It was an era when Americans believed that their country was "God's new Israel," that they were a chosen people. "Nothing is more embarrassing in the ordinary intercourse of life," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville 150 years ago, "than this irritable patriotism of the Americans."
On July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary to the day of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had died within hours of each other, inspiring a now forgotten but typical orator to find "the finger of Providence" in the coincidence: "It hallows the Declaration of Independence as the Word of God, that promises its principles shall be eternal, and their dissemination universal over the earth."
It was a common boast at the time and for years afterward: the self-invention of a republic would set an example for the corrupt and cynical regimes of the Old World, and any foreigner who suggested otherwise was quickly told that criticisms of the young country must be limited to the quality of its climate and soil. "Even then," Tocqueville noted, "Americans will be found ready to defend both as if they had cooperated in producing them.''
Today it sometimes seems to be Americans themselves who are most embarrassed by the swaggering patriotism that irritated Tocqueville. Having lost its innocence in the first half of the century, the United States has proceeded in the second half to lose much of its self confidence as well. It makes a too-familiar litany: assassinations, beat downs, race riots, war, Watergate, oil embargoes, inflation all culminating in the humiliation in Teheran and the charred bodies at Desert Storm. As the laidback generation of the 1970s becomes the laid off generation of the '80s, an almost un-American apathy may even arise.
from a Newsweek article published in 1983
Now here's another charming bit of jolt juice I found on the web today. The two opinions (1) and (2):
(1) It was common knowledge years ago that Americans believed that their country was "God's new Israel," that they were a chosen people. But today that knowledge is hidden, forgotten, hated and denied by the clergy.
(2) Today, anyone can freely say that the Jews are God's Chosen and Palestine is the land of regathered Israel.
But, if you repeat what your great grandfather knew for a fact, (1) then you may be called a neo-Nazi, anti-Semite, hater or bigot. One opinion (2) is politically correct, blessed by the both politician and clergy. The other opinion (1) is now almost a 'thought crime.'
Somehow I think there is a third opinion. We are all God's chosen people. It's just that most people just don't believe it and try to demonize others on abstract grounds that have nothing to do with any of the political, religious, ethnic, economical, or behavioral dichotomies which land each of us in so much dung every time we try to step outside the box of false consciousness.