Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Ignorance & Arrogance: The American Legend
I don't think that we are the worst country in the world but neither do I think that we are as great as we have deluded ourselves into believing. This is a country founded in blood, built on taking over the land and forcing the native population off of their land. We made laws to justify this usurpation of property (the Discovery Doctrine), declaring that the Indians had never owned the land but merely occupied it until it was discovered by Europeans. It was the Europeans,who cultivated the land and fenced it in, that created ownership. The Supreme Court case, Johnson v. M'Intosh, 21 U.S. 543, L. Ed 681, 8 Wheat. 543 (1823), espousing this view is standard reading in every first year property law class. Then there's the whole slavery thing, building a country on the backs of a kidnapped and enslaved people. Emancipation of those slaves was followed by 100 years of Jim Crow--legalized, government sanctioned discrimination based on skin color that denied basic rights of citizenship to Americans having or perceived as having "one drop of black blood." There's the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, robbing people of their property and their dignity. Reparations finally were paid for the property but how do you provide reparations for stripping people of their dignity? Another question to ponder is why there was no such internment for German Americans, also our enemy in WWII? Then there is the new Arizona state law, that legalizes racial profiling. Arizona is a single state but at least seven other states have already announced that they are considering following Arizona's lead.
The tea partiers are the culmination of generations of Americans reinforcing a belief in the superiority of America simply by virtue of its existence. There is really nothing surprising about the birth and growth of the tea party; it is the expected progeny of a country that feeds ignorance to its youth and revises history to fit our notions of who we think we are with no regard for the truth of the past.
I think that the biggest problem with the tea partiers is that they reflect the pervasive ignorance and arrogance that characterizes this country. As a whole, we can be a pretty narrow minded and provincial lot. We have no sense of history, we view ourselves as morally superior to all other nations. Because we choose not to remember the past, we don't understand our present. In our minds we have always been great, always on the side of right, always behaved in a noble fashion. Every other nation pales in comparison. America is a legend in its own mind. Like most legends, there is some truth in ours but our delusions of grandeur are mostly the result of smoke and mirrors. Nonetheless, we cling to the legend and meet any attempt to disavow us of that legend with anger and self-righteous indignation.