As if her anti-Semitic claim that PG&E and Jewish bankers started California’s 2018 wildfires with space lasers wasn’t proof enough—whether due to mental illness or plain simple-mindedness—that Georgia’s elected Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene is unfit for office, her latest antics show that she lacks even basic education on the history of the government of the United States of America.
Together with Paul Gosar, R-AZ, the befuddled Congresswoman Greene was reported to be forming an “America First Caucus” to promote nativist policies. Reps. Barry Moore, R-AL, Louie Gohmert, R-TX, and moral powerhouse Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-FL† all publicly lent support to this morass of historical confusion.
In a quick search on the day this news broke, I failed to find the complete seven page document referenced, so I can speak only to public claims reported in several major American newspapers. Ms. Greene, it should be noted, backpedaled furiously after this news spread, joining colleagues in statements suggesting they hadn’t even read the mission statement in question before endorsing it.
I wonder how these lazy politicians justify cashing their paychecks? This isn’t a difference of opinion, but a dereliction of duty and evidence of a near total lack of qualification for their sworn duty to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.
Teaching U.S. history to my own home educated teen in recent years, I was reminded that our Founding Fathers were influenced by Native American forms of government when crafting the U.S. Constitution. Here’s an entire article on the subject from The History Channel’s website. The Founders obviously didn’t seek to duplicate any indigenous government, but remarks by Benjamin Franklin* amongst others prove they were aware of, and even relatively positively disposed toward, adopting the best notions they knew of—from any source—to form their “more perfect union.”
According to the Boston Globe, “the [“America First Caucus”] document describes the United States as a place with ‘uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.’”
High school aged children‡ are aware of the Iroquois Confederacy’s influence on the work of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Does the America First Caucus reject those former leaders as patriotic Americans, too? Is Trump the only man any of them will stand behind?
I’m concerned by this new Caucus’ interest in Anglo-Saxon values in particular. The term Anglo-Saxon is out of date if meant as a reference to the British people, and the simple fact of the American Revolutionary War strongly implies to those of us with critical thinking skills that the Founding Fathers were not interested in maintaining an English form of government where colonies were taxed by the Crown without political representation.
Does the America First Caucus seek to emulate those tumultuous years in Britain between the end of Roman Empire and the Norman Conquest by William the Conqueror (a.k.a., William the Bastard)? Per the Encyclopedia Brittanica:
“[T]he various peoples commonly grouped together as Anglo-Saxons were not politically unified until the 9th century, and their reign over England was interrupted by 26 years of Danish rule that began in 1016 with the accession of Canute.”
Here’s a BBC overview explaining Anglo-Saxon Government written for children. Very little of it reminds me of American government with the exception of trials being conducted with community representation.
Speaking only for myself—but probably reflecting the will of most emotionally stable Americans—I would prefer not to live through centuries of incessant warring by disparate groups. I’m not really keen to be ruled over by Denmark, either, though I’d take orders from the current Danish government before submitting to the purported leadership of a reality-averse reactionary like Representative Greene.
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania appears to be cut from the same flawed cloth. On April 27th, The Boston Globe reported that he said the following though the emphasis is mine at a Young America’s Foundation event:
“We came here and created a blank slate. We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes, we have Native Americans but, candidly, there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”
—Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum
Without a doubt, the forebears of most current American citizens arrived in the New World and did not find the trappings of European society to which they would have naturally deferred. The fact that those men could not, due to religious and cultural bigotry, recognize the humanity of those they encountered—let alone their technical and cultural achievements—was their own failing, not that of the indigenous peoples they subsequently massacred.
Modern scholarship now points toward the birth of human civilization in the central Andes (i.e., in the Americas) being of equal moment to the traditional European scholars’ foci of technological and social evolution: Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, and China’s Yellow River basin.
Being too shortsighted to notice the contributions of indigenous Americans is evidence of a lack of mental power—or intellectual rigor—on the part of the observer, not evidence of shortcomings on the part of the targeted society. Conservative culture warriors would do well to make a more careful study of the history they claim to venerate before blundering so ineptly into statements of rank ignorance.
I recognize the many contributions of Western Civilization to the formation of the United States of America. Disregarding great work—whether philosophy, art, or technical innovation—is folly, but so is ignoring the hybrid vigor of multiculturalism that led to the success that still brings scores of refugees from around the world here today in hopes of earning their own piece of our prosperity.
When I was a child, the “melting pot” analogy was falling out of favor due to a greater emphasis on appreciating diverse cultures over demands for cultural hegemony. I still recall a teacher offering the “tossed salad” metaphor to take its place. I reject that notion, too.
Tossed salad sees disparate ingredients jumbled together with no interaction between them until they’re masticated by an outside force. Shared governance and geography might be the salad dressing, then, but greens, carrots, and tomatoes have little influence over each other. They just happen to share a bowl. Separate but equal as policy failed America during that experiment in our past.
Here’s my offering: America is more akin to a pot of stew than a melting pot or a tossed salad.
Every one of us goes into the pot—simmering required, it must be said, perhaps making my metaphor even more apt. Time and cohabitation rub our edges off, softening us from strict segregation and stark differences. Some chunks blur into pleasant similarity; others maintain more distinction, lending texture and complexity to the totality. The mass blends into richness and depth, and the whole ends up much greater than the sum of its parts.
There would be no gravy without every contribution; there could be no stew without admixture and synthesis.
When I consider the meaning of a term like America First, my mind goes to first principles. Our founders spelled out their impetus in splitting from the British Empire in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Its 56 signatories did not specify that only American men, men of European descent, or Christian men exclusively were who counted; all men, they declared, are created equal, endowed by their creator with the unalienable rights for which patriots went to war, fought, and died. That foundational document should guide any America First Caucus crafted by people informed by the history of the United States.
† Rep. Gaetz is currently under investigation for paying to have sex with underage girls, underscoring the lie that the Republican Party as a group in any way deserves its claim to the title of a “Moral” Majority.
* Letter From Benjamin Franklin to James Parker, 20 March 1751:
“It would be a very strange Thing, if six Nations of ignorant Savages should be capable of forming a Scheme for such an Union, and be able to execute it in such a Manner, as that it has subsisted Ages, and appears indissoluble; and yet that a like Union should be impracticable for ten or a Dozen English Colonies, to whom it is more necessary, and must be more advantageous; and who cannot be supposed to want an equal Understanding of their Interests.”
‡ We supplemented our studies with the fairly light, quite mainstream Great Courses High School Level Early American History videos. One doesn’t need to delve into the works of Howard Zinn or any left-leaning sources to discover the framers’ interest in our nation’s indigenous peoples’ best practices, which they then combined with European ideas from philosophers such as Locke and Montesquieu to craft the foundations of our own democratic republic.
2 thoughts on “Anglo-Saxon ideals aren’t the primary basis of U.S. government”
I was rather hoping that, post No. 45, U.S., politics might achieve a level of sanity once again, but it seems that the Republicans are hell-bent on seeing just how low they can go. Once you get over being stunned by people like Taylor Greene, or sickened by the scumbaggery of Gaetz, it’s pitifully sad really.
I want to make clear that my criticism here is intended very specifically for those politicians (and statements) I’ve mentioned in the post.
I wish acting against reason and/or the public interest were a strictly partisan issue, but I get similarly worked up about plenty of issues in which Democrats are bad actors. Voting rights in New England, for example, can be less conducive to allowing the masses access to the ballot box than the recent, contested policies down south. Many Democratic career politicians prefer clinging to power over furthering democracy. Gerrymandering and politically motivated re-districting is a particular problem in Massachusetts, for example. An editorial in the Globe today describes Mass. as “Home of the gerrymander.” In my opinion, that’s an epithet, not a compliment!
( https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/04/29/opinion/home-gerrymander-massachusetts-should-move-independent-redistricting/ )
Because I don’t see that fact acting as directly upon the functioning of the government, I’m far less likely to feel compelled to write on the subject. I don’t want to run a political blog. Ugh! That said, having any platform at all leaves me compelled, by my own moral compass, to comment on extremists threatening the very foundation of our nation.
Admittedly, the official Republican Party appears to be struggling with reality in recent years in a particularly egregious way. There’s an ethical cancer eating away at the Party of Lincoln. In my lifetime, right-wing cultural criticisms have consistently struck me as fundamentally at odds with my understanding of Christian teachings, supposedly the source of the values that party endorses. (I see their positions as primarily influenced by the legacy of a rich, powerful Church as opposed to the actual teachings of Christ, the radical.) Yet I know and love members of the Republican party who are decent, moral, democracy loving patriots. Lately, I remind those loved ones as often as possible that it behooves them to express their opinions to zealots in leadership positions.
I wonder whether Republicans won’t soon go the way of the Whigs, frankly. There will continue to be people who adhere to “traditional values” in some sense, though even young conservatives view many issues differently than our grandparents did. Whether or not the Latinos among them, for example, can come to terms with the blatant racism of the existing Republican base remains to be seen.