April 25, 2019

"America Isn’t an Idea/It's a place with unique customs that people are proud of. Why do country singers get this but so many scholars don't?"

Wrote Emile A. Doak in The American Conservative in May 2018. I'm reading this article after Biden announced his candidacy using the slogan "America is an idea." Doak explains:
[R]educing American identity to an idea neglects the visceral connection—the patriotism—that is felt by those who call the United States home. Bill Kauffman, in his toast at The American Conservative’s 15th anniversary gala, lauded America “not as an idea, or an abstraction, or a cynical marketing slogan, but as our home, and the land we love above all others.” We don’t feel American out of a reverence for the Lockean liberalism that animates our Founding documents, but because man is inherently shaped by his place. Relying on an idea to provide meaning to national identity is anthropologically unsound; man requires more elementary cultural practices to foster the type of allegiance necessary for national unity. The places that we call home—and the cultural practices that emerge from those places—elicit a much greater allegiance than any abstract idea ever could....

This concept of “America as home,” with specific practices, traditions, and customs—indeed, a specific culture—is increasingly necessary in a modernity shaped by a rapidly accelerating global anti-culture....

54 comments:

Susan said...

Possibly country singer get it because they aren't ashamed of their families and hometowns. Scholars often can't leave home for the big city fast enough.

buwaya said...

Well, he's right.
And that, today, is your problem.

America - that cultural America - can you keep it?
On this matter I am a pessimist.

At the risk of annoying some here.

rhhardin said...

"If I'd killed you when I wanted to I'd be out by now"

- country song title by a guy who gets it.

"Which One o' You Queers Gonna Suck My Dick?" by Wheeler Walker, Jr., entering Texas bar.

Ain't PC.

rhhardin said...

Patriotism isn't the essence of America. Standing in a certain way against the official line, is.

rhhardin said...

America is patriotism is an official line too. People step up and organize it all the time. Rituals.

The Godfather said...

"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Yes, we love our country because it is our country, just as the German, the Ethiopian, and the Brazillian loves his/her country, but we also claim that our country is exceptional, because it was founded on that proposition. I think country singers get that, even if no other "writers" do.

Trumpit said...

Conservatives are merely rednecks who take a bath more often. Both groups are merciless in their destruction of wildlife for cheap thrills & profit. Never shake a conservative's hand. You just know their hands were on a gun that was used to kill an animal. Scalia should be burned in effigy weekly.

buwaya said...

"America is patriotism is an official line too. People step up and organize it all the time. Rituals."

Interesting case. Patriotism is a cultural trait. Any people can adopt patriotism as it is a common meme. A rather new meme really, invented, or reinvented, over the course of the 18th century, and fully formed in 1789.

But in the US it became an organic thing, a part of popular culture as nowhere else on earth (other than episodically, under the right circumstances you can get a crowd anywhere to wave their flags), spontaneously and continuously present. Rituals are culture.

So it is "culture", not "ideas".

tcrosse said...

This is the sort of search for national identity that Canada does so much.

Jay Vogt said...

"America is [sic] not an idea, or an abstraction, or a cynical marketing slogan, but is [sic] our home, and the land we love above all others.”

This is a tremendous insight. Sounds like it came from Don Draper.

We are really repulsed by the people who cavalierly make a mess of our home with no interest in cleaning up after themselves.

rcocean said...

"In all instances, do your best to ensure that we continue to lift our lamp beside the golden door. Because when the idea of America is snuffed out, we forever become just another country."

So we can only care about the USA if we let in the world? Crazy! The Japanese didn't Bomb "an idea" on December 7th 1941, they bombed a people and a country. One that believed in restricted immigration. Joe Biden is such a fraud.

But this is the counterpoint to "MAGA". If America is an Idea, all we have to do push the idea, and it will be great, no matter how terrible it might in reality for actual, real Americans.

mesquito said...

Ma didn’t emigrate to to some damn idea.

Mark said...

This concept of “America as home,”

Talk about nativism.

You know, the place I grew up -- Ann Arbor -- is a piece of shit hell. And the place I live now and the longest place I've been -- Arlington, Virginia -- is fast becoming a progressive shit hole.

And if that is what "America" is, if it is where you call home, then to hell with the United States. If that's what it is, then we Americans are no better than the good patriotic Germans of the 1930s-40s who continued to "love" their Fatherland.

But "America" is more that the temporal limited physicality of place. "America" transcends place and time. "America" is a higher reality than profane worldly things. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights . . ." is our creed, not "we have better land than you."

Achilles said...

America is a country of citizens.

Everyone else in the world are serfs.

That is the difference.

Leftist scholars hate freedom. That is why they don't get it.

Achilles said...

buwaya said...
Well, he's right.
And that, today, is your problem.

America - that cultural America - can you keep it?
On this matter I am a pessimist.

At the risk of annoying some here.



Molon Labe.

The cities can turn themselves into drug infested porta potties.

There will always be a church. We will always keep our guns.

And there is going to be a lot of indictments coming up here in the next few months. A lot of Swamp Rats are going to jail.

This is the only country that would do that.

Sebastian said...

"America is an idea" has been liberals' way of adapting to coexistence with us deplorables. Because they despise the actual America, they can only accept it as an "idea."

But their true malice is in making the country itself unlovable: it is the real point of the culture war, the constant MSM denigration of Trump and his supporters, the coup attempt and its devastation of the American system.

Once the deplorables concede that America is only an idea, the path is clear for progs to take over for good.

doctrev said...

First off, The American Conservative SUCKS. If I wanted to play a minigame to evade the ads that block the links I might be interested in reading, all the while reading content obviously sponsored by Iran, I'll read Glenn Greenwald while alt-tabbing to a video game.

Secondly, if race and religion aren't common interests between actual Americans, then pray tell what is?! Springsteen? I got news for you anthropology types: unless you're an aging Jersey boy wanting his glory days back, Springsteen is dripping garbage! For twenty years the American working man has seen his country sold off, and Springsteen's been cheering the Clinton/ Obama coalition all the way. A lot of why Fake Conservatives are losing the battle to influence this country is because they fetishize artists and institutions that would happily have them killed.

Seriously, Emile Doak is a clown that needs to be punched in the face for saying America has a thin culture. American culture is profoundly deep, and insanely successful considering its age. I could go on for days about cowboy culture, or Ivanhoe, or the spread of internet subcultures! It's no coincidence that America's cultural influence has grown to global levels: but the convergence against American and European nationalism in Hollywood will absolutely cause Hollywood's international influence to decline.

But there will still be a variety of ideals that resonate across nations and across faiths. One of those ideas is that those who take responsibility for themselves can attain freedom for themselves. And not to be satisfied with anything less.

Mark said...

More than a place, more than the people who happen to reside in this land, and really, more than an idea, "America" is a transcendent cause. If the land were to cease to be, if all the people were dead or were to all convert to Soviet communism, "America" would still exist.

Thomas Paine was quoted earlier today. Here is another --
The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. . . . The Sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a City, a County, a Province, or a Kingdom; but of a Continent — of at least one-eighth part of the habitable Globe. 'Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected even to the end of time

That cause is freedom. And because of that freedom -- ours not by the sufferance of any government or any people or collection of people, but by our own natural right -- America is indeed that "shining city on a hill," as Ronald Reagan repeatedly affirmed.

iowan2 said...

This concept of “America as home,” with specific practices, traditions, and customs—indeed, a specific culture

This rings true with me. "unique culture". That's why the founders understood that a President must be native born. A person that did not assimilate to the American Experience, but rather, an organic part if it. It is not something that a person can acquire through education.

That's why Obama, still, is not an American. He never grew up here, never lived in the culture that is America. Never got "America as home", rather, just another stop, for the citizen of the world.

chickelit said...

That's why Obama, still, is not an American. He never grew up here, never lived in the culture that is America. Never got "America as home", rather, just another stop, for the citizen of the world.

He had a nasty mother who instilled anti-American notions in him. After never paying a dime into America's healthcare, she came back "home" to die on our dime. And that's the Democrat idea of "free" healthcare for the world. Really, what is the alternative?

chickelit said...

Trumpit said...Scalia should be burned in effigy weekly.

Smotherly love...

wwww said...

"America - that cultural America - can you keep it?
On this matter I am a pessimist."

no need to be a pessimist. America is culturally rich. Travel around the US. Don't go where tourists go. Go to where people live. Go to a baseball game in a smaller city. Or go see the Cubs in Chicago. Go to a local 4th of July celebration in a small town. Go to a popular lake during the summertime. Go watch a outdoor musical in Winnetka, Illinois on the beach. Go to a church or several. Go to a state fair in the midwest.

Gahrie said...

This concept of “America as home,” with specific practices, traditions, and customs—indeed, a specific culture—is increasingly necessary

It was always necessary, which is why the Left pushed multi-culturalism so hard. You can't fundamentally transform America until you convince enough people to hate what it is.

Biff said...

"We don’t feel American out of a reverence for the Lockean liberalism that animates our Founding documents"

...because who the heck can even read that stuff! It must be, like, a hundred years old, or something. It's old fashioned! It's hard! We can't teach that obsolete stuff any more! It's not relevant to today's students! Plus, it must be racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-trans, Islamophobic, and generally non-inclusive, right?

On a less sarcastic note, we need to embrace the unifying power of "and." Why must America be either an "idea" or a "place?" Isn't it made stronger by fusing the emotional aspects of place, custom, and culture with the kind of rigorous thinking, both practical and theoretical, that informed the American Revolution? By and large, the Founders were people of both passionate spirit and dispassionate thought. Beware the modern pundits who would have us sacrifice either.

Big Mike said...

If America is an idea, then I have to say it’s an idea that the American left simply does not grasp.

exhelodrvr1 said...

But we're not supposed to be proud of it, right, Michelle?

Fritz said...

Conservatives love the country that exists, liberal love the country they imagine.

Unknown said...

"Groping Man"

Has an idea for us

In Hand

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Paco Wové said...

"Once the deplorables concede that America is only an idea, the path is clear for progs to take over for good."

E.g., Mark's comments on this thread.

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

The Godfather: Yes, we love our country because it is our country, just as the German, the Ethiopian, and the Brazillian loves his/her country, but we also claim that our country is exceptional, because it was founded on that proposition.

Lots of countries make a claim to be based on, and believe in, idealistic propositions. It isn't the abstract proposition that makes the country. The propositions are a product of a people with a concrete, specific culture. Those propositions are just the explicit expression of the historically developed political habits, civic habits, social habits of real people with a real culture, and they're meaningless when the mostly tacit cultural assumptions that underlay them are absent. They are not universally applicable.

Can "outsiders" become part of that culture? Sure (my ancestors did), but it's a process of assimilating to a real culture, not a matter of merely assenting to a list of abstractions. It ought to be obvious by now that legal and philosophical abstractions,isolated from cultural roots, are awfully damned adaptable to cultural and political outlooks that are destructively contrary to what most of the people posting here consider to be our traditional American civic norms.

To all the conservatards here whelping about "muh freedom" and "muh equality" and "muh proposition nation" as Platonic forms, and sneering at the importance of the actually existing, historically specific place and people: hey, you don't like what you see around you these days? Well, that's what half a century of letting yourselves be played by progressives via appeals to universalist abstractions gets you.

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

Biff: ...because who the heck can even read that stuff! It must be, like, a hundred years old, or something. It's old fashioned! It's hard! We can't teach that obsolete stuff any more! It's not relevant to today's students! Plus, it must be racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-trans, Islamophobic, and generally non-inclusive, right?

No, wrong. Like liberals, conservatards never understand what conservatives are talking about. But thanks for providing so wonderfully mindless and knee-jerk an example of this.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Top the collective universal left, America is definitely a cynical marketing slogan.

tim maguire said...

It's a false distinction. America was founded upon an idea. An idea of individual liberty that says government gets its limited powers by the consent of the people it exists to serve.

This concept of “America as home,” with specific practices, traditions, and customs—indeed, a specific culture—is...the idea the rest of this excerpt denies.

Ray - SoCal said...

Slogan sounds safe and should not upset voters that matter.

The true issue is what ideas...

My guess is Biden wants to define the American Idea as Not Trump.

That Trump is outside the mainstream American Idea. True, he is outside the uniparty.

Against a GOPe, it would have a good chance, since they allow the Democrats and their msm and pop culture allies to define/ brand them. Trump, got better or worse, controls his own image.

Trump will Alinsky Biden using this slogan.

I almost feel sorry for Biden.

Ray - SoCal said...

What is amazing in the US, is a government system is still working that was set up over 200 years ago, controlled / guided / created by the us constitution. This has guided, and constrained, what is the American Idea.

tcrosse said...

Hey, what's the big idea ?

Big Mike said...

Trump will Alinsky Biden using this slogan.

I almost feel sorry for Biden.


Not just this. I can imagine Team Trump putting together a bunch of commercials that Biden won’t like: Biden leading the charge against school desegregation back in the early days. Clarence Thomas looking Biden square in the idea and accusing him of conducting a “high tech lynching.” There’s enough material just on YouTube to make three or four commercials of Biden getting handsy with women and young girls, and entirely different set of females in each one. Does Team Trump have video of Biden boasting how, as VP, he got the prosecutor who was investigating his son Hunter for illegal activities sacked by threatening to withhold foreign aid? That would make a nice commercial. Time to tie Sleepy Joe Biden to be anemic economy under his old boss’s economic policies.

And that’s before Team Trump starts in on Biden’s famous gaffes.

Many of these commercials will have been run by the other twenty in the race for the nomination, so Team Trump can just sit back and watch.

tim maguire said...

Ray - SoCal said...The true issue is what ideas...

Trump will Alinsky Biden using this slogan.


Yep, America is an idea. An idea of greatness. Make America Great Again.

It practically writes itself.

rcocean said...

People who say "America is an Idea" usually regard the USA as a Cash Cow to be milked of money while maintaining an allegiance to another country or globalism. And then there are the individualists, who want the benefits of being in a group while bearing none of the burdens.

Krumhorn said...

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I’d say he cast a spell on YOU if you’re happy to have that panties poltroon back. But, on second thought, you don’t appear to be much of a prize either.

As you were.

- Krumhorn

chickelit said...

These days I'm hearing "One Notion, under gods, with Liberty and a Justice For Allah"

Phil said...

I think America is an idea. Problem is most of today's democrats haven't got a clue what that idea is. The idea is Liberty. It isn't safety, or universal free education, or guaranteed basic income. Those are all an idea too, and that idea is the State.

TML said...

Such lofty nonsense. It's quite simple: America WAS an idea. over two centuries ago. Now it's the idea realized and implemented. With all the issues that plague any great, big, sweeping idea once put into action. Why is this hard? People want to abstract the reality. I say bullshit. Deal with the actual problems and quit elevating it all to some higher plane where blather and poetry will solve shit.

Fernandistein said...

America is a Meme
America is a Trope about Memes.
America is a Meme is a Slogan.
Sometimes an Idea has a Slogan.
The way to a country's heart is through its slogan.

And if thou gaze long into a slogan, the slogan will also gaze into thee.

"54 40 or fight!"

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

Big Mike: Biden leading the charge against school desegregation back in the early days.

That's one of those "ugly bullshit that is yet a beautiful irony" things. Was Biden really against desegregation per se? It's my understanding (could be mistaken here) that he was against busing (like a jillion other sane and decent people), but anti-busing legislation had the support of real pro-segregationists (as one would expect). So the "anti-school desegregation" is a guilt-by-association smear. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Live by the "racist!" smear, die by the "racist!" smear.

Krumhorn said...

America is an idea. What else would provide the foundation for unskilled, uneducated East African immigrants to flock to Minnesota so that they can work for Amazon at $16/hr plus decent benefits only to piss and moan about the fact that Amazon isn’t supportive when they want to disappear for prayers 5 times a day by insisting that they put in a day’s work? They want respect and fairness.

Only in America. Certainly not in shit hole countries like Somalia or Ethiopia. Get the idea?

- Krumhorn

Dust Bunny Queen said...

America as home,” with specific practices, traditions, and customs—indeed, a specific culture—is increasingly necessary in a modernity shaped by a rapidly accelerating global anti-culture....

In other words...Nationalism like Trump is promoting.

Be proud of your country, traditions, culture. This doesn't mean to be ignorant of the failings too. Put those into historical context. Every country, every family has negative points. America has more positives than negatives. Stress those aspects....and they will grow.


bagoh20 said...

America is indeed a culture, and a history, from which ideas are born. Leftism is just an idea, becuase it never manages to become more than that. It never creates lasting culture that anyone voluntarily embraces, and even if it does create some customs and culture, it can't last, becuase comrades cannot be allowed to embrace anything other than the state's leaders in the end. The unique American idea is the individual. Leftism and Americanism both claim to be for the people, but the difference is that America celebrates the individuals, not the collective. The collective "people" is the thing that's just an idea. Nobody is a people. We are individuals who share a culture.

Michael K said...

Such lofty nonsense. It's quite simple: America WAS an idea. over two centuries ago

I think it was more a refuge from Europe's problems. Irish to escape the persecution because they stayed Catholic.

Germans to flee the Prussian wars. A million and a half Germans fled in the 1880s to 1900. There were so many Germans in 1860 that Lincoln considered them a voting block and appointed Bates as AG to keep German (Missouri) support. Germans were very anti-slavery.

When the frontier closed about 1900, immigrants shifted more to Italians and Irish,. They stayed in cities. The Russian Jews were more prominEnt inn the 1920s and that added to anti-Semitism because they were very poor and rural but the farmland was no longer as free and available as before 1900.

The "Idea" stuff came later,. Teddy Kennedy really fucked up immigration with his 1965 law which turned incentives upside down.down.

rcocean said...

The people, the country, and the culture are different from the State. We don't love America because we let in 1.5 immigrants a year or have Medicare. That's the way most normal people think. But the Liberal/Left is different. Like I said, many of these people never became Americans or have transferred their allegiance to Globalism. Or they're world crusaders.

I really wonder if McCain was really an "American Patriot". He certainly liked fighting wars, but those wars never improved life for Americans. In fact, McCain was full of contempt for the average American. We were just the enlisted men, who were supposed to say "Aye, Aye, Sir" whenever their was a foreign war to be fought or when jobs got shipped overseas.

Anthony said...

Disagree vehemently. The US is and idea:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

It's all right there and is a profoundly different idea of self-governance than anything before it.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal"

A truth that is self-evident: People have inalienable rights not granted by any government.

"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

No hereditary monarchies; no ruling classes; and ultimately deriving their power from the people.

"whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it"

Only the People have the right to alter or Abolish the Government.

That is what power-hungry people everywhere simply canNOT stand.

Anthony said...

Or, if you will.

Be said...

I read this kind of like the National Review articles about Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris being a Symbol of !WESTERN TRADITION! and !!CHRISTIANITY!!. Seriously, why don't you look at how many Cathedrals the Allies bombed FOR THE WIN!! And this isn't Slavery reparations-level stuff. This was either our parents or grandparents.

Everyone's Stupid nowadays, thanks to our grandparents, who were the richest generation at that time.