Hanson on Citizenship

Defining terms is always a good place to begin a conversation and Victor Davis Hanson’s The Dying Citizen. How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America (Basic Books) weaves a rich definition of citizenship into his discussion of the current threats to this profoundly Western idea.

The idea of citizenship originated in the 5th-century B.C. Greek city-states, the concept being nourished by the likes of one Alkidamas, who wrote, “Nature has made no man a slave.”  This was in profound contrast to the rigid stratification that almost all societies then and most non-western societies still maintain: top-down social systems wherein certain privileges are awarded to the favored few by regnant earthly powers as opposed to the God-given, non-negotiable, inherent rights citizens in the West enjoy.

This truly revolutionary idea of a self-reliant citizenry produced an empowered and independent middle class which itself created most all of the West’s material productivity and civilized discourse.  This tradition was inherited from the Greeks by Rome and enshrined in those qualified to be called “Roman citizens.”  The idea of citizenship advanced further, extending up the Italian peninsula and on to other parts of Europe and then to England from which it was bequeathed to the United States where it was confirmed and codified in our Constitution.

But as Hanson knows, constitutional republics composed of citizens uniting for mutual protection are short-lived.  Thus, his treatise shows how the blurring of the distinction between “citizenship” and “residency” is proceeding at a dramatic pace as America opens its borders and accommodates the newcomers by the reintroduction of an ethnic spoils system which resegregates citizens into ethnic tribes, duplicating the tribal societies that they are supposedly fleeing.  

These attempts to fundamentally change the idea of citizenship are engineered directly, even brazenly, by an unelected bureaucracy and more gradually by the courts.  Meanwhile, the lure of cheap foreign labor and foreign investment has turned the heads of our putative patricians away from their traditional role of protecting the sovereignty of American citizens.

In Hanson’s first chapter, “Peasants,” he writes: “The ancient value of middleness was manifested as the emerging middle-class blue-collar worker and, in the latter twentieth century, as the archetypal suburban, two-car-garage family.”  And certainly, people now demand bigger homes and many Americans do extremely well.   But inflation ballooned prices, especially for homes, while wages did not keep up due mostly to competition from cheap foreign labor. 

Nonetheless, late in the 20th century, “free trade” advocates predicted that America would become a service economy with a concomitant decline in wages.  Meanwhile, costs rose disproportionately for a university education.  Thus, economics and ideology are squashing the middle class back into a modern version of the hapless peasantry.

Because of this tortured history, including the original sin of racism, the “project was to diversify America in order to remold it along more progressive lines,” meaning opening borders and deploying affirmative-action programs.  The newcomers were also encouraged to trash America as opposed to assimilating, assimilation having become for the conformist credentialed class a threat to ethnic identity instead of a badge of citizenship.  As Hanson writes, few nations have been so determined to degrade their own citizens and traditions.

Hanson charts the failures of multiculturalism due to the tribalism of ethnic groups which is demonstrated in that each has words for outsiders.  Such words as “gringo,” used by Mexicans toward non-Mexicans, or the Japanese gaijin.  Yet, as Hanson writes, “No equivalents of these racialized terms now exist in formal American English for non-American peoples.” 

Since most voters reject these suicidal policies, the “Unelected” experts in the bureaucracy impose them on the citizenry.  Enter President Trump in 2016 as a representative of citizens wishing to hold on to their rights.  But Hillary Clinton, exiting stage left, led “the Resistance” to Trump.  Joining her were America’s security agencies.   Retired general Michael Hayden, former CIA director, compared Trump to the Nazis.   CNN and other outlets provided protection for these deep state attacks unparalleled in American history.

The courts also continue the assault on the idea of citizenship comparable to what Marxist Antonio Gramsci called, “the long slow march through the institutions.”  Hanson’s chapter “Evolutionaries” demonstrates this by pointing out that it is now assumed that presidents without congressional support can engage America in overseas wars lasting years, can make “deals” with Iran while signing agreements like the Paris Climate Accords.

Hanson closes with a chapter called, “Globalists” where he reminds us that history is littered with a “succession of would-be imperial globalists” like the Islamic caliphates, the Ottomans, the British, Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler et al.   Each of these polities and persons collapsed national borders in order to manufacture a uniform society.  But such schemes imploded due to insolvency, corruption, and fatigue.

Nonetheless, Hanson the historian knows well that times change but people largely don’t.  That is, such schemes were tried with the League of Nations, continued by FDR’s desire that not only Americans but everyone in the world should be guaranteed jobs, shelter, food, education, health care, and pensions.  Ironically, America’s fascist enemies were promising the same to their people which made it obvious that to do these things, the rights of citizens would have to be compromised. 

So, one size does not fit all, China being the prime example of this.   Trying to achieve a trade balance with China when it denies basic rights to its people tilts its relationship with America in China’s direction despite chatter about “the world being flat.”  Nonetheless, the NBA peddles propaganda for China even as it expands its borders and exports a pandemic.  Americans supporting China while ignoring these threats are accomplices in the dissolution of American citizenship.  

Terry Scambray writes from the Great Central Valley of California

Image: Basic Books

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