Ever since Barack Obama infamously announced his intention to “fundamentally transform” America, the merchants of Big Conservative media, i.e. The Big Con, have seized upon this as proof of Obama’s disdain for America as it has traditionally conceived itself.
It’s true, of course, that this assessment of the 44th POTUS couldn’t be more correct: It is inconceivable that, being a proponent of Blackism and socialism, Obama could find anything worth conserving, much less loving, in the predominantly white, Christian, Constitutional Republic that America was originally meant to be and that it actually succeeded in becoming for much of its history.
Yet, while it will doubtless come as a shock to many to hear this, the fact of the matter is that the cogs in the wheel of Big Con are no less guilty than Obama of striving to fundamentally transform their country.
Before proceeding further, however, there are a few points that must be made.
First, whether it is a person, an object, or a whole society, the “fundamental transformation” of a thing is a change in that thing.
Second, the fundamental transformation of an entity is a change of a specific sort, a dramatic change. Whatever it is that undergoes a fundamental transformation changes, well, fundamentally, in the most basic, rudimentary of respects. When, for instance, a caterpillar changes into a butterfly, or an acorn changes into an oak tree, both undergo a fundamental transformation.
Third, as these last two examples illustrate, while fundamental transformation is a kind of birth, it also marks a sort of death. The 20th century philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote that change, any change, is “an emblem of extinction.” Change, in other words, is a threat to identity. Thus, according to Oakeshott, virtually everyone, knowing that change is inescapable, has a “disposition,” a conservative disposition, to abate its flow.
Fundamental transformation, being of an abrupt, radical nature, is that much more frightening than those changes that occur gradually. The fundamental transformation of an acorn into an oak tree requires the dissolution, the extinction, of the acorn, just as the transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly requires the death of the former.
So, when Obama expressed his and his supporters’ desire to fundamentally transform the United States of America, he put all Americans on notice that the left desires to, in effect, extinguish the only America that had ever existed. Obama’s “America” (if we could still even call it by this name, a name ascribed to the New World by European explorers and settlers in honor of one of their own, another dead, old white guy), the product of the feverish swamps of the leftist imagination, promises to be as fundamentally different from historical America as the oak tree is fundamentally different from the acorn.
As any student of revolutionary movements knows all too well, the project of fundamentally transforming a society requires the radical revising of its past. To put it another way, the ideologue determined to fundamentally transform a society can’t possibly be interested in the past for the past’s sake. Quite the contrary, even “the past” is of value to him only insofar as it can be enlisted in the service of his mission to inaugurate the Eschaton, the future state of affairs for which he aches. But this in turn means that the ideologue has no alternative but to bend, and even break, the past so as to fit it into his Master Plan of Fundamental Transformation.
In short, the transformer must lie about the past in order to actualize the future of his imaginings.
As should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to events for any length of time, the official political right has been no less guilty than the official left on this score.
Both Democratic “progressives” in the political and media classes as well as their Republican “conservative” counterparts not only incessantly lie about America’s past; they promote one and the same Big Lie.
The Big Lie is comprised of two components, both of which are equally, thoroughly, deceptive. The first is that America was “founded” upon an Idea or Proposition, the Idea, say, of Equality, of equal Natural or Human Rights. Let’s call this the Propositional America Thesis (PAT).
The other is that America is “a nation of immigrants.” This is the Immigrant America Thesis (IAT).
As we’ll see, though each is logically independent of the other, PAT lends support to IAT: According to PAT, America is actually the first ahistorical or suprahistorical nation, for the abstraction upon which America is “founded,” or the concept that is America, being both timeless and universal, transcends history. In doing so, it transcends race, religion, ethnicity, culture, and even language. Yet this in turn means that anyone, irrespectively of their origins, can become an American—as long as they are willing to embrace the principles upon which the nation is “founded.”
And this, according to the peddlers of the Big Lie, is exactly what has happened from America’s inception until the present. No people can claim America as uniquely their own, for the Idea that is America, being an Idea, is without a history and without borders.
Hence, anyone from anywhere in the world who affirms the proposition or propositions that are said to constitute America can become an American.
That both the left and Big Con subscribe to this lie can be gotten readily enough by the fact that their agents only ever express concern over illegal immigration—the implication being that as long as immigrants to America arrive legally, their origins are inconsequential.
America is Nation of Immigrants. We hear this from Fox News, National Review, and talk radio as much as we hear it from NBC, Slate, and Salon.
Now, while Republican politicians and their apologists among the scribblers and talkers in Big Conservative media don’t tell the exact same version of the Big Lie as that told by their leftist counterparts, they do indeed endorse the same Big Lie:
Both leftists and “conservatives,” for example, erase from history the Christianity of America’s founding stock. While leftists would have us think that America’s Founders were deists and atheists who sought to emancipate America from centuries of Christian superstition by enshrining within their Constitution a clause prohibiting any and all public expressions of (Christian) religiosity, the official right in Big Conservatism characterizes America’s roots as “Judeo-Christian.” This latter move has the same effect as the leftist’s version of the Big Lie by obscuring the religious-specific character of the men and women that settled and pioneered—that founded—America.
Both the left and the Big Con affirm that American is but an Idea. The only difference is the manner by which each goes about doing so. For instance, it is obvious that the left is affirming PAT whenever leftists refer to illegal migrants as the “undocumented.” Sometimes leftists will go so far as to refer to illegals as “undocumented Americans!” The implication is that the only thing separating illegals in America from American citizens is a matter of some paperwork, some boxes to check off and lines on which to leave signatures. Illegals, that is, are Americans inasmuch as they affirm American “values.”
Big Conservatives, on the other hand, betray their commitment to PAT whenever they identify the doctrine of “American Exceptionalism” (AE) with America and the espousal of AE with patriotism. AE is the creed that America is exceptional economically, militarily, politically, and so forth, it’s true. Yet it’s true only so far as it goes, for AE’s champions insist that America is exceptional in these respects precisely because it is exceptional in being the only country ever to have been “founded” upon an Idea or Proposition.
And here we have come full circle.
Neither the left nor Big Con is willing to acknowledge that the Declaration of Independence was a declaration on the part of English colonists of their independence from the Mother country of England. It was a declaration of secession. The rights to which Jefferson referred he and his compatriots knew full well belonged to a historically, culturally, and ethnically-specific constellation of chartered prerogatives and duties extending back centuries, the legacy of an English tradition. The rights that they valued and which they felt the government of England had violated were not “the Rights of Man.” They were the rights of Englishmen.
America’s founders never intended to produce a so-called “melting pot” of races, religions, and ethnicities from around the planet. It’s correct that many of them were willing to accept some immigration for the purpose of building their young country, the founders were well aware of the potential dangers that immigration posed, with several of them—Hamilton, Franklin, and Jefferson, to name but a few—expressing concerns regarding immigration that couldn’t be more Politically Incorrect by today’s standards.
Importantly, as early as 1790, not long at all after the Constitution was ratified, the founders limited citizenship to white men, “free” white men who had been in America for two years.
Obviously, none of this is meant to imply that America must remain as the founders (and many subsequent generations of Americans) had envisioned it. The point, rather, is that both “progressive” leftists and the merchants of the Big Con behave dishonestly in having us think that their views of America are those to which the founders subscribed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is still another point at which I’ve been at pains to argue:
The agents of Big Conservatism are just as responsible as are their leftist counterparts of seeking to fundamentally transform America by radically rewriting its history.