JimWes Thinks

January 25, 2016

21st Century Men and Women “Without a Country”

Filed under: Uncategorized — jimwes @ 11:49 pm

Just over 150 years ago the prominent American author, Edward Everett Hale, grandson of the Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, published a short story in The Atlantic titled “Man without a Country.”  It is about a young army officer at the turn of the Century 200 years ago who in a fit of political disgust strongly renounces the USA while being tried by a military court for treason. He is sentenced by the court to never have contact with, or even news about, the country for the rest of his life. Under this sentence he is transferred from one navy ship to another, never being able to go ashore in any country until he is near death when a Navy officer is shown his stateroom filled with homemade memorabilia about the USA. An ultra-repentant homeless and sad old man begs for information about the major events that have happened to the U.S. since his sentence was imposed and at last is reconciled to his country by receiving from the naval officer a verbal historical summary covering the over 50 years of exile while he was literally a 19th Century man without a country.

Hale’s story became his masterpiece. Written during the Civil War it was intended to foster patriotism among its readers. In this it succeeded magnificently. It was taught in American schools for a century and became an American classic. It resulted in numerous reprintings, radio plays, several movies and even an opera. According to an essay by Alexander Zaitchick celebrating its sesquicentennial, “it was a cornerstone of America’s national religion, straddling literature, civic education, and popular culture.” He goes on the state that, “It’s not easy to imagine today a piece of short fiction occupying the perch long enjoyed by The Man without a Country.”[1] Like many other schoolchildren in the USA, I read it as a child and was greatly moved, especially because at that time World War II was going on.

What motivated this particular account is an article by Chris Jackson titled “The rise of Neo-Nativism[3] that discusses the results of a recent Ipsos poll on “nativist” sentiments and the 2016 election, but I do not expect to get into politics in this message. I expect to get into something far more important: morality…and the 21st Century “Man without a Country.” 

 The dictionary defines “nativism” as “a policy of favoring native habitants as opposed to immigrants.” The article sees “neo-nativism” as “The policy of protecting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants.” Jackson’s article and the poll are obviously motivated by the now overwhelming 2016 election issue of illegal immigration and the consequent need for a functioning immigration policy. But here are the poll results that magnetically attracted my attention:

 1.   More than half (58%) of Americans don’t identify with what America has become. 

 2.   A majority (53%) feel like a “stranger in their own country”.

 3.   A significant plurality of the electorate holds “nativist” attitudes.

 Here are two excerpts from the article setting out the conclusions derived from the poll:

 There is “a deep, visceral fear among many that America’s best days are behind it. That the land of freedom, baseball and apple pie is no longer recognizable; and that ‘the other’—sometimes the immigrant, sometimes the Non-American , and almost always the  nonwhite—is to blame for these circumstances.”

 On the one hand, many people are scared about their economic future and that of their children as the rate of economic displacement increases with the globalization of cheap labor and technological innovation. The America Dream for many is a distant, foreign concept. On the other hand, many people no longer recognize the America of their grandparents—an increasingly nonwhite and correspondingly more liberal country. This is scary for many Americans. These concomitant trends are driving an increased sense of economic and cultural displacement among a large chunk of voters…”

 Now here’s my take on all of this. I believe the points made above regarding “nativism” and immigration are well taken, but there is more…much, much more, to the story.

 The poll exposes the current tragic situation…the 21st Century “Man (and Woman) without a Country,” and these persons who are now very numerous have many more reasons than those mentioned to “fail to identify with what America has become” and feel like a “stranger in their own country”.

 The country that most Americans living today grew up in was greatly different from America 2016 in which the 21 cultural principles enumerated below have been, or are being disavowed:

 ·        Shame, when appropriate, was recognized as a desirable, though painful social emotion resultant from comparison of the self’s actions with its own and the community’s standards that were inculcated from birth and throughout life. To be unashamed, to avoid accountability, to be proud of improper actions, to flaunt the violation of personal and community standards was neither acceptable not popular.

·        There was no question about the acceptance of the heritage of Judeo-Christian Values.

·        Bible reading and prayer in public schools, meetings and all type events was common and religious conduct was taught and respected.

·        Profanity was limited mainly to masculine gatherings and work and no gentleman used it before a woman, nor did books, periodicals, movies and other media use it.

·        Young women were carefully protected and all women were expected to be chaste, pleasant and good examples to their families.

·        Clothing, even though worn by hard work was clean, serious, proper and prudent.

·        Other than alcohol, all drugs were prohibited by law or by custom and little used by anyone.

·        Divorce was rare, frowned upon and considered something to be ashamed of as was “single parenthood.”

·        Abortion was a crime. Sex was considered an act of love and procreation among married adults.

·        Patriotism was honorable and unpatriotism unthinkable.

·        The country’s Founding Fathers and other national heroes were never criticized or ridiculed.

·        Young persons were expected to be obedient and respectful of their elders, their teachers and all others.

·        Sexual promiscuousness and perversion of sexual relationships and acts of any kind were abhorred and most were illegal.

·        Sexual activity other than between a married male and female was considered improper and often illegal and same sex marriage as well as other then considered abnormal sexual activity or conduct was totally unthinkable and unmentionable.

·        The arts, including music, painting, and entertainment were morally clean, pleasant and educational.

·        Celebrities in cine, music, sports and other areas were expected to be good examples and most were.

·        Government was rigidly confined to Constitutional actions and expected to be prudent and wisely protective of the populace.

·        Children, young people and adults were educated in the home, school and church to feel ashamed of any conduct or action that reflected upon the good name of their family or their community.

·        Socialism, and its close relative communism, having failed over the centuries, was considered unacceptable in political life.

·        The “four cardinal virtues” – justice, wisdom (prudence), courage (fortitude) and moderation (self control / temperance) were taught, respected and expected of all citizens and their governments.

·        Immigration, while occasionally opposed, was largely welcomed as a means of populating the country and stimulating its growth and immigrants and their descendants often made excellent citizens and community and state leaders. Immigrants rapidly assimilated and being an American became more important to them than their prior allegiances. Most immigrants were fleeing oppression or poverty and seeking freedom of opportunity. They filled a need for new workers in a growing country.

 America 2016 has, is abandoning, or already has abandoned all of the above 21 cultural traditions. This combination of dramatic and often very unpopular cultural changes is much more problematic than mere  “nativism” and most of the items enumerated above have nothing whatsoever to do with immigration. Yet the abandonment of these basic cultural items jointly and severally comprises drastic and dramatic changes in the culture of the United States that have occurred over a very few decades.

 Had there been only one or two such cultural changes, or had all 21 been spread over a greater number of decades, perhaps the culture shock would not have been so great. But the extremely rapid and unusually numerous changes in themselves have shocked the sensitivity of those citizens who grew up in a completely different culture. This is paradoxical at a time when in other areas sensitiveness to hurt feeling and avoidance of speech or action making people uncomfortable appears to be quite fashionable. It is also sad because those persons whose sensitivities are being ignored are the older generations of citizens. It is not too much to say that the accelerated cultural revolution has resulted in outright discrimination against those born in the 20th Century as well as those whose religious or other principles are in conflict with the changes imposed. This leads one to question: Are the civil rights or middle aged and elderly citizens, people of faith and persons with differing cultural principles being violated?

 An even greater paradox is posed by the fact that very many of the immigrants to the USA come from countries that still adhere to the all or many of the 21 disappearing US cultural principles.

 It is really the rapid acceptance of drastic cultural change that causes many Americans to feel that they are losing or have already lost their country. Thus it is not only the increased immigration from other lands, but also the departure from the above cultural traditions that give us situations such as reported in the Ipsos poll results that 58% “fail to identify with what America has become” and 53% feel like a “stranger in their own country”. These folks are, or soon will be, 21st Century Men and Women without a Country.”

 The Ipsos poll, though very interesting, failed to ask “why” of those persons who felt they were “a stranger” or “failed” to identify with their own country.

 At the possible risk of perceived redundancies let us look at the new culture of America 2016:

 ·        Shame is obsolete. No one is expected to feel shame about any act. Legal or cultural deviations all have some psychologically explainable cause resultant from parental of other mistreatment in earlier years. It is fashionable to express pride in having carried out or adhering to any outlandish or even illegal act. Disgusting acts are proudly and publicly performed to gain attention or support questionable causes.

·        Judeo-Christian Values are considered outmoded and often ridiculed. Frequently other values are praised and inculcated through the educational system.

·        Bible reading and prayer in public schools, meetings and all type events is illegal. Christian faith is shunned and ridiculed.

·        Profanity is prolific on the part of women as well as men in daily conversation, books, periodicals, movies and all other media.

·        Young women are free to do, act, dress and divert themselves in any manner that gives them pleasure.

·        Clothing has no standards and the more revealing or outlandish it may be, the more popular it becomes.

·        Drugs of almost any kind are popular and legal (or illegally accepted socially) to enhance entertainment, sexual pleasure and escape from the realities of life.

·        Divorce is commonplace, often repetitive, and “single parenthood” is fashionable and to some desirable.

·        Abortion is encouraged as a means of birth control. Those who oppose it are ridiculed and discriminated against. Sex has become the nation’s favorite recreation.

·        Unpatriotism is fashionable. Criticism of the USA is hailed as appropriate and educational. Textbooks are “cleansed” of patriotic acts and events once held up as good examples.

·        The country’s Founding Fathers and other national heroes are criticized and ridiculed for practices that were common in their time. Statues and historical monuments are removed. History is rewritten to support political causes..

·        Young persons are disobedient and disrespectful of their elders, their teachers and others in general.

·        Sexual promiscuousness and perversion of sexual relationships and acts of any kind are popular, highlighted in the media and considered normal.

·        Sexual activity is glamorized and considered a right of self satisfaction or recreation no matter whom or how many participate. Sexual activity, no matter how unusual is widely publicized and considered exemplar. Marriage does not restrict the right to sex with anyone else.

·        The arts, including music, painting, and entertainment are morally filthy, distorted, ugly, and provide despicable examples for youth.

·        Celebrities in cinema, music, sports and other areas are bad examples of every type vice.

·        Government subverts and distorts the Constitution, dictates its statutes without Constitutional authority, creates unpayable debt and does not protect the populace.

·        Children, young people and adults are no longer educated or inculcated with any kinds of values or morality in the home or school.  Churches are dying out. Whatever feels good is acceptable. Reputations are obsolete and never considered.

·        Socialism is becoming fashionable.

·        The “four cardinal virtues” – justice, wisdom (prudence), courage (fortitude) and moderation (self control temperance) are ridiculed and forgotten.

·        Immigration, legal or illegal, is extremely controversial and vigorously opposed by many because current immigrants are not considered to be seeking to become good citizens, but often violating the law, resisting assimilation by maintaining their original cultures and allegiances and taking jobs away from American citizens. Immigration is seen as being encouraged by supporters in the guise of benevolence but really supported in order to provide more votes assuring electoral victories.

In addition to the above, the American nation has changed in many other ways. “Three in four Americans now say that the ‘American Dream’ — broadly, the notion that through hard work and determination every American can have a successful life — is suffering…69% say the obstacles to realizing the dream are “more severe today than ever” — and note that a decline in work ethic is the primary hurdle to Dream achievement.”[4]

Top barriers to more people achieving the American Dream

Decline in work ethic

22%

Decline in values/moral standards

20%

Personal debt

20%

Rules favoring the wealthy

19%

Lack of economic opportunity

18%

Economic inequality

17%

Big government

17%

Decline of the middle class

17%

Cost of healthcare

15%

High government spending

14%

Source: 7th Annual American Values Survey[5]

 Most startling is that half the younger folks are the most pessimistic about the American Dream. “When Harvard’s Institute of Politics asked 18- to 29-year-olds if they considered the American dream to be alive or dead, the result was an even split. About half said they considered the American dream alive and well for them personally. About half said it was dead as a doornail.”[6]

 Corruption is rampant as evidenced by the numerous cases reported daily, some prosecuted, others ignored. A recent Gallup poll found that “three in four Americans (75%)…perceived corruption as widespread in the country’s government.”[7]

 According to an opinion article by Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO at Gallup, “This sense of corruption probably contributes to much of the extreme anxiety and unrest we see today — including protests, lower voter turnout and increased interest in guns…The perception that there’s widespread corruption in the national government could be a symptom of citizen disengagement and anger. Or it could be a cause — we don’t know. But it’s very possible this is a big, dark cloud that hangs over this country’s progress.”[8]

 The scale of unpunished or lightly punished narcotics importation, distribution, sale and use in the USA is clearly out of control and gives much credence to the unavoidable conclusion that there are many, many corrupt police, prosecutors and judges. This has not existed since prohibition and it appears that the ultimate solution will be the same…legalization.

 Political corruption is also out of control bringing back memories of the late 19th Century when democracy was previously imperiled by unscrupulous political bosses.

 Those persons, who were born in the first two-thirds of the 20th Century together with all persons of faith and strong ethical Judeo-Christian principles, are naturally prone to feel that their land has been swept away from beneath their feet. It is not surprising that they feel like asking: “Who stole America?”

 It is extremely ironic that at a time when colleges and their students are vastly concerned with the problem of language “hurting the feelings” of others, no one is concerned with the hurt feeling of the great segment of the population that is left feeling they are “without a country.”[9]

 It is no wonder the USA’s traditional political processes are being overturned and once unacceptable political declarations and personalities are gaining acceptance among much of the voting public.

 It is no wonder that there are many, many 21st Century Men and Women who feel they are “Without a Country” but who are willing to make one last desperate effort to regain it.

 That is why we are witnessing the astounding change in attitude of many American voters in this year’s presidential election.

__________

Notes

[1]   Alexander Zaitchick No Land’s Man: Edward Everett Hale’s “The Man Without A Country Turns 150,” Los Angeles Review of Books, https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/no-lands-man-edward-everett-hales-the-man-without-a-country-turns-150

[2] https://youtu.be/24-_-73dVFU

[3] http://spotlight.ipsos-na.com/index.php/news/the-rise-of-neo-nativism-putting-trump-into-proper-context/

[4] http://www.marketwatch.com/story/white-people-think-the-american-dream-is-least-achievable-2015-07-02

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/12/10/48-percent-of-millennials-think-the-american-dream-is-dead-heres-why/ttp://www.slideshare.net/BMGlobalNews/the-american-dream-summary-report-complete/1

[6] http://www.slideshare.net/BMGlobalNews/the-american-dream-summary-report-complete/1

 [7] http://www.gallup.com/poll/185759/widespread-government-corruption.aspx?g_source=corruption&g_medium=search&g_campaign=tiles

[8] http://www.gallup.com/opinion/chairman/188000/explaining-trump-widespread-government-corruption.aspx?g_source=corruption&g_medium=search&g_campaign=tiles

[9] http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/25845/

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