October 5, 2019
Author: Chilton Williamson
President Trump is blamed daily, chiefly by liberals and quislings within the Republican Party, for “dividing” the country by his “rhetoric” instead of “bringing us together.” What could they possibly have in mind by that?
If the United States were a genuine nation rather than a legal and political abstraction, we should already “be together,” the majority of the American people in general agreement on the fundamental structures and the moral, philosophical, and social convictions that make a nation a nation. But we do not agree on any one of these things; indeed we agree less and less as the years, and more recently the months, go by. The historical causes of this absence of national unanimity are obvious.
American industrialists after the War Between the States, seeking access to a vast pool of cheap manual labor from which to staff their factories, successfully lobbied the federal government to allow mass immigration from countries across Europe. Advocates of Manifest Destiny before 1861 and Republican imperialists at the end of the 19thcentury and the beginning of the 20th pressed for territorial expansion and annexation, and the inclusion of distant and very different peoples within the American polity. Republican Cold Warriors in the 1950s and 60s and neoconservatives from the end of the Cold War until the present day demanded—and got—expanded refugee programs and more generous immigration quotas for countries of the former Soviet bloc and for our “allies” in the fight against Communism and militant Islam and on behalf of imposing “democracy” around the world. Liberals and liberalism, including laissez-faire sectarians, are heavily responsible for the Tower of Babel the United States has become. The responsibility is not theirs alone, however. Since 1800, American politicians have failed to justify their historical reputation as “nation builders.” They have worked rather to guarantee that the territorial, juridical, and political entity they were creating would never be a nation at all, but a jerrybuilt structure with the semblance of a nation but doomed to eventual collapse from its own weight, over-complexity, and incoherence. That is the inevitable fate of a country whose 330 million citizens (plus tens of million uncounted illegal residents) lack a common history, a common religion, a common ethnic identity, a common culture, and a common anything else one might think of.
The United States did not grow from thirteen English colonies ranged along the eastern seaboard into a continental and finally a world empire primarily because the generations of politicians that succeeded the founding one were ambitious to enlarge the boundaries and population of the world’s first popular democracy for democracy’s own sake–to vindicate the democratic principle and ensure the survival of the democratic experiment. This happened because the American people, like the political representatives they voted into office, hungered for land, wealth, and opportunity beyond the Appalachians; and because the federal government was possessed from the start by the insatiable American ambition for more: more territory, more resources, more people, more trade, a burgeoning economy without limits, and more diplomatic influence and military clout to wield against the European powers. No sooner had a Constitution establishing a free republic been ratified than the American political class and the majority of its constituencies lost interest in a republic and fell victim to the dream of empire instead. Given the geographical circumstances, this was probably inevitable. So was the slapdash, un-foresighted, ill considered, rash, and irresponsible manner in which American politicians, from those in Washington down to small-town politicos, set about making that dream a reality. The British Empire is said to have been created from absence of mind, yet the piece-by-piece assembly of its American equivalent was even more opportunistic and haphazard. In building the American Empire, hardly anyone in Washington and the state governments considered the folly of tacking on the Indian nations, or the northern half of Mexico, or Cuba (which fortunately never happened), or Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Pacific Islands, to what was still called the Republic. Nor did the majority of the people in charge consider the predictable consequences of encouraging immigration from the countries of southern and eastern Europe after 1865—and in the following century from all over the world. In the first instance, the only thought was for the immediate economic benefits mass immigration would have for the industrialization of the nation. In the second, humanitarian sentiments appeared to justify the acceptance of refugees from Europe before and after the Second World War. During the 1950’s and ‘60s Washington used generous refugee and immigration policies as a form of propaganda in the Cold War to prove that the world’s leading capitalist country could be as generous, “democratic,” and humane as the Communist ones. Most recently, the desire to make reparations for the supposed sins of white America against other races and other cultures by welcoming them in large numbers into the United States has driven America’s exorbitant immigration policy—and America’s excessive population increase. All these frantic efforts at nation building occurred over a mere two centuries. The great nations of Europe, by comparison, were founded, formed, and shaped across a millennium.
The United States was created piecemeal and opportunistically, always without a plan in the minds of the people who oversaw the process—unless their idea was to create a territorial region in the image of the Balkan Peninsula on the ahistoric assumption that it would somehow all come together—and stay together– afterwards. In this sense, it seems a miracle that the nation has held together as long as it has, after having first come apart and then been forcibly reunited in the 1860s. Since 1945 the United States, slowly at first but with accelerating speed, has been fragmenting along every line of possible division–religious, moral, intellectual, cultural, racial, sexual, class, and political. There is therefore no hope of “bringing us together,” since in fact Americans never really were together. Humpty-Dumpty was always as crazed with cracks as a china egg. He cannot be put back together again, the bits and pieces themselves having been further fractured and splintered into shards beyond reassembly by the fall.
The United States is destined to come apart piecemeal, in the same manner as she was created. We cannot as yet foresee when, or in what circumstances, or how this will happen. “Day after day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” We are privy neither to this speech, nor this knowledge. All we can say with any certainty is that whatever happens next will be unexpected, as indeed every event in modern politics has recently become.
5 October 2019