There are certainly good things about Dinesh D’Souza’s film “America: Imagine a World Without Her,” as sharp-eyed critics like Jack Kerwick have observed. But those don’t matter much for this reason: The central question asked and answered by the film maker is premised on an epic error of logic.
But first, in honor of Bad Eagle, a friend and a great American, it is imperative to counter D’Souza’s claim about the fate of the Amerindians at the hands of the U.S. government. The late Bad Eagle, aka David Yeagley, was the namesake and great-great-grandson of Comanche leader Bad Eagle.
According to D’Souza, Native Americans were decimated not by genocide or ethnocide, but by diseases brought from Europe by the white man.” Not entirely true. In his magisterial “History of the American People,” historian Paul Johnson, a leading protagonist for America, details the “destruction of the Indians” by Andrew Jackson.
Particularly poignant are Red Eagle’s words to Jackson, on April 14, 1814, after the president-to-be had rampaged through villages, burning them and destroying crops in a ruthless campaign against the Indians east of the Mississippi: “I am in your power. My people are gone. I can do no more but weep over the misfortunes of my nation.” Jackson had just “imposed a Carthaginian peace on 35 frightened Indian chiefs,” forcing them to part with the lion’s share of their ancestral lands.
As moving is the account of another philoamerican, philosopher and historian Alexis de Tocqueville. The Frenchman describes a crowd of displaced Choctaw warriors—having been subjected to ethnic cleansing (in today’s parlance): “There was an air of ruin and destruction, something which gave the impression of a final farewell, with no going back; one couldn’t witness it without a heavy heart. … it is an odd coincidence that we should have arrived in Memphis to witness the expulsion, or perhaps the dissolution, of one of the last vestiges of one of the oldest American nations.”
Facts fudged notwithstanding, D’Souza’s theories about “America,” good or bad, can be dismissed out of hand because of rotten reasoning. The reader will recognize the central error of logic in the following excerpts from interviews conducted by D’Souza’s biggest booster, Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
In “Bill Ayers, Dinesh D’Souza debate [on]American values,” both Kelly and D’Souza “challenge” the Weather Underground terrorist-cum-educator Ayers for his part in the “blame America first” crowd; for holding that “American history is a series of crimes visited upon different [peoples],” for his contention that, in their words, “America is bad,” “America is a force for evil.”
Noodles neoconservative D’Souza: “America is benign in the way it exercises its power.” “America has made mistakes. But there is a difference between making a mistake and doing something inherently wicked.”
Is the reader getting the gist of the D’Souza doozie?
The duo’s almost-identical exchange with Ward Churchill, former chairman of the ethnic studies program at the University of Colorado, should instantiate D’Souza’s cock-up, amplified by megaphone Megyn Kelly:
“Is there anything good about America?” the anchor asks the author of the screed “Some People Push Back.” Kelly continues to conflate the “we” pronoun with the U.S.: “The United States of America; have we done any good?” D’Souza, for his part, doubles down with the example of immigrants to the U.S.: “They’re coming here, voting with their feet, leaving everything that matters behind. Are they coming to an evil empire?”
My reply to Dinesh should give the game away:
Good immigrants come to America to be part of the “little platoons” that make up its glorious private economy: the people of Nike, Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Amazon, Google, Marriot, Mattel, FedEx, Costco, Coca-Cola, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Fred Meyer, Overstock.com, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and millions of local franchises run by innovative, everyday Americans.
Bad immigrants come to America to partake of the state. Or the very thing D’Souza and his cheerleader call “America.”
“Is America a good country? Are we a bad country?”: The two professional gabbers collapse the distinction between “America” and the U.S. government. This is a mistake. The state is not the same as America. Opposing the policies of the American state is not synonymous with opposing “America.” It is possible to disavow every single action taken by the U.S. government and still love the “little platoons” of America, as Edmund Burke described a man’s social mainstay—his family, friends, coreligionists, coworkers. By logical extension, it is dishonest to malign those who assign the “bad” category to the state, on the ground that they hate “America.”
One might say that D’Souza’s case for “America” is undergirded by a confusion of category.
“Dinesh D’Souza is winning,” writes National Journal’s Simon van Zuylen-Wood. The jigging dance steps might be premature. D’Souza’s is a box-office success. The statist meta-structure of his argument for “America,” however, is rooted in error. Serious thinkers should give it no quarter.
On this front, D’Souza, Da Kelly and their acolytes are out to lunch.