The Assault on America's National Identity
By: Rich Lowry (MSN)
The NFL has a new national anthem, or at least a rival to the old one.
© Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports An Air Force airman holds an American flag before a game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High in Denver, Colo., August 11, 2018.
According to reports last week, the NFL will play "Lift Every Voice and Sing," commonly referred to as the black national anthem, before every game this year.
This is more than woke virtue-signaling, although it is assuredly that.
The NFL has been such a battlefield for the cultural struggle over the national anthem and protests because it long ago eclipsed baseball as the national pastime. Heretofore, as one would expect of such a thoroughly American sport, the league had identified itself with a robust patriotism (pre-game flyovers, gigantic American flags unfurled on the field, tributes to servicemembers . . . ).
That the NFL has swung drastically the other way is a sign that a new national identity is emerging to supplant the old. This new American identity is, of course, getting pushed by every lever of elite culture. It is defined by "anti-racism" instead of the American creed, Black Lives Matter instead of, say, the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, and new rituals, holidays, and heroes instead of ones that have been long established and, to this point, uncontroversial.
The national anthem? It will now compete with the black national anthem and, by implication, risks becoming the "white" national anthem.
Juneteenth is worthy of commemoration but is being set up as a competitor holiday to July 4.
1776, that most iconic year, is under pressure from 1619.
Statues of American legends such as the celebrated explorers Lewis and Clark,, and Roger Clark, "Conqueror of the Old Northwest," were removed in a single day in Charlottesville, Va., the latest instance of a remorseless iconoclasm sweeping the land.
And so on.
Why does it matter? A nation is to a large extent defined by its symbols and associations, the holidays, rituals, heroes, and history — the mystic chords of memory — that constitute its collective self-understanding. This is how a nation tells itself what it is and what it's priorities should be.
As the 20th-century liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger explained with regard to accounts of the past in particular, "as the means of defining national identity, history becomes a means of shaping history."
When the late Samuel Huntington published his classic book — Who Are We? — in 2004, his warnings about the potential rise of Hispanic separatism in the American Southwest seemed overly dire. But now his words about the creation of a new national identity seem — typically of Huntington — quite prescient. "The greatest surprise," he wrote, "might be if the United States in 2025 is still the country it was in 2000 rather than a very different country (or countries) with very different conceptions of itself and its identity than it had a quarter century earlier."
In discussing the roots of identity, Huntington notes that people inevitably define their identities in opposition to an "other." He quotes the French novelist Andre Malraux stating it starkly, "Oh, what a relief to fight, to fight enemies who defend themselves, enemies who are awake."
The British famously defined themselves in opposition to their continental enemies. The historian Linda Colley writes, "Time and time again, war with France brought Britons, whether they hailed from Wells or Scotland or England, into confrontation with an obviously hostile Other and encouraged them to define themselves collectively against it. They defined themselves as Protestants struggling for survival against the world's foremost Catholic power."
The "other" in the case of our new national identity isn't foreign powers or alien practices, but American traditions themselves; everything that doesn't fit into a new "anti-racist" narrative of the country must be denigrated and cast aside.
New ceremonies, catch-phrases, and heroes will replace the allegedly inadequate, sinful ones of yore. The NFL, which not too long ago represented a consensus American patriotism, is now part of the vanguard of this hostile redefinition of what American is and should be.