Studying and reporting on America's role in the world

“In the African-American culture….” began the young African-American woman as she addressed the assembled group of Rotarians at their weekly meeting. This was quite a statement for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it was made to Rotarians in a Midwestern city at a time after the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America. It was also remarkable because it was an acknowledgement, and acceptance by the African-American speaker and the largely White, or European-American audience, that there is an African-American culture in the country known as the United States. With an African-American culture, that means that there is a culture capable of being described and hence identified. That also means that there is a culture, or are cultures, that are not African-American, and have unique characteristics.

Donald Trump was elected by the White working class according to the prime shapers of opinion in the United States. The New York Times made that clear in an article/opinion piece by Nate Cohn the day after Trump’s election with the blaring headline: “Why Trump Won: Working-Class Whites.” Reinforcing the idea that Trump was the candidate of the Whites, especially the “working class” Whites, was economist and commentator Paul Krugman who wrote a December 2, 2016 article entitled “Seduced and Betrayed by Donald Trump” in which he argued that Trump would betray his own constituency, something which one has to do to rise in America anyways.

The American press was quick to cover foreign reaction to reinforce this view that Trump was the White candidate, and pushed that message to the heartland. Geir Moulson covered a meeting in Koblenz, Germany on January 21, 2017 in which “European nationalist leaders came together…in a show of strength…celebrating Donald Trump’s inauguration.” This was all part of the awakening of various peoples in the Anglo-Saxon and continental Europe according to Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party.[1]

These were just some of the articles and commentary that tied White people to Trump, and as time went on, the drumbeat continued. Steve Bannon, a key Trump advisor and former Breitbart executive, had his ties exposed to something called the Alt Right which by implication meant White Supremacy or impermissible racism. Studying and restudying the whole Trump election phenomenon as it was the upset for the new century, the mainline media focused on the culture of Whites as a motivating factor for their turning out to vote for him. In doing so, they tied Trump ever more closely to Whites and made it ever more clear that there are different cultures in the United States. Emma Green in a May 9 article from The Atlantic wrote “Trump’s most powerful message, at least among some Americans, was about defending the country’s putative culture.”[2]

By June, National Public Radio, which clearly provides the ideology that Americans should hold to be truly American, was regularly broadcasting programs concerning Whites, Trump, identity, and religion. When the Southern Baptists, which were formed in the mid 1800s to defend slavery on Biblical grounds, met in the middle of the month, NPR was there to cover it all in a big way. The Baptists discussed and passed a resolution decrying White racism. The resolution, available through a hyperlink on the NPR website, that was ultimately adopted by the Southern Baptists was itself something of a work as it stated the following:

“Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as “white nationalism” or “alt-right”; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil….”[3]

 

Left intact was the reality that there are different ethnicities with the impression all were equal, though by singling out Whites as harboring racial hatred, the resulting effect was to denigrate Whites. But the Southern Baptists were lagging behind the Catholics.

Pope Francis, “the flag bearer of the global anti-Trump resistance,”[4] was prominent in his defense of migrants and in his opposition to restrict immigration and had been especially as those issues came to the fore in Europe. During the 2016 Presidential election, Francis had exchanged harsh words with Trump. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration Francis said that “it was natural for people to want to regain their identity when it is challenged.”[5] Recognizing that the word populism was used to describe Trump’s win, the Pope recognized that there are various meanings to the term.[6]

Populism today according to Bloomberg meant opposition to “Davos Man” described as “a cross-border species whose values and interests are often divorced from those of more insular compatriots” and Davos Man was the elite for which populism has a “generalized disdain.” The populists are “more insular” and cannot move with ease across borders according to Bloomberg. Of note, “capital, goods, and people should be able to move freely across borders, a principle that can deliver huge benefits to those with education and money but seems terrifying to those without either.”[7]

So populism comes to be associated with the “lower classes” an idea that resonated within and was reinforced by academe which in large measure supports and advances the idea of Davos Man. Professor Mark Blyth, the Eastman Professor of Political Economy at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, declared that the “era of neoliberalism is over. The era of neonationalism has just begun.” A “global revolt against the elites” was taking place, and it was fueled by “the global economy itself.”[8]

This presents a very interesting situation. The minds of the elites, or the powerful private interests, created an economic system based on the political economy established by the United States Constitution, and are now starting to reap a whirlwind of sorts. Tied to the economic crushing of so many there are affixed labels like populism, nativism, and racism.[9] Despite the negative connotations of these terms, the idea remains – economics and people are interrelated, and the question is begged: for what purpose is a political economy, the laws of a society? Deeper and more profound yet is the question, do Americans have a nation or a country, and what is their obligation to the laws of the land? For after all, as Bloomberg posits:

“But it’s also important not to confuse these destructive isms [racism, nativism] with the popular desire for a shared national identity and sense of purpose – that is, with ordinary patriotism.”[10]

Nation versus country.

The popular, if not also populist, source of information is the online encyclopedia called Wikipedia. It discusses ethnicity and examines the root of the word which goes back to the Greek, ethnos or ethnikos. Classical Greek held the meaning of ethnos or ethnikos to be a nation or people. Herodotus defined the characteristics of an ethnic group as being a group of shared things: descent, language, sanctuaries and sacrifices, customs. Until Max Weber and the early 1900s, ethnic groups were viewed as organic or “primordial” but with Weber’s work ethnicity became viewed as a construct, something artificial, that could be manipulated or created and re-created. Ethnicity is an identity, and race and ethnicity are related concepts despite the controversy that may surround the former.[11]

The above paragraph is important, and especially so is the last sentence. Ethnicity deals with people, their identity, and their culture. An aspect of ethnicity is race, or common descent. The chatter in the dominant media about culture and identity and White people and economics deals with nothing less than an existential threat to Liberalism, upon which America is founded, and hence an existential threat to America itself. America, as I previously wrote, is based on an ideology but that ideology is manmade.  The demands of nationhood, or ethnicity, of groups of people, resurface from time to time and demand accommodation. It is an accommodation which I submit is not possible with Liberalism for Liberalism seeks to do away with differences as these are barriers to the accumulation and the enjoyment of wealth as Amintore Fanfani explained in Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism in 1935.

Trump’s candidacy and election posed an existential threat to America and the world order it has established. His presidency is not an existential threat to America, and it serves to keep America powerful, healthy, and resilient at least because it co-opts those who may threaten Liberalism. Regardless, rumors of this existential threat are used by the powerful private interests to more closely co-opt those with real potential, and who hold a differing view on the proper way to organize a society. Whites will be called to patriotism, and the usual agents will be used to most effectively accomplish this – the conservatives, the traditional family values groups, the pro-lifers, and the very leaders the Whites elected, particularly Donald J. Trump.

Patriotism to what?

Bloomberg sets out that patriotism is to the country, or the set of principles that underlies the political construct known as the United States. This will most likely be the definition of patriotism that is given which is loyalty to an ideology and political and legal system that keeps in place that ideology.

The one institution that could offer a solution or answer to the questions posed had, as I have detailed in my book, been co-opted – the Catholic Church. Certainly, Francis embraces Liberalism and has ignored the encyclicals of Pope St. John XXIIII and the Vatican II documents that speak of the importance, if not also the God-given right of separate and identifiable cultures which means the protection and promotion of ethnicity. The Catholic Church is now a giant circulatory system for the very system of thought and political economy its leaders and its doctrine denounced years ago.

John Cardinal Wright (1909-1979) shed some light on the Catholic meaning of patriotism in his doctoral thesis entitled National Patriotism in Papal Teaching published first in 1942. He recognized that there was something called a nation, or group of people, which are formed in certain conditions and in accordance with the moral order, as defined and set forth by Catholicism. As to the United States, he wrote:

“Thus, on the American continent and in the case of the people of the United States, there may be seen and studied the rise of a new nation and a new patriotism out of peoples gathered together from many other nations and united in the love and pursuit of a distinct res publica or common good, characterized by a new ingenium specifically American, and, if properly subordinated to the order of virtue, the legitimate specific principle of a new nation and a new patriotism.”[12]

Essential to patriotism is the idea of a nation with a fatherland, but a nation all the same is needed. Wright concluded that a nation — that is one nation — could arise in the United States but that it had to be “subordinated to the order of virtue” even though people came from other nations to form the American people. However, the “order of virtue” that he references is Catholicism which mandates, as I explained in my book, that the legal and social policies be based on Catholicism or the Divine Positive Law. An essential part of that requirement was the correct view of human nature to be held by the civil authorities and all leaders in society with freedom not being the highest good but rather truth as being the highest good. Such is not the case in America.

As a result, under the Catholic formulation, there is not formed one people or nation or ethnicity within the United States.  Instead, and in reality, there are multiple ethnicities or nations as the young African-American woman made clear to the Rotarians earlier this year.

This is borne out again if we view Herodotus’ view of ethnicity. That is, there are multiple nations within the United States as there are African Americans (Blacks), European Americans (Whites), Hispanic Americans (Hispanics/Latinos), and so on and so forth because each of these groups can claim amongst its members a shared descent (i.e., race), a shared culture and history, and a shared language with some deviations within the dialects but which significant differences between the English spoken within the other groups.

And yet again, if we take the thinking of Weber and his acolytes, with ethnicity or nationhood something that is artificial or constructed, the powerful private interests in America for a very long time created separate identities – African American, European American, Hispanic American and more – with culture, clothing, language, customs, and history being unique to each group and even solidified into law and public policy.

Under any view – Classical Greek, Weberian, Catholic – there is no one nation and so patriotism becomes an issue of loyalty to what? The answer has to be the one posited by Bloomberg. Patriotism becomes loyalty to an ideology that allows for a political economy that lead to and promoted the current state of things. That ideology as I will explain further in my upcoming book, is an ideology that creates something I call universal capitalism which is that all value in all aspects of life is determined by wealth which means currency. The amount of currency or money that one gets for doing something determines one’s goodness or value and the goodness or value of the endeavor. The ideology offers a carrot to many people and floats a lot of boats, but there is a very big stick that has to be kept in place to insure compliance.

The ideology – the American ideology – creates the very disorders and its supporters claim they wish to eliminate. The American ideology spawns the very existential threat to America’s existence that is decried by America’s supporters, and yet somehow it is able to co-opt those forces that threaten its dissolution. That co-option is best accomplished by those with national consciousness believing that the political system can effect substantial and lasting change, and that is in turn based on the idea that America is the greatest creation, or, to put it another way, exceptional.

 

 

 

[1] Geir Moulson, “Nationalists Hail Trump during European Talks,” Associated Press, South Bend Tribune, January 22, 2017.

[2] Emma Green, “It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump: A new study finds that fear of societal change, not economic pressure, motivated votes for the president among non-salaried workers without college degrees,” The Atlantic, May 9, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/white-working-class-trump-cultural-anxiety/525771/ as accessed June 24, 2017.

[3] “Southern Baptist Convention Votes To Condemn White Supremacy,”June 14, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/14/532998287/southern-baptist-convention-votes-to-condemn-white-supremacy as accessed June 24, 2017.

[4] Caitlin Dickson, “Searching for Trump condemnation in Pope Francis’ words,” from https://www.yahoo.com/news/searching-for-trumpt-condemnation-in-pope-francis-words-22…… as accessed March 9, 2017.

[5] Tareq Haddad, “Pope Francis on Trump: `People voted for Hitler and then he destroyed his people’: The pontiff said charismatic leaders such as Trump abuse our judgement in crises,” Business Insider, January 22, 2017

[6] Id.

[7] “Alpine Disconnect: Did the global elite’s devotion to borderless capitalism sow the seeds of a populist backlash?” Bloomberg Businessweek, January 16-22, 2017, 35-37.

[8] Mark Blyth, “Global Trumpism and the Revolt Against the Creditor Class,” Foreign Affairs, November 15, 2016.

[9] “The Patriotic Response to Populism: Demagogues hijacked patriotism last year. It’s time to take it back,” Bloomberg Businessweek, January 9-15, 2017, 8.

[10] Id.

[11] “Ethnic group,” Wikipedia, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_group as accessed May 27, 2017.

[12]John J. Wright, National Patriotism in Papal Teaching (The Newman Press: Westminster, Maryland, 1956), 17.