Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Philosophy of Guilt

One of the sticks most widely preferred for beating the Left Wing into submission is the accusation of a "Guilt Complex." "White Guilt," "Bleeding Heart" and other descriptives of like substance are conferred almost exclusively on the liberal contingent of the sociopolitical spectrum, generally in reference to said contingent's disapproval of any conservative policy that has ever caused suffering in some isolated instance in the Third World. There is an implicit assumption attending the resentment of the Guilt Complex that the liberals' protestations of shame for their country's "Mismanagement of Global Affairs" is an attitude divorced from any tradition in the main of American ethical behavior, and therefore only one of the many Freaks that the culture of the lobbyist has offered us. Consequently, the rallying cry of the Right becomes "This is America, (preferably pronounced Amuhrica) and we don't need no smart-assed libruhl faggits tellin' us how to feel guilty 'bout profilin' or Dar Four or nuthin!" For a more completely, and no doubt, cogently devised exposition of this same worldview, try referencing the Toby Keith songbook or conversing with some of Fox News' more adamant focus groups.

Editorials aside, I find myself strangely unoffended by the nationalist elitism apparent in the above statement, hesitant as I am to align myself with any kind of flag waving, especially since the most patriotic of this set usually wants to set the Stars and Bars alongside the Stars and Stripes. In spite of this, I think the sentiment is a not invalid one. Unfortunately, it misunderstands the thing it reacts to.

The liberal guilt in question is not a thing that has developed in a vacuum or even originated in the offices of the New York Times (proud as they might be to claim the contrary) but traces its ancestry at least to a much earlier point in American history. Quite frankly, the immediate descendants of the puritans had a guilt complex to rival that of any of our "Cheese eating surrender monkeys,"* and were able to find quite the audience for it. Our morbid historical fascination with guilt found its literary originators in Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe.
Hawthorne reveled in it noticeably more than Poe, a fact to which "The Scarlet Letter" and "The House of the Seven Gables" bear testimony. Poe's attitude towards personal guilt is more amoral than anything, and reveals him to be more the literary heir of Walpole or Byron than anyone on our side of the Atlantic. And this is one of the fundamental differences between British character and American: At no time in our history have we been particularly willing to forgive our own past, while their excuses for their own reach the level of a fine art. I cannot think of any other nation whose monarchy was built upon myth, whose church was founded by a philanderer and whose empire was premised on piracy that has remained so consistently in love with itself. If America had similar patterns of behavior anywhere on its record, I think that self-flagellation would become a matter of public policy.

None of this, of course, is meant as an apologetic for our infatuation with opening our old wounds and pouring the curious salve of left wing vinegar into them. Whatever else its implications, it does suggest that We on the Right are not such incontestable inheritors of "Traditional Americanism" as we so often flatter ourselves is the case.

1 comment:

Lincoln Davis said...

Loved the analysis of England particularly.