Originally published at Sultan Knish.
There was once an America that built its shining cities on a hill in the name of virtue. That nation has been replaced by another nation that builds housing projects in the name of guilt. We used to elect the best men for the job, or at least we believed we did. Now we hold elections of guilt, deciding which oppressed minority has been most shamefully overlooked, before casting our vote for a more diverse and equitable society. Our American exceptionalism now is a small thing that takes place in the shadow of guilt. It is rarely mentioned now without implicit rebuttals of that guilt. Its advocates are forever laboring to get out from under the burden of slavery, segregation and a thousand other hissing sibilant S’s that have been used to mark us as an eternally unworthy nation.Guilt is the shadow side of virtue. A politician who speaks about the virtues of a nation panders to his audience, and leads them with a golden halter rope to follow his policies. If he says that America is a great nation because it is a nation of immigrants, or a diverse nation or a nation where men can marry each other– his audience will internalize that lesson and repeat it back. If a foreigner accuses his country of being a bad place, he will reply that this accusation is false because it is actually a great nation where diverse gay immigrants can marry each other.People are susceptible to building identities out of the compliments that they are given. Tell a man that he is a generous host and he is more likely to invite you, or someone else, over for dinner. That is how philanthropists are made, with dinners, awards and other social rewards for giving money. That is also how philanthropic nations are made. Americans keep giving money to the world and expect that one day an international rubber chicken dinner of some sort will be held in our honor.
Virtue imposes no obligation, except that of living up to that virtue. Guilt, however, imposes the endless obligation of escaping the burden of guilt. As politicians spoke less of virtue and more of guilt, America changed from a nation of shining cities to a nation of slaveowners forever striving to recapture its virtue in the face of the numberless crimes of its past.
The United States of Guilt is no longer benevolent for benevolence’s sake. It is benevolent because it has something to prove. When it voted for the historical moment of Barack Hussein Obama, it was trying to escape another history. It was creating new history in order to leave the old history behind.
Did America owe a debt of any sort to the bastard son of a Kenyan diplomat who had as much to do with 19th Century slavery or even 20th Century segregation as he did with the Napoleonic wars? No it didn’t. Guilt, however, isn’t rational, it’s neurotic. It is a coat of fear that someone else puts on you and that you will do anything to take off. It’s a voice in your head that says you are a bad person and, even when you don’t fully believe that voice, you know that other people do, and you want it to go away.
Above all else, guilt is power. It is a debt that, once accepted from outside, has no natural end. It is a bridle, a bit and finally a cage. It makes slavery so much easier by eliminating resistance from those who no longer believe that they have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is no room for these things, especially happiness, while wearing the hairshirt of a thousand historic crimes.
Exploiting guilt is much more effective than exploiting virtue. Participating in your own virtue is optional; participating in your own guilt isn’t. To be guilty is to be automatically complicit in crimes that have been assigned to your name. It is the essence of being considered “Part of the problem” rather than “Part of the solution.” The only hope of redemption lies in bending your back to the whip of the solution or wielding the whip against those who are still reluctant about becoming part of the solution.