Americans would be much better off if they learned to distinguish fact from fiction in our political discourse. Unfortunately, we have descended to the lowest common denominator where meaningless labels take the place of illuminating public discussion on the realities of government. “The New Frontier,” “the Great Society,” “a Thousand Points of Light,” “Making America Great Again.” What can this mean? “Great” has no definition. It is an empty word designed to make us somehow feel better.
Labels are invented by politicians and their PR men. Washington and Jefferson did not need them. Labels are designed to avoid facing any real issues. Bringing up real issues, even vital ones, are a danger to politicians because they upset their comfortable status quo and threaten their profit and prestige with popular unrest. Politicians’ perspectives are always short-term---keeping their place---the latest poll or brown bag full of unmarked bills more important than service to their clueless voters.
Republican politicians are museum quality specimens of this, intellectually and morally shallow empty suits spouting slogans made up by central party PR experts. When Neil Kumar in an Arkansas primary brought up the issue of dangerous immigration, the incumbent empty suit Republican could only reply that America is a land of immigrants and we needed new ideas and blood---avoidance of the actual living issue. Democrats sometimes actually believe in their platforms, Republicans never.
“Settlers” who at some risk develop a new society in a wilderness are not the same thing as “immigrants” who take up residence in a society built by others that has a developed welfare system.
Loving one’s people and land (patriotism) is not the same thing as exalting one’s government (nationalism). You can love America without confusing it with the U.S. government. The two things are often contradictory. But, alas, this shallow notion is widespread.
Defending the country is not the same as forcing “global democracy” around the world, although this confusion is widespread, based on the delusive labeling of America as a uniquely virtuous government.
Being ruled by bankers, party politicians, judges, and mass media owners, as we are today, is not the same thing as “government of, by, and for the people.” Alas, it may be unavoidable in a “Democracy” with “diversity” rather than civic virtue. Diversity is another label without any real content, vaguely suggesting a supposed good which contradicts all historical experience.
Patience and charity toward troublesome minority groups is not the same thing, and in fact is the opposite of, giving them everything their empowered leaders ask for.
Corporate capitalism is not an expression of free enterprise, but its enemy.
Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews