America the Pitiful

Republicans glory in their frail and fearful nation

NOTE: Within this text, wherever gender is not key to the explanation, I am using the Elverson ey/em construction of the Spivak Pronouns.

By Cynthia Hunter — This image is from the FEMA Photo Library., Public Domain,

Shall we Make America Great Again? Shall we? Shall we make America what it was when last it was great? When was that?

To judge from the most recent actions of Republican leaders, it was back in the Old West, when everyone carried a side-arm and engaged in daily gunfights. It was back when people of African descent were happy slaves serving their benevolent masters. It was back when the only free people in America were white men who, due to their superior moral authority, were unencumbered by legal constraints so as to assure the freedom and liberty that God intended.

My reader undoubtedly understands that the U.S. was never like that. In the Wild West, almost no one could afford a side-arm. A family may struggle to purchase a shotgun for the purpose of shooting prey; but, a six-shooter would be a waste of precious resources. Slaves cannot be happy and a slave-holder cannot be benign. Early in the history of the U.S., a small population of white male landowners certainly enjoyed a degree of excess privilege; but, ordinary white folks had to follow the law just like everyone else. In other words the Great America of the Regressive Right has been and remains the childish fantasy of the twelve-year-old boy.

Strangely, though, this rugged and triumphal false memory redeems (or describes) a nation which they clearly understand as weak and helpless. While the Nordic countries have plenty of money to provide nationalized health care and entirely adequate support for the unemployed as well as a banking system versatile enough to infringe upon the opportunities of venture capitalists, the U.S. is too poor to provide such services. While France demands a living wage for all workers and supports collective bargaining, the U.S. is weak and beholden to the wealthy donor and therefore eschews such advocacy for the worker. While Russia spends roughly $62 billion per year on its military, the U.S. is so terrified of an infringement upon its power that it spends $1.9 trillion to defend itself.

Here we describe a nation consumed by weakness and fear. A doddering, wretched nation constantly worried that an undocumented immigrant may cross its border, or that a young black man may unduly influence a white girl, or that a victim of rape may seek an early and safe abortion. It is terrified that some teacher is broaching the subject of critical race theory and it is suspicious of Socialists and angry with Communists. Violent criminals lurk in every darkened recess and so its citizens must arm themselves for protection. Not only that — Republican legislators broadly proclaim their intent to preserve and reinforce this panoply of deep deficiency.

These reactions are based upon ignorance of the basic objects involved. These fearful regressives couldn’t define “Communism” in an open-book test; and, they have no understanding of current monetary theories but “the deficit” terrifies them anyway. The fear could be abolished by simply striving to understand the world as it is, as opposed to blind acceptance of the comforting twelve-year-old fantasy. This is the root of the weakness as suggested by Nietsche in Beyond Good and Evil (chap II):

“The strength of a mind might be measured by the amount of ‘truth’ it could endure — or to speak more plainly, by the extent to which it REQUIRED truth attenuated, veiled, sweetened, damped, and falsified.”

The strong body can tolerate a few mosquitoes, it can fight off an infection, it can take a fall and recover quickly. The stronger a person is, the less they care about minor infractions. The strong personality can withstand the most severe criticism and turn it to positive growth. The strong mind seeks out truth without regard for its sting. In strength, vigilance and awareness are sufficient to accommodate the uncertainties of the world. Fear is a distraction.

Weakness and frailty and ignorance are the attributes wished upon the U.S. by the Regressive Right. For this reason, the weak nation requires a strong leader, a father figure to keep the scary kids at bay, a daddy who can offer guidance to the weak mind and comfort to the frightened child at bedtime. Reacting to this frailty, the U.S. becomes the reactive bully and its citizens emulate that role.

Greatness without Fear

The U.S. is the guy at the party openly carrying a pistol, desperately hoping someone will ask him about it so he can explain the profound depth of freedom it provides him while accidentally shooting a toe off. This is the regressive view of America: bragging and pushy but too weak to support its poor, too uncertain to make demands of the wealthy, and too frightened to divert funds from a bloated and largely outmoded military complex. Numerous studies have confirmed that the conservative mind is more driven by fear than the liberal mind. As a result, the conservative fears encroachment by unspecified others. Ey feels financially insecure and so works extra hours to please the boss. Ey feels weak and so carries a gun; controlled and so drives a big truck. Some form of the psychological principle of projection may explain this person’s view of the world: I’m afraid so everyone is afraid so my world is afraid.

Frank Herbert in Dune proclaims that “Fear is the mind killer”, a premise that has been confirmed by numerous studies and recounted in Wayne C. Minnick’s book The Art of Persuasion (sadly out-of-print) regarding a 1953 Yale University study which showed various responses to fear-inducing speeches including anger and defensive-avoidance reactions. In other studies, irrational fear reactions led to more traffic accidents and aggressive behaviors

Dr. Martha Stout in her book The Sociopath Next Door proposes that fear drives the super-ego while love drives the conscience. The conscience is a dynamic mechanism for guiding virtuous action driven by reason, empathy and experience. The super-ego acts like a conscience in that it seeks to regulate action but it is static, unfeeling and prohibitive. The super-ego forbids risk and experiment. It forbids growth and instead blocks out threats and opportunities for exploration. Later in the book, Stout suggests that fear may disable the conscience leaving a person open to nefarious suggestions that appeal more to the isolated rule-based super-ego. Fear leads to anger and other irrational behavior. A nation of fear will present with the same symptoms.

This, though, is not the only view in the mix. A majority of Americans, when polled on issues and not trigger words, support the values of the Progressive faction of the Democratic Party. The Progressive faction is isolated, shunned and surely despised by Democratic leadership; but, their view of the U.S. is more consistent with a common sense and shared understanding of the word “great”.

While Progressives also seek an America worthy of praise, their view is of a nation gone astray which may be moved forward into a real future and not backward to the childish fantasy of a reconstructed imaginary past. It is tied to the goal of a nation of strength, confidence and valor. Not childish notions but real strength in that it can provide a real safety net to citizens who are down on their luck. It can provide essential services to all citizens and it can coordinate all facilities and organizations into an effective effort to decarbonize and begin to rehabilitate our environment. It would show real confidence in its ability to support a wide array of people and to welcome those in need to its bounty. It would rest comfortably in its ability to prosper, as the sole source of the dollar, without humbly trading favors for small parcels of wasted wealth. It would show real valor in its respectful acquiescence to the limited military advocated by the authors of the U.S. Constitution. This is the valor to be vigilant but not overbearing; to negotiate skillfully in hopes of avoiding war; and, to be agile in preparation without wasting trillions on an unnecessary massive standing army.

Such an America would be great in every way that makes sense to a reasonable adult.

This Progressive view is not that unusual. I actually found the basic ideas (i.e., a strong America in the Progressive sense) expressed in the introduction to a 1946 radio show called The Armchair Detective. Yes, I was surprised too! Ellery Queen in 1946 stood up for equality, acceptance and community. It is an old understanding of patriotism which, combined with our modern understanding of dignity and human rights may lead to a Progressive future. This works only in a truly strong, confident and competent America. In advocacy, action and voting, that must be our common goal.

Julian S. Taylor is the author of Famine in the Bullpen a book about bringing innovation back to software engineering.
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This work represents the opinion of the author only.




Software engineer & author. Former Senior Staff Engineer w/ Sun Microsystems. Latest book: Famine in the Bullpen. See & hear at

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Julian S. Taylor

Julian S. Taylor

Software engineer & author. Former Senior Staff Engineer w/ Sun Microsystems. Latest book: Famine in the Bullpen. See & hear at

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