For the most part, excepting the bit about us being a democracy, what Joe Biden said about how we define being American is essentially true. Here are his words:
“I’ve often said that America is the only nation in the world founded on an idea,” Biden said. “Every other nation in the world is founded on the basis of either that — geography or ethnicity or religion. You can define every — almost everyone else based on those characteristics, but you can’t define America. I defy you to tell me what constitutes an American. You can’t do it. We’re an incredibly diverse democracy.”
“But there is one thing that does define us a country: We were founded on an idea that, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…Life, Liberty, [and] the pursuit of Happiness,’” he added. “It sounds corny to Americans, as we learn this in grade school and high school. We’ve never fully lived up to it, but we’ve never, ever, ever walked away from it. Every generation opens that aperture a little bit wider.”
Basically, he is saying America isn’t based on geography, race, or religion. While our highest idea, that everyone is created with certain inalienable rights, among which life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, hasn’t been lived up to completely, we have never walked away from it. And, as he said, every generation opens that aperture a little bit wider.
President Biden is right.
His base of supporters, however, don’t see it that way. Critical race theory, which is based on totalitarian disregard for human dignity and human rights, is actually a deliberate walking away from this central idea. Radical, violent, irrational, and intolerant to the maximum, Biden’s rioting mobs which helped him into office after some serious electoral chicanery, are diametrically opposed to America’s great idea!
So how can President Biden rely on a base of supporters who don’t actually embrace this, like NPR who essentially denounced the Declaration of Independence as being “deeply flawed”? How can President Biden push CRT so hard when its central idea is quite literally totalitarianism?
(The chief aim of “critical theory”, of which CRT is a subset, like “Marxist Racism”, is the justification of totalitarianism.)
America as a union of commonwealths, small republics, and national peoples can become a diverse, pluralistic, free society of equals in terms of opportunity and treatment under the law where this great central idea reigns. But the growing authoritarian response, especially, but not exclusively, from the left and Democrats in this land to every real, histrionic, or outright fake (bogeyman) problem is moving us backwards significantly for the first time in our history.
If President Biden or others want to insinuate or claim that an American “nation” exists whose only idea is this, even though this is, broadly speaking, a great idea, then they don’t understand how national identity creates and enables a form of organic cohesiveness. This organic cohesiveness allows vast numbers of people to act in their own individual self-interest while serving a greater good and shared purpose without the need to rely on a top-down system of control.
Nationhood without strong shared beliefs (especially religious), values, and convictions just isn’t a thing. But in a country with a dwindling ‘Christian” majority, most of whom do not hold consistently to historic Christian orthodoxy, making being a Christian a condition of being an American is intolerance and untenable.
America is a country, not a nation. And that’s OK. If the great idea of this country is something like freedom based on virtue, liberty, and independence, then this is a good thing as well. It is the basis of a true “empire of liberty” that acts as a homeland and protector to multiple nations of people within.
I’m an American because I love this country, I embrace its big idea for freedom with liberty and justice for all, I reject bigotry, racism, and intolerance, and I respect the original spirit and intent of our Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights as the highest ethical and moral law of this land.
America isn’t a nation and it isn’t a nationality! Therefore, any persons or national peoples within our borders who start with respecting this big idea would fit in with and enhance this country.
There was a time when the American nation was almost exclusively Christian in character and beliefs, but never was it based solely or mostly on ancestry. Times changed and America has lost a national character based on Judeo-Christian beliefs and values to become this diverse union where citizenship and adoption of our great idea was all that made you an American.
Whether for good or ill, America is a country without a distinct national identity in the sense of the classical, ancient concept of nationhood. We are a country, not a nation, but a country whose core identity is supposed to be freedom with liberty and justice for all.
While for the most part President Biden said the right things, his reliance on a radical base who defy those things and his policies that undermine those things make his words as hollow as those who may have signed the Declaration of Independence while owning slaves.