Scott has a new post up that touches on a subject many are loathe to examine- what is America? What does it mean to be American nowadays?
His ultimate conclusion is one that I share:
No one knows.
There is no clear consensus about what America is or what it means to be American. At least, not any longer.
There was, once. America was a rather unique nation in its founding. It wasn’t united around race, although that certainly was a factor. It wasn’t necessarily united around culture, although there was a lot shared there. What united America was its belief system- both political and religious. While there were still differences held by Americans about both, a general consensus could be formed in terms of politics and religion. Protestantism, in its various forms, was the general religious consensus. And politically there was unity around concepts derived from the English notion of Liberty (itself a particular product of the Liberal Enlightenment).
Again, plenty of disagreements. But more was held in common than wasn’t.
This is no longer the case. The differences between the different “wings” of the political spectrum are essentially irreconcilable. There is unity no longer. Back to this in a moment.
Taking a slight detour, this leads me to state something which has been explored many a time before: in order for a nation to exist as a nation, it needs something (or many somethings) to unite it. Whether it is ethnicity, culture or belief system (religious or political), there needs to be something that binds a people together for them to remain, you know, a people.
Accordingly, only a certain amount of diversity is tolerable in any polity. When there is too much diversity, the ties that bind the people of that polity together are too fragile to withstand stress. The weaker the ties, the less stress required for the structure to fall apart.
24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
When the stress becomes too much, something has gotta give. There are two outcomes: Either the nation falls apart (or shatters), or it stabilizes itself by enforcing greater unity. That is a fancy way of stating that diverse elements are suppressed or eliminated. Force or the fear of force can only keep this away for so long. Eventually one of these outcomes will occur.
Which brings me back to America. We already had one of these moments: the Civil War. [Unlike some of the folks around these parts, I don’t support one side in that war. Looking back on it I can see that both sides deserved to loose, albeit for slightly different reasons.]
Before the Civil War the unity of the country was perilously low. Irreconcilable differences had accumulated. The ties that bind had weakened to the breaking point. The stress moment came, and enforced unity was the result, rather than breakup.
We find ourselves again heading towards that kind of moment of truth. America is too diverse to stand any longer. Racially we are more diverse than ever. Same with Ethnicity. Culturally there have never been so many American sub-cultures. Religiously we have never been as fractured. And politically? Ask a Sanders voter and a Cruz voter what they have in common.
I don’t think it will necessarily end in another Civil War. But the divide we now face cannot last much longer. There is no clear answer to the question of “Who Are We?” One way or another, an answer is forthcoming. What it is I won’t hazard to guess. But that answer is coming.
9 What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
and there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already,
in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to happen
among those who come after.