Friday, May 4, 2012
Why America Failed
Please read Why America Failed by Morris Berman.
And please open yourself to his perspective and try to understand what he says from his point of view before you reject it out of hand. His writing is truly heresy to the American creed. You will not want to accept it. Just please give it a hearing and allow us to talk about it without bad-naming it.
As I stated in earlier blogs, I have embarked on an enterprise to reassess America’s religion by examining the speech and action of this year’s presidential campaigns. What Berman gives me unsolicited is a well-researched, thoughtful articulation of the American religion today with its creed, holy books, sacred symbols and places, creation myths, supernatural entities, saints and martyrs. Thanks to his gift, which I accept gratefully, I can more easily review the American religion as it appears in the campaign as well as test our formulation of it.
Yes, we can accurately call Berman’s work a “conservative, republican critique of America.” But it is not the “conservatism” of Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Ryan, and Romney Republican Party. Far from it! And he demonstrates that Kennedy-Johnson-Clinton-Obama Democratic Party is really not much different in its core (or lack thereof) than the other Party. His work will give you little consolation or rationalization for your choice in the latest super-bowl of American politics.
I too have great problems with Berman’s book. I will argue with his description of America's operating values though in general I do think he is correct. And I do not want to accept his prescription. But my major problem with his writing is that he exposes my hypocrisy, my banal complicity with evil, and my conflicted desire to have a moral center even as I trash it by my own behavior.
Berman stands on the shoulders of a lot of American moral critics, many of whom he names (Hanry Thoreau, Alexis de Tocqueville, Vance Packard, C. Wright Mills, Robert Bellah, Christopher Lasch, Lewis Mumford, Chris Hedges, Joseph Stiglitz, Walter Hickson) and many he does not. Berman represents what Walter Breugemann calls “the prophetic imagination” in American religion, culture, and polity.
But he goes further. All previous prophets imagined an America that would change. Berman argues that such change is now, and probably always has been, a fantasy. America will not, probably cannot, change. It can only continue its lemming-like march over the cliff.
And that I cannot, will not, accept. I have to act at least “as if” redemption is possible.
My next blogs will converse with Bergman’s thoughts. I will try to summarize his description of America’s religion. I will try to show how the American religion is already being proselytized in the presidential campaign. Then I will try to answer VI Lenin’s question: what is to be done and see if it differs from Berman?