You would expect the leftist The New Yorker to offer a piece that attacked American values.
You might not be prepared for the ferocious viciousness of its attack on America’s founders and the principles they espoused.
Adam Gopnik, who has been writing for The New Yorker for 30 years, uses the occasion of reviewing Justin du Rivage’s Revolution Against Empire and Holger Hoock’s Scars of Independence to write:
The Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the creation of the United States of America — what if all this was a terrible idea, and what if the injustices and madness of American life since then have occurred not in spite of the virtues of the Founding Fathers but because of them? The Revolution, this argument might run, was a needless and brutal bit of slaveholders’ panic mixed with Enlightenment argle-bargle, producing a country that was always marked for violence and disruption and demagogy.
Oh, but other countries are so far superior: “Look north to Canada, or south to Australia, and you will see different possibilities of peaceful evolution away from Britain, toward sane and whole, more equitable and less sanguinary countries.”
Gopnik asserts that without an American Revolution, “slavery might have ended, as it did elsewhere in the British Empire, more peacefully and sooner. No ‘peculiar institution,’ no hideous Civil War and appalling aftermath.”
Ah, but Gopnik congratulates himself for targeting the Founders, as opposed to those of us who see them as the greatest men America has ever produced, as he mocks those who venerate the Founders instead of ripping them:
The thought is taboo, the Revolution being still sacred in its self-directed propaganda. One can grasp the scale and strangeness of this sanctity only by leaving America for a country with a different attitude toward its past and its founding.
Then the outright mockery of the men who died for their country: “We were taught that the brave Americans hid behind trees to fight the redcoats — though why this made them brave was left unexplained. … (That the Canadians had marched beyond their beach on D Day with aplomb while the Americans struggled on Omaha was never boasted about.)”
The Revolution remains the last bulwark of national myth. Academics write on the growth of the Founding Father biographical genre in our time; the rule for any new writer should be that if you want a Pulitzer and a best-seller you must find a Founding Father and fetishize him.
After recapitulating what the two books he is reviewing are about, Kopnik continues by asserting they are “mostly about white guys quarreling with other white guys, and then about white guys being unimaginably cruel to one another, stopping only to rape their enemy’s wives and daughters,” then segues to discussing the plight of blacks and Native Americans.
Finally, after the lengthy polemic nears its close, he writes:
In confrontations between empire and rebels, though, our hearts are always with the rebels. We take it for granted that rebels are good and empires bad; our favorite mass entertainment depends entirely on the felt familiarity of this simple division. But there is a case to be made that empires can be something other than evil. …
The authoritarian reformers — the empire, in other words — have something to be said for them; and what is to be said for them is, well, Canada. … Canada is the model liberal country because it did not have an American-style revolution, accepting instead the reformers’ values of a strong centralized, if symbolic, monarchy (the Queen is still there, aging, on the Canadian twenty-dollar bill); a largely faceless political class; a cautiously parliamentary tradition; a professionalized and noncharismatic military; a governing élite — an establishment.
Well, bully for them, since it is only the power of the United States that protects the West — including Canada.