Yesterday, I had the privilege of seeing this movie for a second time and thoroughly enjoyed both experiences (on the second time around, I had to bring a pen and notepad). This political documentary seeks to unwind a lot of the political propaganda out there – on the campaign trail and in the classroom – that says that America is based on an unjust foundation and thus must be removed or “fundamentally transformed.”
Dinesh D’Souza did not want to direct a one-sided propaganda film himself to rebut the false narrative of America-shaming. Instead, he engages with top authors and academics in order to assert his point. This movie brings to light commonly unknown facts concerning the loss of land, labor, territory, resources, and, yes, even the American Dream by the American hand. How do we rectify what is wrong?
Some voices in the hallowed halls of academia, like professor Ward Churchill, suggest the annihilation of our country via an atomic bomb if given the opportunity. When D’Souza asked Churchill in an interview if he would drop an atomic bomb on America since he personally holds that our country is the new evil empire – like Nazi Germany – would he do it, it was stunning just to see the expression on his face. It was almost like he had never thought of it before but was relishing the idea; his eyes widened almost like you would do if somebody offered you a deal you couldn’t resist. Those were his eyes, his body language; but more importantly, his verbal answer was yes. Yes, the evil, brutally wicked United States ought to be bombed and bombed to its core.
Now is this societally healthful? How can we progress as a society with liberal self-hating? And by “self-hating,” I really mean “other”-hating, but I say “self”-hating so that I can feel better about myself. When I say “self-hating” I am actually referring to capitalists or people who are more well-off than myself. When I say “self-hating” I am really wanting other people to do the suffering – to do the “penance” for America.
So, D’Souza weeds through all of this. What I liked about the movie is that it went through and took care to unfold the argument point by point: that America is an evil, awful place (so much so that millions of non-Americans break into America annually just to experience a part of the pie). Howard Zinn’s shame-narrative in The People’s History of the United States of America, which is required reading in most public schools today, is contrasted heavily with the narrative presented by French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited our shores in the nineteenth century to see what made America tick so exceptionally well for such a long time. And what he found is truly remarkable, indeed.
His research, recorded in Democracy in America, does a better job at analyzing the American heritage than Mr. Zinn ever could – including in describing how slavery was a societal dampener in the places where it was practiced. The French aristocrat at one point even stands on the border of Kentucky and Ohio and makes an incredible observation: Kentucky, a slave state, had plenty of farms but Ohio had industry coming out at all sides, even though either land mass was completely suitable for either economy. What happened? Making a timeless assertion, he observed that since the slave could not keep the property he or she labored for and the master simply relied on the labor of his slaves if he wanted anything involving work to be done, both master and slave experienced far less than what their human potential merited. Since both elements in this relationship of coercion and lack of freedom endured in the South, the South suffered from a retardation of growth from a purely economic point of view. And that’s not to mention the human tragedy in all of this! But that is part of the human tragedy in all of this, isn’t it? – the inability to keep the product of your own labor and the inhibitor of dependence and utter reliance upon another. The master could not “get ahead in life” because of the slaves. Only when he could gain his own freedom, could they have gotten theirs.
The humanitarian and benevolence endeavors by faith communities impressed this young philosopher, because the civil government was not into the charity business back then. But charity was enduring! Even today, the “secular left” is out-given by fourfold by their political counterparts. Not that one is tallying numbers here, but since the Left keeps bringing up how hateful and disinterested Americans are without the constant help of the government, we have to step back and say to ourselves, “But I’m seeing a different story here.” How hateful and disinterested is it to wish a little more hard-earned money to stay in the pocketbooks of Americans, like Ronald Reagan once said? That’s not selfishness; that’s humanitarianism! That is prosperity! You cannot talk about poverty without also talking about its antidote – the lifting up of the individual out of his or her economic plight, the elevation of an individual from one economic level of income to another. Why. Is. This. Wrong?
America did something different with slavery. There were advocates seeking to abolish it before the nation’s inception, but the Founding Documents are what enable Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln and others to bring it to a close forever. Slavery actually persists to this day in some places around the world. But what is uniquely American is that we chose to fight a great war to seek its once and final destruction.
Have you ever been taught that the U.S. was the only country with slavery?