Journalism has become little more than a head game. For both sides. One media commentator has just called the National Anthem “problematic” , thus changing the trajectory of the seemingly perpetual protest over the transgressions, real or imagined, of the ruling class to the words of Francis Scott Key’s poem itself. It’s the second verse, don’t you see? What? You don’t know it? You don’t care one whit about it? It doesn’t define you as an American? The idea is to give self-hatred a deeper cut, rubbing salt in the wounds.
Believe it or not, we still have a free exchange of ideas, and unrestricted breadth and depth of intellectual inquiry in this country. However, we often get the impression that one school of thought dominates the scholarship. The dominant paradigm in academic thought for about 100 years has been some permutation or another on the Class Struggle, e.g. workers vs capitalists,”have-nots” vs “haves”, Slaves vs Masters, oppressed vs oppressors.. The historiography of the American Civil War is a case in point. Any analysis that suggests abolition and/or perpetuation of slavery as merely one reason for the war is suspect. Dogma by the Marxist historians, admitted (as in the case of WEB Dubois) or de facto, has been promulgated. Dogma slides easily into myth. The search for truth is not the same as proclaiming a new popular mythology. Symbols of the old mythology thus become problematic; those attached to the old symbols are obviously not with the New Mythology, (insert Truth for Mythology).
What does this have to do with Nihilism? Nihilism is the devaluation and obliteration of all ideals, no matter how noble, such that nothing but a baseness of human motive and aspiration is left.
We come to live for gratification of appetite, sexual, sensual, gustatory. We have, as a culture, come to value feelings, particularly pleasurable ones, as the end of human pursuits. The adrenalin rush is the greatest aspiration in our culture. We seek it from sex, roller coasters, computer games, and tragically, war itself.
Saint Paul addressed this in one sentence, in describing the prevalent Roman culture of the First Century.
“Their God is the belly.”- Phillipians 3:19
The noble aspirations that distinguish the American character are largely devalued. I am speaking not merely of values expressed by Jefferson, Lincoln, Douglass, Anthony or King, but even more basic values, like fathers and mothers committed to the survival and integrity of their families. This isn’t only economic well-being, but the preservation of values that keep families and, by extension, societies, together. A father, in living the value that violence is wrong, makes a stronger point to his children than all the rhetoric of politicians on gun control. But where are fathers today? Where are families, for that matter?
So, in a world where there are no values, how can we even presume to Make America Great Again? The Trump revolution, you see, is bigger than its obviously flawed champion. Americans need to aspire to more. And that more, extends beyond the goals of both leftist nihilists and capitalist materialists.