By Rodney Howard-Browne and Paul L. Williams
(authors of “The Killing of Uncle Sam: The Demise of the United States of America”)
Note: This is the first in a series of columns.
The statement that Uncle Sam is dead seems absurd. How is it possible to kill a nation? America, we are told, is not a flesh and blood entity but rather an ideology – a shared belief in the principles set forth in such documents as the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. This concept of America dates back to 1910, when British author G. K. Chesterton wrote: “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed, one set forth with theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence.”
This concept, known as Creedalism, has been advanced by sociologists, historians and political theorists, such as Gunnar Myrdal, Allan Bloom and Arthur M. Schlesinger. It has been endorsed by modern U. S. presidents including George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Creedalism has been ingrained in the contemporary American psyche. It has been proclaimed by Democrats and Republicans. It has been taught in schools and upheld in courts of law. It remains a “truism” virtually beyond dispute in the public forum and serves as the basis of political correctness. Who can argue that America is not unique; that, aside from the remnants of the Indian tribes, the United States has no native population; that all of the 323 million people who inhabit our nation are either themselves immigrants or descendents of more or less recent immigrants? And since Americans are from different countries, they must be united by something – and that something has to be their basic beliefs as expressed by the Founding Fathers and upheld by U.S. jurisprudence. What else can it be?
The belief that the American people are united by scraps of paper may be a comforting conceit for modern multiculturalists, but it has no basis in reality. The colonists who came to its shores from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to the outbreak of the revolutionary war were of English and Scottish stock, augmented by a sizable number of settlers from Holland, Sweden, Germany and Ireland. They were predominantly Protestant and gave a Protestant direction to American life from the beginning. At the time of the American Revolution, the British-Protestant element constituted at least 76 percent of the 3,000,000 whites. In addition, the land was occupied by three quarter of a million blacks who had been imported as slaves from Africa.
The great influx came in the next century. The population of America soared in the years from 1840 to 1920 as over 35,000,000 immigrants washed up on our shores in three great waves, by the time the great migrations came to an end with the legislative restrictions of the 1920s. By this time, 35,000,000 Europeans – not Asians, Africans or Hispanics – had arrived to start a new life in the new republic: 4,500,000 from Ireland, 4,000,000 from Great Britain, 6,000,000 from central Europe, 2,000,000 from the Scandinavian countries, 5,000,000 from Italy, 8,000,000 from Eastern Europe, and 3,000,000 from the Balkans. The people were diverse ethnically but not religiously, culturally, or even linguistically. They shared a common Western heritage; 95 percent were Protestants, Catholics, or Jews (63 percent Protestant, 23 percent Catholic and 4 percent Jews); and all, in time, became obliged for the purposes of education and employment to speak English. America is a product of the English language, European culture and Western religion.
The model for assimilation remained as fixed as Plymouth Rock. Will Herberg points this out as follows in “Protestant, Catholic, Jew”: “It would be a mistake to infer that the American’s image of himself – and that means the ethnic group’s image of himself as he becomes an American – is a composite or synthesis of the ethnic elements that have gone into the making of an American. It is nothing of the kind: the American’s image of himself is still the Anglo-American ideal it was at the beginning of our national existence.”
Recognizing that the United States represented a unique blend of Western Europeans within an Anglo-American model, legislation was enacted to safeguard the racial and ethnic composition of the country as it existed at the turn of the 20th century. Such laws culminated in The Immigration Act of 1924, which limited immigration by a quota system. The number of newcomers was now limited to 2 percent of each nationality who lived in the country not in 1924 but in 1890. The reliance of this legislation on the ethnic composition of America before the turn of the century guaranteed that the majority of new arrivals in the future would be from Northern Europe.
It is hard to conceive of an act of Congress that could be more culturally biased and yet it received nearly unchallenged bipartisan support. The New York Times editorialized: “The country has a right to say who shall and who shall not come in. … The basis of restriction must be chosen with a view not to the interest of any group or groups in this country … but rather with a view to the country’s best interests as a whole.” The quota system held firm until 1965, when it was decried as “racist” and “intolerable” by Teddy Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
America was a nation.
But what is a nation?
“Nation” comes from the Latin word nascere, meaning “to be born.” Over 100 years ago, the French historian Ernest Renan defined a nation as follows:
A nation is a living soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one, constitute this soul, this spiritual principle. One is in the past, the other in the present. One is the common possession of a rich heritage of memories; the other is the actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to preserve worthily the undivided inheritance which has been handed down. … The nation, like the individual, is the outcome of a long past of efforts, and sacrifices, and devotions. … To have common glories in the past, a common will in the present; to have done great things together, to will to do the like again – such are the essential conditions for the making of a people.
America was a nation because of its lack of diversity. Its organic nature stemmed from its very tribalism, the fact that the people who inhabited the country shared a common heritage, a common history and a common faith. As a nation, it was personified by Uncle Sam, a character derived from Samuel Wilson, a meatpacker from Troy, New York, who supplied rations for American soldiers during the War of 1812. Gradually, however, this figure came to resemble Andrew Jackson, the rough and tumble president who won the Battle of New Orleans, abolished the nation’s central bank and nearly clubbed to death a would-be assassin with his cane. But even fictitious characters, no less than nations, can be killed.
The demise of the United States emerged from a cabal of British aristocrats who sought to establish a global government. Their motive was not idealistic. It did not stem from a dream of universal brotherhood, but rather from their desire to lay hold of the world’s riches. Riches do not come from paper currency but natural resources: gold, oil, natural gas, silver, copper, iron ore, uranium, coal, cobalt and bauxite. The scramble for these resources causes the breakdown of borders, the uprooting of native populations and the onset of war. Since no one possessed greater wealth than Uncle Sam, he had to be killed.
Uncle Sam is gone – visible only on Turner Movie Classics and reruns of “Ozzie and Harriet.” In his wake, the country has transformed into a place unrecognizable – a place plagued by drugs, poverty, pornography and violence. Schools have become warzones and racial conflict commonplace. Forty percent of the present-day inhabitants of the United States do not have a Northern European heritage. There is no blood that binds them. Fifty percent of Americans never darken the doorway of a church; one in five has no religious affiliation; and the country is now inhabited by more Muslims than Jews. There is no faith that unites them. Modern Americans remain almost completely oblivious of their history, with the vast majority (84 percent) unable to identify the author of the Constitution. There is no history that grounds them. Seventy percent believe that the strength of America lies in its “diversity,” and 90 percent remain unaware that a quota system ever existed. The country is not unified by language, let alone morality and religion. “One half of America,” as Pat Buchanan points out, “sees the other as ‘a basket of deplorables … racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic bigots.” And the land of opportunity has given way to a country in which 46 percent say they are underemployed, and 49 percent remain on government assistance to make ends meet.
What happened to America?
The story starts with Cecil Rhodes and South Africa – the subject of tomorrow’s column.
Rodney Howard-Browne and Paul L. Williams are the authors of “The Killing of Uncle Sam: The Demise of the United States of America.”