Leftist belief system will destroy our society. And the collapse, if it does happen, will be a lot less enjoyable than many people seem to anticipate.

     

    17 Responses to “The Assault on American Identity and Cohesion”

    1. Sgt. Mom Says:

      I recall very dimly reading an account of a Tejano father with his children at the Alamo, reminding an obnoxious fellow like the grad student that it was their Alamo, too. That’s one of the things that inspired me to include some Tejano characters in “Daughter of Texas.” Another local author I met last Christmas in Goliad had a terrific book out, about the Tejano partisans who fought against Santa Anna’s Centralists; he was very proud and passionate about the subject, as he was a descendent of some of them. What really happened is usually much more complicated a simple focus on group identities and grievances will accomodate.

    2. David Foster Says:

      Were you by any chance at the 1999 commemoration he mentioned?

    3. Madhu Says:

      First – Sgt. Mom, I need to get a Kindle, finally, so I can download books and yours too.

      Second – is self-publishing easy? I have a couple of short stories that I was going to send to a literay magazine (in order to get promptly rejected) but I kind of like the idea of self-publishing. It fits the bloggy ethos.

      Third – on this post: isn’t that typical! I should write up one of my college story days about how the picture painted of Indian immigrants by my progressive classmates didn’t match the thoroughly middle-class nature of my family life. Seriously, how effin’ patronizing to treat someone that way. Aargh….

      - Madhu

    4. Madhu Says:

      Er, you know what? I think sometimes I go too far in demonizing our past mistakes. I’ve been spending some time reading about our bureaucratic Washington cultures, international aid theory, and foreign affairs.

      Er, interventionism run amuck as global development theory. Afpak and our history there is my hobby-horse.

      Maybe I’m being too negative, too? It’s hard to strike the right balance and be fair, isn’t it?

      - Madhu

    5. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Hi, David – no, I was not – and I think I read of the incident, or one like it on a blog, where the annoyed father finally answered, “Hey, Bolillo(white bread), it was our Alamo, too!”

      Madhu, yes – please, get a Kindle or a Nook, or whatever suits your needs! My books are available as either, or if you are old-fashioned, they’re also in print editions. And yes, it is fairly easy to publish independently … with the following caveats noted:
      Have someone edit your material – I mean, a serious and sharp-eyed copy editor review and correct. Have someone fairly experienced as a graphic artist do some kind of cover design for you, something that will look good in a thumbnail on a website. And finally, have a website, or a blog or some kind of platform to do publicity for your book/stories. You can pay outright for some of these, or learn to do them yourself (not the editing, though – impossible to edit yourself!)or exchange services with someone who has those skills. Other than that – couldn’t be a better time to go out and be an indy writer!

    6. Michael Says:

      The assault isn’t only from the left. Parts of the right have made a cottage industry out of denying the Americanness of our current President: How many city dwellers, minorities (ethnic or religious), first- and second-generation immigrants do they implicitly question in the process?

    7. David Foster Says:

      Michael, suppose just for the sake of argument that someone ran for president whose birth was NOT in accord with the constitutional provision governing eligibility for the Presidency.

      And suppose that someone, or some group of someones, pointed this out.

      Would you say that they are implicitly questioning “city dwellers, minorities (ethnic or religious), first- and second-generation immigrants”?

    8. Mike K Says:

      It’s amusing that McCain’s citizenship was questioned before the birther movement got going. He was born in the Canal Zone when his father was on active duty.

    9. bill Says:

      Didn’t Obama first get elected by eliminating the competition? He questioned details of signatures his opponents had gotten, and got them kicked out due to technicalities?

      But any that question Obama’s details gets targeted and labeled as “birther”. This in one slippery fellow, with a cooperative media.

    10. Michael Kennedy Says:

      The “birther issues” are more about the absence of any records on Obama from college or his work history, such as it is. There are also questions about what might be on his long form birth certificate such as “Religion: Muslim.” The people who believe he was not born in Hawaii are a fringe but those with questions are all tarred with that brush.

    11. Jim Bennett Says:

      Both the McCain and Obama citizenship issues, and the vagueness of the phrase “natural born citizen” demonstrate the need for a step in the process of Presidential candidacy where somebody, early on, and with full subpoena power, makes a definitive assessment of the candidate’s eligibility. The obvious time and place would be when registering with the Federal Elections Commission. They could have a panel, and a provision that appeal from that panel would go straight to the Supreme Court, given the time-criticality of an definitive decision. They could have obtained an opinion on whether McCain’s circumstances did in fact constitute natural born citizenship, and they could have subpoenaed the original Hawaiian records for Obama, sending federal marshals over to obtain the documents as needed.

    12. Joseph Somsel Says:

      If one is of Hispanic descent, where would you rather live, Corpus Christi or Matamoros? I’ve been to neither but I can take a guess as to which has the better quality of life, the cleaner environment, and the higher degree of personal safety.

      It is becoming clear that the global battleground is not Afghanstan or Libya but here in the US, with our open political system. We are vulnerable as a culture and as a government at the local voter registrar’s office or in the public school classroom – not in a forward position full of Marines or an airbase in Malta.

    13. Mike H Says:

      Dont know if you saw this, but it certainly plays into the theme of the post.

      http://www.mindingthecampus.com/forum/2011/04/us_history_as_taught_at_bowdoi.html

    14. Mike H Says:

      Silly me .. didnt see the link.

    15. David Foster Says:

      Joseph S…”It is becoming clear that the global battleground is not Afghanstan or Libya but here in the US, with our open political system”

      I’m afraid it is both: we are faced with a two-front war.

      Back in 2006, I visited an old industrial facility that has been restored to operating condition. One of the machines there, which dates from around 1900, is an Attrition Mill: it consists of two steel disks which are driven at high speed in opposite directions, crushing the substance to be milled between them. I immediately saw this machine as a metaphor for the threats facing our society.

    16. Michael Kennedy Says:

      The goofy graduate student at the Alamo is very similar to another story today. A “private university” student in Boston moved to Jamaica Plain about 6 months ago and then started a blog about his new home. Being a typical Boston undergrad, he is a lefty and begins his blog with an attack on plans by Whole Foods market to move into an empty store being vacated by a Hispanic market that didn’t make it.

      A good summary of the story is here but it is going all over the internet and is hilarious. There is even a parody site now.

      His argument is that Whole Foods is a store for white people and allowing it to move in will attract more white people, thereby ruining the neighborhood. I’m not kidding.

      I wonder what makes these kids so serious and so clueless at the same time. I can remember myself at that stage pretty well and I was really naive at 18 but had wised up a bit by 20. My youngest daughter will be 21 next month and she has matured a great deal in the past year. How does someone get to be a grad student and still be such a doofus? Maybe you have to be a lefty, too.

    17. David Fleck Says:

      “How many city dwellers,…”

      City dwellers? All our cities are foreign soil now? Huh?