Brief thought: according to Brownson, part of being a nation by nature – by the operation of Natural Law – is the recognition of things held and valued in common. In other words, a naturally-formed nation is a commonwealth.
Brownson is clear that he’s not just or even primarily talking about the physical stuff held in common. The common wealth of a nation is most properly the ideas, dreams and sense of shared destiny that makes one person look at someone he’s never met, who may live many miles away, and think: he is my countryman; and may cause him to look at his next door neighbor and say: he is not my countryman.
If things continue as they have for the last 50 years or so (or maybe longer – that’s my personal time-frame), will we still be able to think of an Iowa farmer, a New Jersey cabbie, a California mom, a Texas dentist, a Florida laborer, a New England dental hygienist, or a Alabama city councilman as members of the same natural nation, as lovers of the same commonwealth, or will we first ask after their race, sex, country of origin, first language, level of income or some other thing that identifies their assumed true loyalties?
We already live in a country where it is routine for people in the East Coast metropolitan areas to consider Southerners, Texans and the residents of the fly-over states as rubes, bumpkins and, most especially, people whose concept of the nation and its destiny are WRONG. Many black are presented in the media (1) as having a fundamental loyalty to changing or even destroying the culture they find themselves in, one they do not share with the white people who, in theory at least, created it. In this they differ radically from Martin Luther King, who always saw blacks and whites as sharing a culture, and wanted that shared culture to be better in a way that wasn’t fundamentally destructive. (2)
Yet, ironically, the coastal city-dwellers (3) do not see themselves as attempting to destroy the nation, but rather think that the people who disagree with them are the ones doing the destruction. A Texan may think them crazy Yankees, and might fervently believe they would benefit mightily by striving to be more Texan-like – but he is unlikely to have any evangelical zeal about it. He is unlikely to think it his job to do anything at all about the situation – as long as that behavior is mutual.
But the true evangelical heart of this country has always been in the Calvinist Northeast, founded and peopled by fanatics who fled Europe so they could run their own theocracy. While the religious aspects of this attitude have evolved, then dissolved, from Puritan Calvinism through Christian Universalism to modern secular humanism, the zeal has survived unabated, at least in enough people to keep an unshakeable (and unearned) sense of moral superiority alive. Thus, we end up, for example, with a puritanical zeal against 48 oz sodas and for homosexuality that brooks no heresy.
A key part of the nationhood of the U.S. is, or was, the recognition that we are all very different *other than* our love of the Commonwealth. How else could such a wild mix of people from all over the world ever hope to form and keep a sense of nationhood?
- Not any I know personally, but who am I going to believe, the media or my own lying eyes?
- I’m aware that there are more radical aspects to King’s philosophy, but at least in his famous public speeches, he called for all to live together – and that’s what I’m getting at here.
- Calling them ‘elites’ is not really accurate – I don’t find this attitude to be any less prevalent in the man on the street than in the professor or stock broker or politician in his office. However, my personal sample size is really, really small here.