5/7/2002 - PKT, San Jose, CA writes ...
National unity is a wonderful premise, but I wonder if itís been true at any time in our history. The sectionalism that defined the country in the pre-Civil War days was so divisive and violent it led to a national bloodletting that still reverberates in modern culture. Reconstruction continued the pattern with new grievances being created and new animosities and that was followed by the even darker era of Jim Crow and lynch law. In the Southwest and Far West Mexican-Americans were denied voting and civil rights; Native Americans were robbed of their lands and culture and forced to live on reservations; labor and capital had violent clashes throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and any group perceived to be outside the accepted norms of what was thought to be a ďtrue AmericanĒ has faced violent consequences.
Did the civil rights struggles of the 1960s create the divisions we are now seeing or did it merely bring attention to conditions that already existed? Was America really the great melting pot or was that a myth perpetuated by the existing powers to legitimize the rampant and institutionalized bigotry that dominated our culture until the first great breakthrough with the Civil Rights Act of 1964? We can decry what has been termed the Balkanization of America into special interest groups based on ethnicity, culture or class but the fact remains that these groups have developed political and economic power and will not give that up or return to the past. Like it or not, society evolves. Women wonít go back to the homes to be just wives and mothers, gays wonít return to the days of random police stops and criminal convictions for sexual behavior, non-white minorities wonít accept any real or imagined discrimination. These are the realities as they are, not as we would have them.
Whatís happening in America is now seen worldwide. As the 19th century saw the rise of nationalism perhaps the 21st century will see the collapse of nationalism as religious and ethnic identities become more important that nationality. In France the influx of French-speaking people of Arab descent has already changed the political landscape. Britain, once the most insular and homogenous of countries, is changing thanks to increasing numbers of British citizens with Asian and African origins. Germany has large pockets of Turkish citizens within its borders. Moslem fundamentalists have created a de facto pan-Arabic state that trumps the existing national governments.
Marx and Hegel, who got a lot of things wrong, were fundamentally right in their dialectal view of history. Society is always changing and there are social forces at work that lead to change. Their error was they saw the evolution leading to a socialist state, but in reality the socialist state was just one stop in a continuing process that leads to nowhere except further change and upheaval. America and the rest of the world are caught in a maelstrom of history where society must adapt or die. Our challenge for the 21st century isnít to look to the past and to try to recreate a dead and perhaps mythical view of America but to work with what we have to create new dynamics that answer todayís needs. The Constitution is and always will be our basic framework, but the Founding Fathers meant for it to be a living document, not something engraved in stone where the dead hand of the past would forever rule the future. The America of today isnít the America of 200 years ago or even 50 years ago, and the America of tomorrow wonít resemble what we have today. That isnít socialism, communism, fascism or any other kind of Ėism. Itís just history.
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