wrong-headed idealism

Schoolhouse Rock’s “The Great American Melting Pot”Sometimes, in the still of the night, I think I hear the American culture coming apart at the seams. Sometimes it’s the popping of a stitch. Other times it’s an alarming rip. But the culture is definitely showing signs of strain.

I don’t think this is normal wear and tear. I think the culprit is zeal connected to bad ideology, zeal fueled by ignorance often masquerading as enlightenment.

A moment’s thought, for instance, reveals that Political Correctness undermines the most precious provision of the Bill of Rights: free speech.

Which is more important, freedom of expression or somebody’s feelings?

Only the ignorant would say feelings, but ignorant doesn’t always mean uneducated. Last November a University of Missouri journalism professor attacked a student journalist who was covering a campus protest. The faculty member championed the protesters.

Had she never heard of freedom of the press? It’s in the Bill of Rights and her field was journalism. Where was her judgment?

As Mose Allison, the great bluesman, might put it, “Her mind was on vacation and her mouth was working overtime.” (Note the verb tense; she was fired. Good riddance.)

But how many young, impressionable minds did this teacher contaminate with her wrong-headed idealism, which sadly seems more and more welcome in Academia.

A few more cultural stitches popped in recent reports that historical revisionism is in the saddle again, focusing chiefly (for now) on Civil War memorabilia – flags, statues, building and bridge names. The datelines were as varied as Columbia, New Orleans, Charleston, Cape Town, and Oxford, England, but it won’t stop there. Among the unthinking, few things spread as fast as a bad idea.

Those pushing the movement may be too young to recall that the Soviet Union was big on historical revisionism, too, but now both the Soviet Union and its revisions are gone. But why can’t any revisionist see that it is naïve to look at history only through the lens of modern sensibilities? In matters of judgment, context is essential.

Also essential is common sense, a quality that turns out to be not so common, after all.

Not least among the enemies of the republic are those who promote multicultural diversity as if it were a noble rebuke to bigotry in America. Actually, it marshals public sentiment toward separatism, which is the exact opposite of what the UNITED States stands for. Remember? “United we stand; divided we fall.”

The zeal for multiculturalism also ignores that ethnic communities have been a part of the American landscape almost from the beginning – Chinatown, Little Italy, Harlem, Tarpon Springs, Eatonville, La Storia. From sea to shining sea, the list goes on and on.

But here’s the historical difference, and it’s a huge one: Though understandably interested in preserving their ethnic heritage, the immigrants in these communities came to the USA to assimilate, NOT to remain separate and apart.

The great strength of America is its openness to the melting-pot concept of society. To push the country in the opposite direction is to encourage the balkanization of the land, or, in clearer terms, to try to disunite the United States.

If any or all of this describes the kind of American you are, I leave you with these parting words: The world is full of other countries and Delta is ready when you are.

Image: Schoolhouse Rock’s “The Great American Melting Pot” (watch it on YouTube.com) via Giphy.com (fair use).
Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After a stint in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English (Class of '61). I began my (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and went to work for The Constitution in, I think, 1976. I left in Sept. '82 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award and my second (Atlanta Blues, in 2004) contended for an Edgar Award. My latest novel won no honors but might well get me nominated for a hanging. Titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in a small Georgia town. I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.com and I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.