Over the last two years, Americans have lived simultaneously through both the greatest pandemic in a century and the greatest social upheaval since at least the 1960s. Americans are harangued with incessant criticisms of past wrongdoing either real or imaginary. In American Greatness, Victor Davis Hanson explains the “unprecedented escalation in a decades-long war on the American past,” and exposes the “logical flaws in attacking prior generations in U.S. history.”
They Forget Where They Came From
Hanson explains that modern day critics forget where America came from, and thereby misjudge where it is today. He writes:
Critics assume their own judgmental generation is morally superior to those of the past. So, they use their own standards to condemn the mute dead who supposedly do not measure up to them.
Yet 21st century critics rarely acknowledge their own present affluence and leisure owe much to history’s prior generations whose toil helped create their current comfort.
And what may future scolds say of the modern generation that saw over 60 million abortions since Roe v. Wade, even as fetal viability outside the womb continued to progress to ever earlier ages?
What will our grandchildren say of us who dumped on them over $30 trillion in national debt—much of it as borrowing for entitlements for ourselves?
What sort of society snoozes as record numbers of murders continue in 12 of its major cities? What is so civilized about defunding the police, endemic smash-and-grab thefts, and car-jackings?
Is America Actually Worse than Before?
Hanson goes on to wonder if certain pieces of America are not worse than they were before.
Was our media more responsible, professional, and learned in 1965 or 2021? Did Hollywood make more sophisticated and enjoyable films in 1954 or 2021? Was there less or more sportsmanship among professional athletes in 1990 or 2021?
Was it actually moral to discard the “content of our character” and “equal opportunity” principles of the prior Civil Rights movement of 60 years ago? Are their replacement fixations on the “color of our skin” and “equality of result” superior?
Would America have won World War II with the current labor participation rate of only six Americans in 10 working? Would our generation have brought all American troops home and quit World War I, in fear of the deadly 1918 Spanish flu pandemic?
Are we proud that most standardized tests of student knowledge and achievement continue to decline, despite record investments in education?
Do we ever pause to consider that we enjoy our modern standard of living, and security because we were once a meritocracy that quit judging our workforce by tribal affinities and ancient prejudices?
No Gratitude for America’s Continued Greatness
Hanson wonders why, if America is so terrible, so many people are still attempting to gatecrash its borders for a chance to live here, even in undocumented darkness. And he asks, why Americans have so little gratitude for those who came before them.
But if America is so flawed and so irredeemable, why in fiscal year 2021 are nearly 2 million foreigners now crashing its borders—illegally, en masse, and intent on reaching a supposedly racist nation that is purportedly inferior to those they abandon?
According to the ancient brutal bargain, assimilation and integration grant the immigrant as much claim to America’s present and past as the native born. But then shouldn’t the antithesis also be true? Shouldn’t immigrants at least respect those of the past who created the very country they now so eagerly desire, and died in awful places from Valley Forge to Bastogne to preserve?
Never in history has such a mediocre, but self-important and ungracious generation owed so much, and yet expressed so little gratitude, to its now dead forebears.
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