Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Was Rev. Wright Right?

Yes and no. Most of the particulars that I heard Barack Obama's former preacher, Jeremiah Wright, cite -- the government's atomic bombing of innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, its foreign policy of oppression and murder, its enslavement and then humiliation of black people, its racially motivated "drug war" -- should be fair game. (His collectivist racism and his theory about AIDS as a means of genocide are off the wall.)

But in damning "America," Rev. Wright makes an error similar to those who claim to be proud of "America." What is America? The doctrine of nationalism encourages people to identify country with state. The two are integrated into one. This is a dangerous move because it leads people to think that if they criticize the state, they are criticizing the "country." (That's why it is considered improper for an American to dissent from government policy while in another country.) It also leads them to think that an attack on the state they live under is an attack on them.

The idea of country is an abstraction that subsumes many things, admirable, condemnable, and neutral. The Declaration of Independence and Revolution are part of the country. My home is part of the country. But so are slavery, the Trail of Tears, Jim Crow, imperialism, colonialism, conscription, aggressive wars, carpet bombing of cities, the A-bombs, the early centralization of power and betrayal of the revolution, and so on. No one should let himself be trapped by the question, Are you proud of your country? (Leave aside the fact that taking pride in things you had nothing to do with seems problematic.) What the heck does that mean? If it means, Are you proud of the government and the people who run it? then my answer is no.

Nationalism is a scourge, an ever-present threat to liberty. This is a point worth making whenever possible. I don't salute flags. I don't pledge allegiance. I don't sing national anthems. I don't wear flag lapel pins. I refuse to mouth platitudes about pride in the country. I admire specific things in American history, and I'm happy to enumerate them if asked. But I will have no part of package deals that are ultimately designed to win unthinking loyalty to the state and acceptance of its crimes.

P.S. David Henderson has an excellent column on this subject here. I agree with his partial defense of Wright and his criticism of Obama.


steven said...

Thank you, Sheldon.

Jimi G said...

It needs to be said, I'm speechless, Sheldon. Perfect post.