Much have I travelled in realms of gold,
Many the goodly fields and cities, I have beheld,
But little did I see of America today,
Until I viewed an old YouTube clip
Of Dennis Prager at the University of Denver: http://youtu.be/XNUc8nuo7HI
Taking seriously the charge that “we” have failed to teach this generation what it means to be an American, I went back to “Letters From An American Farmer “ by J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur. Just “What is an American?” Crevecoeur’s answer:
“What then is the American, this new man?…He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He has become an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all races are melted into a new race of man, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the western pilgrims.” (from “Letter III,” 1782)
In revisiting the question, a couple books from my past come to mind: “Travels with Charley”, by John Steinbeck and “Blue Highways,” by William Least Heat-Moon. I’m thinking that “Travels with Charley” would be a great book to re-write in 2012, but I don’t have a pickup truck and I don’t own a dog.
In summary, Crevecoeur advanced the social concept of America as “The Great Melting Pot.” “e pluribus unum” –from many come ONE. Steinbeck, by contrast, showed scenes from very different worlds of people who were isolated in many respects from other parts of America. Perhaps, the division between the “have’s” and “have not’s” which Crevecoeur said existed only in Europe has now come to America.
Not to be lost in any discussion is the flow of money which now supports “diversity”. In another time, many of these would be called “rabble-rousers”, but today they are called “leaders” or “community activists”. It seems that America has devolved into a litigious society which garners America’s wealth into the pockets of those “power-brokers” who portray some disenfranchised people as “victims”.
People seem to have lost a sense of personal responsibility and a vision of the common good. What isn’t working? America has spent billions on “physical fitness” and the citizens are fatter than ever. America has spent billions on Medical research and treatments but people feel sicker than ever – or at least they are seeking more medical treatment than ever. Educational expenditures have outpaced every other inflationary measure and yet we have fewer solutions to society’s problems of quality of life.
Perhaps it is indeed true that America’s biggest problem is that the citizens have lost the pride of personal responsibility, have lost the will to live an honest, self-reliant life which results in making the world a better place to live. Crevecoeur referred to a “mild government”, well, that has been lost to big government, which requires increasing taxes. It is time for America to set a new course in the spirit of the founders, a nation based on principled, productive living.
Sources: “Letters From An American Farmer “ by J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur.
Dennis Prager at the University of Denver: http://youtu.be/XNUc8nuo7HI
“On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” John Keats