What Keeps Us Together?

At The American Interest Andrew Michta takes the note of an urgent necessity:

The once-accepted view of America as one nation, with the attendant sense of pride rooted in the belief in its exceptionalism, has been steadily losing ground over the last three decades, while secondary drivers of group identity, such as race and ethnicity, claim ever-greater prominence in our public discourse.

Unfortunately, his prescriptions are weak tea:

To start reversing the deconstruction of Americanism, we need a concerted counter-revolution, one in which traditional American common sense is elevated above grievance-mongering and tribalist point-scoring. We should start with the schools. Congress ought to take a hard look at how government funds are spent by our college and university administrators. The pressure could be even more effective if alumni donors and parents start to demand accountability from the academic institutions they endow. The one-sided indoctrination of our future generation must stop now.


Furthermore, Congress needs to bring back the idea of mandatory national service, be that in military form or through some kind of mandatory community work, so that Americans from all socio-economic backgrounds can discover their fellow citizens“out there”—so that they can put a real face and name to the broader nation to which they all owe allegiance.

Read the whole thing. Something he never addresses is what are these “ideals and values”? They are what G. K. Chesterton noted when he said that “America is a country founded on a creed”. IMO a good place to start is with the preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

It should be noted that “general Welfare” does not mean the federal government’s paying your health care bills, your college tuition, or your rent. It means things that are good for all of us, are non-excludable and non-rivalrous (like a stable currency or the rule of law).

To be honest, I think he’s whistling past a graveyard. America as a nation cannot be revived without taking steps that too many people would find intolerable.

13 comments… add one
  • TarsTarkas Link

    Those who find intolerable actions that would unite us as a people and as a nation are the problem, not the rest of us. Too many of them believe (or pretend to believe) that perfection is the standard everything should be measured against, and are permanently enraged because others fall short of those expectations or refuse to abide by them.

  • steve Link

    Can you give me some dates when you think that we actually lived up to our creed? Where everyone thought that we were exceptional? I think the periods when that existed were fairly brief and sprinkled throughout our history, not sustained for very long. I think that a large part of what we are going through now is what we have always gone through. Some of our early elections were pretty vicious. That said, the one big difference we have now is the huge media presence, including social media, that works hard and gets paid very well to make us hate each other over small differences (for the most part). I dont have an answer for that problem.


  • bob sykes Link

    Back in 1940, when the US was 85% White, you could argue this was one nation. With the White fraction under 70% and falling rapidly, you cannot say that. We will soon be a White minority country, a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural empire like Tsarist Russia, And an brutal, top-down dictatorship.

    There are 10 to 15 million Americans between 18 and 21. To keep them in mandatory two year service would require about $300 billion per year ($30,000 per caput per year) in order to cover food, housing, medical, education/training, salary. Say half the military budget.

    Get serious.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    I’m afraid of my neighbors, most of them are aggrieved POC. Property values have dropped, making rent cheaper, and my options fewer.
    Still resisting my wife on that handgun.

  • steve Link

    “Back in 1940, when the US was 85% White, you could argue this was one nation.”

    The Japanese were in internment camps by 1942. Jim Crow meant black people couldn’t even sh$t the same place as white people. Women couldn’t much hold a job other than nurse or teacher (well, they could be a riveter for a few short years). Other than that, everyone else benefitted from American ideals. On the plus side by 1940 we had stopped deporting American citizens across the border. So, at best you can say that 1940 was a brief pause when we had stopped deporting citizens but hadn’t started putting other citizens into the US version of summer camp. (It would politically incorrect to say concentration camp, even though it fits the definition.)

    Definition of concentration camp
    : a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard


  • During the same period you’re highlighting the Germans, French, Italians, Dutch, etc. not only sent their own citizens to concentration camps, they executed them by the millions. Do you know how many Japanese-Americans were executed in the internment camps? Zero.

    I think the internment camps were a bad idea but I have more understanding for the practice than you do. 80-90 years ago it was a commonplace practice for Japanese-Americans to send their children to be reared in Japan so they would speak Japanese without an American accent and be culturally Japanese. It wasn’t just their ethnicity and race that invited suspicion. However, as they proved, their loyalties should never have been doubted.

    You condemn us because we’re not living up to our ideals and values perfectly. However imperfectly applied they are still what we have in common. We don’t have ties of blood that unite us or a millennia-old shared history. We don’t even have a shared language, religion, or denomination. If you have something else to propose as the basis for building a nation, please propose it.

    I don’t agree with bob’s at least implied claim that the United States needs a super-majority of people of primarily European descent to maintain any sense of national unity. Some of the most patriotic people I know are black. Or Japanese-American. I do think that acculturation of immigrants should be the norm, the expected. I don’t think we can remain together peaceably without revering the Founding Fathers and despising our history.

  • bob sykes Link

    Let me make it explicit. The US needs a supermajority of over 80% white Europeans to be a unified country. Period. And any immigrants we allow in, which should be very few, must acculturate to the dominant white majority.

    That is the only way to preserve democracy in America. Every multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country is a brutal dictatorship, usually suffering under the domination of one minority. The dictatorship is necessary to hold the state together and maintain minimal peace. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is a recent example. Tsarist Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire are others.

    Whether or not it is possible for minorities to achieve full equality in a state with a dominant supermajority is a good question. Israel has not achieved that, even assuming it is a goal for them. I can’t think of any country that has.

  • Every multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country is a brutal dictatorship

    That isn’t true. It isn’t true of Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland, or Sweden, each of which fits that characterization. What is true is that in each of those cases the majority culture dominates the minority culture economically, socially, and politically. That is even still true in Canada which has really struggled to bring equality to the Francophone minority.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    What keeps us together is the Dollar, if the Libra takes hold, we’re screwed.

  • steve Link

    “You condemn us because we’re not living up to our ideals and values perfectly”

    I dont condemn. I have never condemned the country and doubt I ever will. There is much that is good about our country that should be valued. (I told my wife her cold shrimp soup this weekend sucks. Even she understood that was not condemnation, just criticism.)

    When less that 50% of our people are anywhere close to living up to our ideals, I dont think that is criticizing for failing to be perfect, but pointing out that we were actually pretty far away from where we claim to want to go, if you include everyone and not just a select group.

    “revering the Founding Fathers and despising our history.”

    Not really into hero worship or cult of personality. I would say that we should value, cherish, even the goals stated by the Founders and always work towards their fulfillment. I know no one who despises our history. I certainly dont. I have walked a significant percentage per cent of our Civil War/revolutionary war battlefields. I know plenty of people who have criticized our history, and plenty of people who have criticized our recent history and present. Some people even claimed that we weren’t great anymore. How can you hate our country so much as to possibly believe that? Anyway, we really need to be able to talk realistically about our history without accusing others of hating or despising the country.


  • Sounded like a condemnation to me.

    And creation myths are vitally important. Especially when paintings and statues of the Founding Fathers are being torn down.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    “Founding Fathers are being torn down”
    Worse. The myths of which you speak are no longer taught in public school. Instead, a sort of perverse type of blame game history. They literally teach minorities of any origin to hate Whites. Even if the minority students’ own mother is White. (Barrack Obama for example).

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