The "multiculturalist" notion that America’s current power and wealth rest upon shameful foundations is intended to degrade the ideal of patriotism and cause citizens to believe that their good fortune is undeserved and illicitly gained.
The multicultural Left teaches that early America's geographic expansion and economic progress were made possible only by a genocide against native populations (a particularly ineffectual one, however, since there are more Native Americans in the U.S. today than at the time of Columbus); the uniquely vicious oppression of African slaves; and the corporate exploitation of immigrant masses. It holds that U.S. imperialism has spread misery and oppression to billions of people living far beyond the shores of North America. This view was behind former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill’s characterization of the United States as a nation so evil, that the 9/11 attacks represented ony a "tiny" retaliatory "dose" of America's "own medicine." Churchill wrote that "to attain an actual proportional parity of [the] damage" which the U.S. had inflicted on Iraqis during the Iraq War, "it would require" the killing of "something on the order of 7.5 million" Americans.
While Churchill's views are extreme, they nonetheless express the undercurrent of shame and hatred that the Left as a whole feels toward the United States for its racist and sexist past and environmentally rapacious present. These enduring injustices are all part of what New York Times book reviewer William Grimes has described as the "tainted legacy" that contemporary Americans have inherited.
This "tainted legacy," this endlessly analyzed burden of embarrassment and apology, has brought a decidedly sour flavor to great national celebrations. For example, just prior to Thanksgiving of 2007, the Seattle City Schools sent out a letter signed by the district’s “Director of Equity, Race & Learning Support” and addressed to all faculty and staff, warning that for many students, the holiday represented "a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land." In this view, "Thanksgiving’ is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal."
Columbus Day provokes similar controversy each October, with angry demonstrations against the unwelcome encroachments of white interlopers in the pristine New World paradise they polluted with their disease-ridden, gold-hungry presence.
Similarly celebrations of the Fourth of July feature pointed reminders that some of the most prominent figures in the struggle for Independence (Jefferson, Washington, Patrick Henry) owned slaves.
Even Memorial Day and Veterans Day have lost some of their patriotic fervor and have taken on a distinctly mournful, even skeptical, edge. The Vietnam Memorial in the nation’s capital has not only become a popular tourist attraction, but now serves as a major focus for both national holidays honoring the armed forces – an association that takes the mood a great distance from the parades, picnics, brass bands and flapping banners of prior generations.
Since the 1960s, tribalism has become a prominent feature of America's national life, with identity politics and jostling interest groups taking the place of any homogenizing notion of Americanism. African-Americans, feminists, Latinos, gays, Asians, the disabled, hippies, Native Americans – each aggrieved segment of society demands justice and redress, competing for recognition as the most victimized. This competitive victimhood encourages even privileged people to affiliate with some marginalized cohort or synthetically assembled “community,” and to shun any assimilation into the bland American middle.
With all the suffering subgroups clamoring so colorfully for recognition and sympathy, the old national motto, “E Pluribus Unum” – "out of many, one" –has come to sound intolerant and disrespectful of difference and diversity. The ideal of a melting pot has given way to a “gorgeous multicultural mosaic” comprised of stones that don’t metamorphose into a single national identity. The concept of an overarching, unifying, non-ironic definition of what it is to be an American appears less and less plausible.
If Americans see themselves as heirs to nothing more than a heritage of shame, they will inevitably accept and recycle prevalent slanders about the United States. This section of DiscoverTheNetworks contains resources that provide a necessary counterbalance to that negative view of America.