I am sometimes asked, and I regularly see on social media, What is happening to America?
We are experiencing a battle of worldviews, one reacting to loss and defending what America once was, the other embracing a radical new vision of America. This is more than a culture war. It’s an American identity crisis.
It’s not Republican vs Democrat, though the crisis shows up every day in politics. It’s not religious vs irreligious, though these groups divide. It’s deeper, metaphysical if you will. Pres Obama was wrong when in 2016 he said, “We remain the strongest nation on earth by far and there are no existential threats facing us.” Now to be fair, he was giving an interview that largely referenced ISIS. But he broadened his answer far beyond international concerns.
For much of my lifetime, America has been rejecting in manifold ways the Judeo-Christian moral consensus, based upon belief in truth and individual responsibility, that formed the sacred canopy over our culture and touched every aspect of American life.
More recently, Americans are rejecting the country’s founding documents and ideals, i.e., disbelief in the First Amendment, and the core values of liberty based upon law, free opportunity and enterprise, limited government, American exceptionalism and America’s capacity for good.
The vacuum created by the loss of America’s historical, overarching sense of who we are and how we should order our lives has been filled by the rise of competing secular movements, all vying for dominance in a public square where principles-are-but-preferences so might makes right.
We no longer have any means, other than power, to decide who we are and how we should behave.
During his Inaugural Address, Pres Biden called for unity. He said, “History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.” Then he later said, what defines us as Americans is Opportunity, Security, Liberty, Dignity, Respect, Honor, Truth.
I think unity is a good thing making social cohesion and accomplishment possible. I think opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, and truth are good things. But Mr. Biden did not define these terms, nor did he suggest how we might decide what they mean. Clearly, in the noisy marketplace today, they mean different things to different people. Truth, for example, is no longer objectively defined truth, true whether you or I believe it or not, but something is “true” if you or I want it to be true or feel that it is true, perhaps despite all evidence to the contrary. Truth is now subjective, so it is a moving target and the group in power gets to define what it means. The same might be said for history, faith, and reason, all now tossed to-and-fro on the winds of postmodern relativism.
So how can we hope to attain unity when we don’t agree on the most fundamental values that once defined and empowered the American system? The answer is, sadly, we cannot.
Unity, e pluribus unum, only returns to America when America returns to its roots. A country cannot long survive that does not know who it is and why it exists.
So yes, the U.S.A. is now in the midst of an identity crisis and it is dealing with profound existential threats to its well-being and existence.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021
*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.