Entities have identities. To identify a nation, or anything else, is to define it. That is, it must have specific limits — one must be able to tell what it is, largely by ruling out what it is not, implicitly and explicitly. In the case of a country, there must be territorial boundaries. It also has have additional characteristics to distinguish it from other countries.
That’s where America went wrong. In trying to be all things to all people everywhere around the globe (not so much a place, necessarily, but an idea, of limitless opportunity and diversity), we have dissolved ourselves right out of existence. Paradoxically, we’ve reached our limit on the timeline of history by not observing the limits which would allow us to continue as a nation.
It seems to the point where any person, anywhere on the planet may be declared to be “in the true spirit of what it is to be an American,” while anyone else who might dare to question that claim is suspected of a hate-crime.
When everything is up for grabs, you do not have identity. You have an imaginary, formless jump-ball with no surface rubber or skin, a dry vapor, on a court with no boundaries in a game with no rules. Chaos.
We have elected leaders who see the very idea of border and interior immigration enforcement as either cruel and immoral, or an undesirable impediment to commerce, or to continuing generational transfer-payments (or all of the above), and so they refuse to enforce immigration law to the point where our territorial identity has about vanished.
These same leaders give speeches in foreign lands, proclaiming themselves foremost to be citizens of the world. The overall message is that national identity and integrity/sovereignty is something to be eschewed, in favor of a pan-global universalism wherein the United Nations is the governing body, and anyone holding out loyalties to a particular nation is a backward bigot.
Our eventual demise was baked into our founding documents from the beginning, really. The Enlightenment gave us: “…all men are created equal.” Nowadays, it’s all people (women too). Therefore, everyone on the planet has just as much right as anyone else to proclaim themselves citizens of wherever. The concept of American identity, then, becomes more and more meaningless, because if everyone everywhere has equal opportunity and identity, then comparatively no one really has any actual opportunity, nor any particular identity which can be verified. Why bother, then, with borders or distinct cultures?
In the early-stage Enlightenment decades during and after America’s founding, the men who made the rules still firmly believed in racial hierarchy and ethnic nationalism, despite their professed egalitarian ideals. For better or worse, all white men were ostensibly deemed to be created equal; black men were not really considered men, in the same way that a donkey is not a horse, even though the two share enough DNA to be able to produce offspring — which is a mule, not a horse. I’m just stating facts here, regarding history, biology, identity, and our founders’ beliefs.
My, how things have changed. Over time, equality and representative democracy mean everyone can vote, and just keep voting themselves more rights and more stuff, virtually to the point of “voting for a living.” Conservatives and progressives alike accept and cherish the stated ideal of the Declaration of Independence, and we’ve watched it all hurtle toward the obliteration of all boundaries and limits. Staggering debt means nothing, because it’s reached the point of being mathematically impossible to ever pay off. Responsibility? For chumps.
So we’re alive in the time of the unraveling of the national sweater our grandmothers knit to protect us from the elements. And we haven’t yet found it worthwhile to knit anything new to replace it — it’s like we’ve gone nudist colony, in the cultural sense. We’ve swallowed the Enlightenment idea that we won’t need a sweater to protect us from moral hazard, because after all, if everyone’s equal, everyone’s entitled to whatever territory and redistributed property, and so on.
It was a nice sweater while it lasted.
We do need new layers of skin and social fabric, to protect us and give us a distinguishable identity. On the infinitely broad timeline of history, it will emerge to be seen where and how the lines and layers are drawn, constructed, and defended, and what name we will give the new entity.
The emperor really needs to get some clothes on.