The American Idea
By Jerome Grossman
The Atlantic Magazine celebrated its 150th anniversary by asking an eclectic group of thinkers to consider "The American Idea", its meaning and its future.
David Foster Wallace asked, "Are some things worth dying for? Is The American Idea one such thing?" Jerome’s comment: Exactly the wrong question. Better ask, is The American Idea worth living for, a more important and relevant question in imperial America.
Biologist Edward O. Wilson: “The central issue for America is sustainable development. Somehow, we and other countries, have to find a way to continue raising the quality of life without wrecking the planet." Jerome’s comment: A solid observation taken from experience.
African-American historian John Hope Franklin: “If The American Idea was to subdue Native Americans and place them at the disposal of European settlers, to import several million Africans to the New World and subject them to a lifetime of slavery, to impose on Asian immigrants a lifetime of discrimination, then perhaps The American Idea was not so admirable."
Jerome’s comment: The afflicted never forget, nor should they, for we should always be reminded.
Historian Alan Brinkley: “For much of American history, this messianic sense of the nation's destiny was a largely passive one. The United States was to be a model to other nations-a light shining out to the wretched world and inspiring others to lift themselves out. But in the 20th and 21st centuries, as America has ascended to global preeminence, that sense of mission has become linked to a series of attempts-after World War I, World War II, in the attacks of September 11, 2001 to reshape the world." Jerome’s comment: Yes, to reshape the world for our profit and hegemony.
Columnist George Will: “Talk about “The” American Idea is dangerous because it often is a precursor to, and an excuse for, the missionary impulse that sleeps lightly, when it sleeps in all, in many Americans." Jerome’s comment: Even this center right icon is worried.
Novelist John Updike: “The American Idea, as I understand it, is to trust people to know their own minds and to act in their own enlightened self -interest, with a necessary respect for others."
Jerome’s comment: God bless America, with Liberty and Justice for all.
Professor and writer Joyce Carol Oates: “How heartily sick the world has grown, the first seven years of the 21st century, of the American Idea! Speak with any non-American, travel to any foreign country and the consensus is: The American Idea has become a cruel joke, a blustery and bellicose body -- builder luridly bulked up on steroids, consequently low on natural testosterone, deranged and myopic, dangerous... Perhaps the most pernicious of American Ideas is the revered. “My country, right or wrong.” Jerome’s comment: The myth of American exceptionalism is over; the city on the hill was a dream; we are like other nations subject to the strengths and flaws of the living flesh