REMEMBERING ANOTHER VILLAIN
The name "Randolph Silliman Bourne" probably means nothing to you. But it should. The name belongs to the man, who is pictured on the left. Although he died in 1918, he remains one of the most sinister figures in the history of American culture. He is a villain.
A little background first. Horace Kallen was an American Jewish philosopher, and also the father of multiculturalism in this country. He wrote a seminal article, which was published in The Nation in February 1915, entitled "Democracy Versus the Melting Pot." In this article, he extolled cultural pluralism and envisioned America as a "democracy of nationalities, cooperating voluntarily and autonomously through common institutions in the enterprise of self-realization through the perfection of men according to their kind." He trumpeted the idea of various cultures of people living beside each other, bound not by blood, language, religion, or tradition, but only by institutions. The idea was a radical one, which sounded the death knell for America's Anglo-Protestant culture, "whose voice and spirit were New England," and which culture he believed was "gone beyond recall" and had "passed from a life into a memory."
Walter Lippmann, a New York Jewish intellectual, and the founding editor of the New Republic, shared Kallen's vision. He harshly criticized traditional American culture as that of a "nation of villagers," and aggressively opposed Thomas Jefferson's vision of America as a "Yeoman Republic," or as a people close to the soil and to God.
Now enters Bourne, who enthusiastically acknowledged the influence upon him of his above-named Jewish peers. His trail-blazing article, "Trans-National America," was published in the Atlantic Monthly in July 1916. In this piece, he advocated the elimination of America's Anglo-Saxon character:
"The Anglo-Saxon element is guilty of what every dominant race is guilty of in every European country: the imposition of its own culture upon the minority peoples. The fact that this imposition has been so mild and, indeed, semiconscious does not alter its quality. And the war [World War I] has brought out just the degree to which that purpose of 'Americanizing,' that is, 'Anglo-Saxonizing,' the immigrant failed."
Notice Bourne's assumptions. America does not have the moral right to exalt a common culture and to insist upon the assimilation of immigrants to it. That, for Bourne, is an horrendous "imposition," worthy of nothing but condemnation.
He further believed that the Great Wave of immigration had been positive and had helped to make America the first "international nation" and a "cosmopolitan federation for national colonies." To this extent he had admirably toed the mark set by Kallen. But his obeisance would stop there, and his thought would take its own destructive turn. He excluded the Anglo-Saxon from his "federation of nationalities." That's right. Anglo-Saxons were not, in his vision for America, to be honored as "another" ethnicity, but were implored instead to sacrifice their character in order to become "cosmopolitan." You may wonder what this meant. It meant that white Europeans should forfeit their culture, while other ethnic groups were free to adhere proudly to theirs. Listen to the man's words to Anglo-Saxons:
"Breathe a larger air. . . .[for] in his [young Anglo-Saxon's] new enthusiasms for continental literature, for unplumbed Russian depths, for French clarity of thought, for Teuton philosophies of power, he feels himself a citizen of a larger world.He may be absurdly superficial, his outward-reaching wonder may ignore all the stiller and homelier virtues of his Anglo-Saxon home, but he has at least found the clue to that international mind which will be essential to all men and women of good-will if they are ever to save this Western world of ours from suicide."
The Anglo-Saxon was supposed to appreciate all other ethnicities at the expense of his own.
It would not be long before Bourne's "cosmopolitan" vision hit the American mainstream. As Eric P. Kaufmann, author of The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America, writes, "Emerging from Bourne . . . was a new radical (left-modernist) vision of the nation, which rapidly became paradigmatic among avant-garde intellectuals in the United States." Kaufman further explains that, with the advent of World War II and its aftermath, including the GI Bill, skyrocketing university matriculation, and television in every home, Bourne's vision shaped the American ethos. Anglo-Protestant America was ready for burial. Randolph Bourne, a student of John Dewey, and a New York intellectual who was beholding to Kallen and Lippmann, had been most instrumental in this transformatiional cultural development.
What we are witnessing today in our country, especially in the Tea Party movement, is the painful awareness by thousands of Americans that the culture they love, barring some enormous cataclysm, has been lost. This awareness, partial and tattered as it is, has come 100 years too late. For that, we can thank corrupt, agenda-driven media, left-wing universities, politicians belonging to the highest bidder, and a less than vigilant citizenry.
The Immigration Reform Act of 1965, the watershed event in the degeneration of traditional American culture, enacted into law by Lyndon Johnson, owes much to the all-but-forgotten legacy of Randolph Bourne. Immigrants have since flooded into this country from the Third World, speaking their own languages, practicing their own religions, and upholding their own customs and traditions. Many of them have even held on to their old world citizenships. Lest we forget, the Times Square terrorist was a Pakistani, who received his American citizenship in 2009! How encouraging!
Every culture is honored here except the Anglo-Protestant one. The white person is viewed as an incorrigible racist, and Christianity is characterized largely as an imperialistic, triumphal faith, responsible for much of the world's intolerance. Islam is supposedly the great religion of peace, which is afforded immense and deferential respect by our cosmopolitan chief executive himself. Randolph Bourne would be proud.
May 6, 2010