Apologies to our friends from outside the USA, but America was founded as a new hope for humanity. At almost every turn, that hope has been dashed, and frequently religion has been part o the problem. Specifically, the early sixties held out the promise of fantastical progress- we went to the moon, for Chrissake! Then the Moral Majority popped up, and its only rule was to say no to everything. The Mormonism of David McKay was followed by the church of Ezra Benson and Joseph F. Smith and Boyd Packer and Dallin Oaks. Nationally, eighteen months ago we had people invade the US Capitol to overthrow the government! How can these people live with themselves? What drives them? Why do they think they are better than the rest of us, who are trying to make America (and the world in general) a genuinely good place for everybody? Sorry to rant. Thank you.
Stop whining. Read about the Civil War. The United States wasn’t so United then and the end result was 650,000 dead Americans and hate that still exist from that war today. That being said we moved on, the union held and we became one of the best places in the world to live. People are still sacrificing to come here both legally and illegally. Not too long ago I bought a nice gentleman a drink who was celebrating he just passed his exam for citizenship.
It goes in cycles my friend. It never stays good and it never stays bad. It’s bad when they have to build a wall to keep us in.
I think America was founded initially out of a sense of self interest and personal gain. Amy sense of being "a hope for humanity" developed after those things were secured by the elites and the nation evolved,reaching its peak in the first half of the 20th Century when America truly became engaged and took its place among world affairs.
Correct. Woodrow Wilson was the first messianic president and his dream crashed upon the shoals of American conservatism in 1922 and 1923. The second and more enduring manifestation of American moralism started in WWII.
It helps when all of your enemies, and even your friends, are prostrate.
While I partially agree with Rubicon (positive and negative forces seem to run in cycles in U.S. history), I would say that what is driving a lot now (as it has been for a long time) is, to paraphrase the rapper, Public Enemy's album title, fear of a non-white planet or a planet where Caucasians do not make up the majority or hold all of the positions of power. It is this racially-motivated fear that is behind most white Protestant Christian religions, including Mormonism, and it is this fear that others who don't look like us (and who may hold more primitive views than us, at least according to the fearmongers) will gain power over superior Caucasians that is driving policies on everything from abortion to immigration to the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to the growing support for state vouchers for private and parochial schools to the teaching of critical race theory to the teaching of a history that says that white people are not the superheroes they view themselves as being. And it doesn't matter if you tell people that their racial fears are unjustified--the fearmongers among them just pound the table harder and scream the louder that they, and not black or brown or red or yellow people should rule the world. And yes, this fear has been there for a long time but now that those who have this fear know about the changing demographics of the U.S. population, this fear has moved from fright to blind, emotion-based actions that have the potential to destroy the U.S. and all that it has stood for.
Some riffs can take 6 years to learn.....for some people anyway.
I graduated from rock and roll high school, then went to rock and roll community college for a year and then finished at rock and roll university, but because it was BYU, it was also a little bit country.
Let’s not overlook, diminish, or forget the causes & effects of porn, alcohol- drugs.
I term those as indicators & causes at least facilitating both selfishness & being self-centered;
How many of us understand deferred gratification? Have we failed to understand & invoke benefit from cautions in our choices?
we bowl alone.
I see our past social connections as rapidly failing to moderate or reduce selfishness, arrogance & crime including suicide;
School shootings each have somewhat distinct ‘reasons’ but I bet social scientists see commonalities
IMHO, ChurchCo leaders are almost totally either clueless and/or willfully ignoring trends but instead only focus on their myopic views & half-baked ‘solutions’ which are only minimally effective if at all.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/29/2022 01:53AM by GNPE.
Spot on. The western world struggle with addiction of all imaginable kinds. The parody is that most of the self-centeredness started up with a good intention in mind. Self-motivation and self-realization was looked upon as postmodern virtues 30-40 years ago. If the norm once was a life listening to Perry Como in a nice house people today get a kick out of cortisol.
TL;DR. That messianic view of American history was/is not unique to Mormons.
The peoples who founded the US were religious, and some of them did see the New World as a city on a hill. Such propaganda played a role in the Revolutionary War, and JS channeled that belief in his writing and teaching.
And eventually, around the turn of the 20th century, it grew ubiquitous. Teddy Roosevelt embodied it as a civilizing mission (common to most of the imperial powers), and Woodrow Wilson, the preacher, made American moral leadership the cornerstone of his foreign policy. The US rejected Wilson's internationalist foreign policy when the senate voted against membership in the League of Nations, but even that rejection was framed as an almost religious faith that foreign entanglements were a moral evil whose defeat was America's mission. The height of American messianism came during WWII and the early post-war era, when the US assumed leadership in the struggle of good versus evil and much of the world felt the same way.
My point is that the messianic view of the US as God's instrument on earth and leader of a moral struggle was not a Mormon invention. It was another instance of JS's syncretic approach to religion.
But the belief that Native Americans were Israelites was itself part of the tradition of American exceptionalism. Recall that the 10 Tribes were taken away by God to a secret chosen land and would return to "the world" as part of the preparation for the Second Coming.
I'm not talking about Messianic stuff. The founders of the nation (not their colonial forebears) wanted to construct a new nation based on some radically new ideas. They knew it was an experiment, and they knew that most experiments fail. That's why many of them fully expected a new Constitution after about twenty years. They were under no illusions about divine sanction or mandate. They wanted, in fact, a nation that was religion-neutral and system-based. They knew there would be problems. But that is what they wanted all of us to understand. They did not think their new Constitution was Inspired by God to yield a fertile ground for a New Jerusalem. They did not expect anything in particular. They wanted to do the experiment and see what happened. My original question is, why did the experiment fail, if indeed it did fail (it certainly looks dismal at present)? Why did we have the Civil War? Why do we still have grinding poverty in the midst of unimaginable wealth? Why are votes being denied? and on and on. The hippies of the sixties started out right, until they turned inwards and became arrogant recluses. Why? That is the heart of my question.
You and I are addressing slightly different topics. I'm saying that the messianic tradition, the notion that the US would lead the world in some way, was present not from the foundation of the constitution but from the arrival of the Pilgrims 150 years earlier.
The founders were, as you note, realists. Thomas Jefferson's suggestion that the country would need a revolution every 20 years was nonsense, of course, and its instructive to note he never expressed that sentiment after the atrocious French Revolution. In general they were not firebrands and they did not embrace the messianism that informed opinion among the religious extremists (maybe even religious moderates) of the day. To the contrary, they dismissed the idea that any person or group of persons could be depended on to do what was right and, instead, followed Hume in establishing competing power centers whose self-interest would check each other's influence.
Why did the experiment fail, if it did fail? Franklin warned that they had given us a republic, "if you can keep it," and I think his qualified view was about right. Likewise, Washington warned that the republic would be destroyed if the day arose when fealty to party exceeded loyalty to the constitution and the republic.
Has the United States not borne that out? Was not the whole constitution apparatus designed to preserve slavery--the 10th amendment, the 3/5 provision, etc--a profound threat to the constitution itself? The country survived the Civil War but the trappings of slavery remained in the form of Jim Crow, and the authoritarian trends of the last 30 years represent exactly what keep Franklin awake at night.
I'm not ready to pronounce the American experiment dead, but it sometimes appears moribund in much the way the more prescient of the founders anticipated. And if it does succeed, that triumph would represent not a divine mission but rather the abandonment of religion in favor of a separation of powers based in the notion that selfishness is the only dependable force in human affairs.
I didn’t know Wilson was a preacher. I did know he was a racist, even by the standards of his day. I have a cousin in the Deep South who is named Woodrow in honor of Woodrow Wilson, who basically resegregated an integrated Civil Service.
Two of my grandparents were born in the Deep South around 1890. They were only slightly more removed in time from the Civil War as we are from the election of Bush 43. Think about that for a moment. When they were children, all of the older adults had had direct experience with the Civil War. My grandparents.
As for Rubicon and our “city on a hill” image, there is still plenty of that left, especially in third world countries. I think the industrialized countries are getting more wary. We are viewed by many as too full of ourselves at best, and a threat to world stability at worst.
This of course affects Mormonism because it is precisely those industrialized nations whose populations show little to no interest (or even negative interest) in Mormonism.
I was wrong about WW being a preacher. His grandfather and father were, and the latter was a very prominent and fervent evangelist. I see WW as inheriting that sense of messianic mission and transposing it into a political context.
And yes, although some of his ancestors were committed abolitionists Wilson himself was an inveterate racist. Not only did he impose segregation on the US government, he also interpreted his principle of national self-determination in racist terms to allow League of Nation "mandates" and other forms of colonialism.
Where I disagree with you is about the "city on a hill" image. I spend significant time in developing countries and the US is not generally viewed as exemplary in any but an economic sense. Do poor countries want US aid? You bet. Do the indigent want to move to the US for a better life? Yes. But economic admiration is not the same thing as moral admiration.
Yep, and it's a disaster since 1) the world could use some inspiration, and 2) it enhanced US power around the globe. The present movement towards isolationism is the most intense since the 1920s and 1930s, when that isolationism proved extremely costly.
And yes, the American heartland used to produce geopolitical thinkers like Harry Truman and William Fulbright and Eisenhower and many others. Now the center of the country is largely internationally illiterate, which is another way of identifying the enormous shortfalls in modern American education. At some point the country stopped caring about civics.
Woodrow Wilson is widely commemorated in France (like many towns, we have an "Avenue du Président Wilson"...), presumably because of his role during and after WW1. People here don't seem to be aware of his racism.
Ask Gladys her nationality, and she will say American. Only White folk can get away with that one word. Even the indigenous people are ID'd with whatever modifier is in vogue.
Even if you're just a generation away from an ancestral home, the pale-faced kids you have here are simply American.
I have 11 grandkids, 10 of whom are never questioned when they announce that they're American. That 11th kid has too much of my heritage to get away with that and has to explain that he has a Mexican grandfather.
Racism happened. Whites have always enjoyed their privilege in America as the majority. But as demographics have shifted and Americans have seen their population shift, from Lily White to Brown, they’re scared they’ll get a smaller slice of the scarce pie. Working class middle Americans have seen the two party system abandon them for minorities on one end and billionaires on the other. Leaving most Americans, who choose to be independent, Who the hell is fighting for middle America? Increasingly, ever since America elected Obama to be president, white supremacist Americans have reacted with outrage and bullying. Trump was the first presidential candidate to tap into the bullying tendency of those in the majority. Once he started openly bullying minorities women and especially women of color, bullies felt emboldened to bully those same groups. Incels formed white supremacist armed militias, proud boys, Oath Keepers, 1%’ers. Next thing we know it’s 1/6 and these same bullies are beating cops on the Capitol Steps with Thin Blue Line flags. While Middle Americans stand back and say, What The Actual Fuck happened to my country?
As a sequel to the Roman Empire, maybe it has come full circle. It has the slave class it always wanted, but the currency is debased and the Empire is crumbling. We even have Mongol hordes threatening Taiwan.
Many believe we are the whore of Babylon. Empires come and go. I'd say America had a nice run. China will be the next world empire.
...some of what has happened in America is happening elsewhere as well. Specifically, I'm referring to the resurgence of the far right in central Europe with the first pro-Fascist party being elected in Italy in about 100 years occurring at the end of last week.
Now, though the U.S. system of government works differently than the European one, both are beset by fears of immigrants and demographic changes. In the U.S., it's fears of dark-skinned people displacing whites in positions of power; in much of western Europe, it's the fear of black Muslims displacing white Christians.
While I am an atheist, there is a religious perspective that many Christians on both sides of the Atlantic are missing on this. That perspective comes in the New Testament primarily from the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke's gospel and the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew's gospel with further evidence in Acts with the story of how Peter was to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. Both parables and the story from Acts suggest that the historical God worshipped by Christians does not judge people based upon either their skin color or immigration status; rather they will be judged on how they treated, or failed to treat, the poor and those in prisons.
You are right that Trumpism is not an American phenomenon but rather the American manifestation of a pan-Western and even a global problem. Italy's election is a good example, but similar things are happening in the UK, France, even Denmark, as well as Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela, Brazil, and the Philippines, The demise of Russia's tentative exploration of democracy and the new authoritarianism of Xi Jinping and the Sino-Russian joint declaration that the age of liberalism is over are also indicative of the global trend.
The last time this happened was in the 1930s; and then, as now, it was triggered largely by unfortunate economic events: the depression and its aftermath in the earlier case and, in the latter, the combination of long-term trends harming working- and middle-class people in Europe and the US plus the gradual dismantling of social safety nets everywhere. These things leave people angry and anxious to find scapegoats, which usually appear in various hues of brown although Jews are often gratuitously assigned such status as well.
Democracy requires a stable middle class, and that stability is founded on equitable social contracts like those that emerged from the ashes of World War Two--when Republicans enacted a top marginal income tax rate of 91% in order to maintain a socially acceptable level of infrastructure spending and social services. Until people wake up to the costs imposed by widespread inequality and insecurity, it will be difficult to combat the new populist impulse towards tyranny.
It seems that every several generations people must learn that lesson anew.
I blame the supporters that propel despots into authority; Reagan catered to his supporters just as Hiter did before him & Donnie did decades later.
The authority these people and others like them: Pol Pot, Mussolini, Jim Jones, Joey Smith , the N. Korean, Stalin, the Chinese, etc… the individual selections of these folks was more a matter of chance & opportunity whereas the causes of their supporters wasn’t, at least IMHO