‘Woke-ness’ vs. Americanism: a religious conflict

As I think about what’s called ‘woke-ness’ as a quasi-religion, I better understand the attacks on the symbols of American patriotism.

I’m thinking of the removal of the Betsy Ross flag from Nike sneakers, demands for removal of statues of Thomas Jefferson and the recent New York Times magazine edition that said the true founding of the United States was not in 1776, but in 1619 with the arrival of the first slave ship.

Americanism is also a quasi religion.  What’s going on is the attempt to substitute a new religion for an old one.  The attacks on symbols of American patriotism are like the early Christians’ attacks on statues of the pagan gods or the early Protestants’ attacks on images of Catholic saints.

‘Americanism’ is an odd word.  Nobody I know of speaks of Canadianism or Mexicanism.  It reflects the fact that being a patriotic American has always implied adherence to a creed—although we Americans have always fought over the definition of that creed.

Debates in American history have generally taken the form: “I am a true American and you are not.”  Both sides in our Civil War believed they were the champions of liberty and self-government as defined by our nation’s Founders (with a capital “F”).

We Americans historically have regarded the Declaration and the Constitution as like Holy Writ, equivalent to the Bible, and criticism of these sacred documents as equivalent to blasphemy.   We settle arguments by citing these documents.

The Pledge of Allegiance is a sacred ceremony.   The American flag is a sacred object.  Criticize them at your peril.

Americanism provides a sense of community.  Trying to be a good American can give life a sense of meaning.  Americanism can also provide a rationale for persecution.

The advantage of Americanism is that, in principle, it is open to any believer, regardless of race, creed or national origin.  No matter where you were born, you are in principle eligible to become an American. [1]   This isn’t true of China or most other countries.

I have always thought of myself as a patriotic American and an adherent of the best ideals of American history and culture.[2]

The triumph of “woke-ness” as a quasi-religion requires the displacement of Americanism as a quasi-religion.  Reverence for the old is an obstacle to creating reverence for the new.

Nothing of what I have written here says anything about the merits of ideas that come under the headings of either Americanism or “woke-ness.”  Ideas aren’t responsible for the psychological states of people who believe in them.  The problem is in treating debatable ideas as quasi-religious dogmas, and imperfect human creations such as nations or political movements as worthy of unconditional loyalty..


[1]  I admit the words “in principle” are doing a lot of work in the previous two sentences.

[2]  I admit the word “best” is doing a lot of work in the previous sentence.

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2 Responses to “‘Woke-ness’ vs. Americanism: a religious conflict”

  1. silverapplequeen Says:

    HA! “Woke-ness” rhymes with “bloke-ness” & it’s usually men who are the most “woke”.


  2. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    There’s a reason why “SJW” is an epithet to many people. “Woke-ness” is just the reinterpretation of one aspect of an organization to be its entire raison d’etre.


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