Our Fiercely Unique Nation
An essay about our individualistic principles.
Each first generation immigrant to America had a mountain to climb since the formation of the United States. Through their many trials and tribulations they developed a unique creed of how our nation would be perceived by every nation on earth. In America, we maintain equilibrium between radical left and radical right to provide an open and successful life for all citizens. In America, we reject ‘Identity Politics’ and focus on the improvement of the individual, because it is the best way to improve society as a whole. In America, we do not censor or ban any form of expression of ideas, because those ideas make America what it is today.
The ‘Era Of Good Feeling’ and ‘Identity Politics’
A fundamental part of the American creed is the transformation of the individual, the process of changing oneself for the better. We can see that this process of self change has brought great changes to society before, with the second American Great Awakening, and the reformation movement during the ‘Era of Good Feeling’. It is formulated that after people transformed themselves to be more spiritual and more compassionate, they wanted after transforming society for the better. America was home to many problems; the issues of women’s rights, alcoholism, and education were all prevalent affairs. These issues were, “Attacked by many social reformers. This reform movement was led by people who believed that America could do anything if she put her mind to it.”(The Social Studies Help Center) With the efforts of these transformed people, society was indeed changed for the better, an obvious example of how we can see this today is with the continuing suffrage of Women.
However, today we are also seeing the rise of movements termed ‘Identity Politics’. This term is coined from political movements that operate on the basis that a group of people with a common goal will antagonize anyone who does not share their point of view, even though that point of view is completely valid. This is beginning to happen in everyday life, and anyone can be a target.
When a mob of young men attack a 74-year-old man and a middle-aged woman, as happened at Middlebury College in March in the case of Charles Murray and Allison Stanger, something deeper is afoot than American individualism run amok. When debate after campus debate is preemptively shut down due to social media threats of violence, reasoned talk of a “Reagan Dispensation” doesn’t begin to capture the menace there. Berkeley spent $600,000 on “security” for a visit by the conservative author and pundit Ben Shapiro. Non-progressive speakers who have nothing to do with racism or supremacism are regularly harassed, threatened, disinvited, and shouted down on campuses across the country. (Eberstadt)
Violence has been committed against those who have only the aim to educate, and point out hypocrisy in our own lives. Violence has been committed against those who mean no harm, but have been witch hunted because someone somewhere believes they do. This dramatic shift away from our inherent individualistic nature, expressed in the American Creed, has led to sectional tensions reaching new heights, and violence where there should be peace. People wish to reshape society so much that they forget that they must reshape themselves first, a method that has proven success, as emphasized by the second great awakening and the subsequent successful reformation movement, and that follows the core values of our American Creed and our American Dream.
The Nazi Right, The Soviet Left, and Censorship
In several famous cases in history, the extremist political group in power has silenced the minority, and censored those they believe below them. The most prominent of these famous cases are Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Russia. In Soviet Russia, evidence has been recovered of the government censoring the information that the public was consuming. The most famous of these practices, which reached its height under the Stalin regime, included the physical erasure of political dissenters from photographs that they were present in. These people, who had fallen out of favor with Stalin, found themselves “in the hands of the secret police in 1940, before being executed.” (Yegorov) The Soviet political elite also censored many books, “some of which are now regarded as classics - including Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita and Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, not to mention most works by Alexander Solzhenitsyn that criticized the Soviet regime.”(Yegorov) The effort that the extreme leftist Soviet political establishment went through to blind their citizens through propaganda is astounding, and draws parallels from another time, and another place.
In 1933, Germany, the Nazi regime was in full swing. Several notable Nazis, including Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Director of the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, took over all forms of media and literature in Germany. Books and public assemblies were restricted, music and movies were censored, and dissent was silenced. The most notable was the mass burning of books in 1933, in which Nazis raided libraries and bookstores across Germany. They marched by torchlight in nighttime parades, sang chants, and threw books into huge bonfires. On that night more than 25,000 books were burned. Some were works of Jewish writers, including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. Most of the books were by non-Jewish writers, including such famous Americans as Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, and Sinclair Lewis, whose ideas the Nazis viewed as different from their own and therefore not to be read. (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
This criminal censorship of media and literature led to a drastic shift to a nationally misguided population, that funneled their rage, a result of the German defeat in World War One, to target the minority populations of the region. These actions resulted in the holocaust and the subsequent genocide of many peaceful inhabitants of Germany.
Both these historical situations represent how the extreme right (fascist) and extreme left (communist) both draw many similarities between each other, especially in their negative actions. We are very lucky that in America, our government is not defined by political extremism, but is a very centrist establishment, with an equilibrium between right and left. This leads to an inclusive society with the chance for every individual to pursue their individual American Dream, their American Creed.
Individualism and Present Day
In our lives, those who believe in the American Creed believe firmly in individualism and individual drive to succeed. Our current political climate has seen the rise of extremist groups like Antifa and the ‘Alt-Right’. These groups use block tactics to maintain their identity, as if everyone looks the same, there is no weakness because no one person can be picked out. An article from the Atlantic references the leftist portion of the users of block tactics, Antifa, as “masked antifa activist” (Beinart) and “In February, masked antifascists..”(Beinart) However, this tactic employed by both extremes that they believe gives them strength actually transforms them into almost completely foreign movements, as our fundamental American Creed is to express individualism and our Individual motivation. As Americans, the American Creed tells us that we should not forget where we are from, while contributing that to our new life pursuing fortune and opportunity as Americans. The block tactics used by recently resurging extremist groups is almost the antithesis to this, and does no justice to their image.
An Example of Chaos, Bioshock
A prime example of the political and social similarities between extremist groups can be found in the video game Bioshock Infinite by Irrational Games. This story, as said by an article on the website ‘Not Even Past’, “is not a simple liberal critique of current politics, but rather a general warning about extremism in politics, whether that extremism comes from the left or the right….“( Whitaker). In the game, the player plays as Booker DeWitt, a person whose “personal remorse has driven him to drinking and gambling. Booker embodies several Progressive Era sensibilities, including the awareness of past wrongs, and the desire for redemption and reform….”(Whitaker). Booker gets caught up in a plot to free a young woman from captivity, and is transported to the fictional floating city of Columbia. Columbia is run by a ‘firebrand preacher’ by the name of Zachary Comstock. Comstock leads a congregation of followers that radically pursue the extremes of the politically right and Christian religion, leading to a picturesque and beautiful city, but one of racism, violence against those who dissent, and a politically monolithic community. Later in the storyline of the game, we meet a woman named Daisy Fitzroy, who leads a radically leftist movement called the ‘Vox Populi’, who are a “rebel organization made up primarily of those of the working class, foreigners, and people of color, all of whom suffer in some way at the hands of Columbia's government and society” (Bioshock Wiki). These people are far left leaning, and hold almost religious socialist and communist ideologies. To them, if you’re not with them, your against them. The Vox Populi represent the extreme left as opposed to the extreme right of the ultra-religious white supremacist society of the establishment on Columbia. During the game, we see atrocities committed against the opposition by both sides, harming innocents and noncombatants in the process, sometimes with the intention to. With the way our main character Booker interacts with each of these factions, the message the writers of this story want to show is incredibly clear: both the radical right and the radical left distribute pain and suffering on equal amounts, while both antagonize the opposite, accusing them of committing the atrocities that they themselves commit. Contrary to this, America is not ruled by the warring factions of right and left, majorities that silence the minorities. America Is made to protect the political rights of the minority, and allows no room for the practice of mob rule. America was formed and is continuing to be formed with a balance of political left and political right, and that is the reason why we live in such an amazing country. America is not a political and social hellscape like the floating city of Columbia, but a land of the free, and the home of the brave.
In America, the ideal creed put forth by our founding fathers expressed the views it did for a reason. When we focus on the individual over the whole, we fix society by starting small and growing. When we express our political beliefs, we allow the opposition to continue expressing theirs because we believe in the fundamental freedoms of speech and expression. When we were formed as a country, we were formed with an equilibrium of political ideology in mind that allowed balanced decisions to be made, a constant in our nation that was put to the test many times as changes rocked our country and the world around us. But most of all, when we think about being an American, we summon up a vision of a person that is individualistic, and has the drive to accomplish anything no matter the odd, no matter the size of the mountain.
Beinart, Peter. “The Rise of the Violent Left.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 6 Aug. 2017, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/the-rise-of-the-violent-left/534192/.
“BioShock Infinite.” BioShock Wiki, Wikia, bioshock.wikia.com/wiki/BioShock_Infinite.
Eberstadt, Mary. “The Primal Scream of Identity Politics.” Weekly Standard, The Weekly Standard Http://Assets.weeklystandard.com.s3.Amazonaws.com/tws15/Images/Logo-Large.png, 27 Oct. 2017, www.weeklystandard.com/the-primal-scream-of-identity-politics/article/2010234.
“How Can Individuals Have an Impact on the Nations Problems?” Reformers of the 1800's, The Social Studies Help Center, www.socialstudieshelp.com/lesson_28_notes.htm.
Knowles, Michael. “What Is the Alt-Right?” PragerU, Prager University, 8 Nov. 2017, www.prageru.com/courses/political-science/what-alt-right.
Prager, Dennis. “How Do We Make Society Better? Left vs. Right #5.” PragerU, Prager University, 8 Nov. 2017, www.prageru.com/courses/left-and-right-differences/how-do-we-make-society-better-left-vs-right-5.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Nazi Propaganda and Censorship.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007677.
Yegorov, Oleg. “Soviet Censorship: How Did the USSR Control the Public?” Russia Beyond, 27 June 2017, www.rbth.com/arts/history/2017/06/27/soviet-censorship-how-did-the-ussr-control-the-public_790892.
Zinsmeister, Karl. “The ‘Anti-Hate’ Group That Is a Hate Group.” PragerU, Prager University, 8 Nov. 2017, www.prageru.com/courses/political-science/anti-hate-group-hate-group.