There is an oft repeated quote attributed to Alex De Touqeville, a French historian who wrote Democracy in America in the early 1800’s. The quote says that “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great”. Of course this is where the water gets muddied as fact checkers say they can’t find it anywhere in his writings, and that this is in fact attributed to someone else, and so on and so forth. In other words, the rabbit trail of originality doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. Some argue instead that this attributed quote surmises what De Touqeville said throughout his writings more broadly, and others say it was something altogether different. Irregardless, it doesn’t seem that he actually said it. However, for the purpose of our time together today, lets propose that some frickin-body did say it, or better yet; we can we at least assert that many of us indeed believe it to be true down deep into the very “American Exceptionalism” of our heart of hearts.
Norman Rockwell Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
For the record, I think that we can say there is much to be said about conjecturing about such national sentiment, and the truth about whether or not we are good or ever were. Nonetheless, at least most of us boomers and beyond still passionately believe and remember a time when a Norman Rockwell painting showing the innate goodness of American life was something “not too far a stretch” from one’s actual experience. Many of us in fact remember days when doors were not locked at night and the evening meal could oft be interrupted by caring neighbors who just happened to “stop by” to visit and then graciously received to an open table. It was a time when if you acted up at your neighbor’s house, it was quite possible to get your ass whooped partially there just to warm you up until your father got home, who would then take the whooping to much greater heights. It was a time when traditional families were the ideal to strive for in life, and you could walk down the street with your best girl without “cat calls” by other men. A time when if you backed up out of a parking lot, the person coming behind you waited until you finished and then continued their course. Or when going through an intersection before a light turned yellow was not accompanied by someone else rushing through almost as if trying to hit you before you got through. Somehow ensuring that they would not only teach you a thing or two, but somehow equally justified in your pre-meditated murder should both work out in their favor! A time when Barney Fife and Andy smoking a cigarette on the front porch was about the most risqué thing on television, and the thought of a singer being sodomized by the devil himself for a gullible public’s viewing pleasure would have been a sure sign of the apocalypse before the morning light. So then, if you don’t indulge me in the assertion that the statement “America is good” was written by De Touqeville, or you’re of the contention that America’s goodness wasn’t in fact true. Perhaps one could at least admit that the pondering of a nostalgic yesteryear I have just put before you is now about as out of place as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris showing up at your church for an evangelical Wednesday night prayer service!
The New Morality
Having now explained a little about where I’m heading here, let me just say that regardless of where you stand on the matter (if one is paying attention at all) we now know that there has been a steady escalation in the last 60 years of a national departure of any innate moral goodness that was once interwoven into the fabric of our nation. For what we now have is a large population of our country assured that the disruption of that fabric in the name of diversity and inclusion should be torn at the very seams and burned to the ground. And to add to that observation, those who call for this do so under the guise of a “new morality” that some of us used to know as “calling the evil good and the good evil”. For the new morality is no morality at all, but a slow burn of finally imagining a world with no heaven and religion too now within actual reach. And to be sure, many who spout off about this type of moral relativism run amuck own at least some of the harm that has been done to cause the vitriol in the very real and virtual air that we now breathe. A contempt that is about as palpable as the screeching psychoacoustics of fingernails on a chalkboard! For to not hear it is in itself a contradiction of what most would call “the new norm”.
Nevertheless, I’ve been waxing and waning over this for quite awhile now. Somehow occasionally pinching myself to see if I unknowingly joined the gullibility of conspiracy theorists, or if this is indeed our new “facts on the ground” that I just alluded to. And though I’d hope that the larger demographic of this country would be in basic agreement about my rant and rave here, I’m smart enough to know that there are outliers; and as of this moment, they seem to be legion.
The Real Devil in the Details
So then; Is America Good? I think that’s a really good question to ponder. Yet in a world where good has been redefined and the language of goodness itself has been hijacked by deconstructionism of the once accepted terms somehow always lurking below the literary surface, the thickness of the ensuing fog can be blinding to a much larger populace than we before realized. But at least for those of us in between spouts of worldliness along with regular devotion to the one we believe defines the actual good, it’s not quite that simple. It’s something we can’t seem to shake. For as those who lay equally sprawled out on the floor in front of a now antiquated book for sustaining daily bread that once captured a western civilization’s mind and heart, the rottenness in our Denmark seems to be an adjudication of sorts written in permanent ink. Yet as I look around trying to peer into the whites of people’s eyes searching for a ray of light, I often fear I’m looking into a black hole of sorts. Almost as if one’s reciprocal humaneness is now not only indiscernible to my naked eye, but also equally devoid of a visible life mutually seeking for any goodness to bestow in-kind. And in just a generation or so, I think it’s at least safe to say that it’s because no one even knows what the Hell goodness actually means. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the real fly in the ointment now seems to be that no one seems to care!