In 455 the Vandals, a Germanic tribe, sacked Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire. (Our word ‘vandalize’ has been derived from that episode: but of course the Vandals did not go around scribbling graffiti on the walls of Rome. Burning, looting, killing, raping – that was what happened.)
That sack of Rome is a good analogy for what is now, and will be, going on in Washington D.C. Of course the specific kinds of acts are not being repeated. But the aim of the new administration is the same: destruction. The intent is to destroy the ideological outlook that has been shaping the institutions of the country. And just as the reverberations of the sack of Rome affected the rest of the empire, so too the current sack of Washington will be felt across the nation – and, given our imperial place in the world, around the world too.
Our progressive conception of the country, that has slowly been winning the cultural wars, is what can be broadly thought of as multi-cultural. We have been working, and succeeding albeit slowly, to affirm the United States as a multi-racial country and a multi-ethnic nation. We value diversity – and not just in race and ethnicity. We see around us many religions and beliefs about religion and think that a good thing. We have been striving for a country (and world) in which male
dominance is a thing of the past. We see that in fact that there is and always has been a tremendous diversity in forms of sexuality and are looking to take that into account in our values. We think that intellectual life is fundamental part of modernity. We think that equality is part of the basic fabric of the United States and that justice as well as freedom is central to our deliberations on how we should act. We keep striving to remind ourselves and others that we are but a single nation, even if a powerful one, among many others and that our outlook and aims are not necessarily right for all.
The new administration sees things quite differently, denies those elements of our conception of ourselves. They reject multi-culturalism: theirs is a white supremacist view, in which Anglos are the favored people. It is a decidedly Christian outlook, in fact fundamentalist Christian. Being male is the favored condition and being straight heterosexual is God’s choice. Learning and the results of intellectual investigation are to be despised. Inequality, among people and nations, is the normal state of affairs. Freedom, at least for the rich and powerful, is the only political value.
It is our progressive values and the institutions and practices that rest upon them that are under attack by today’s homegrown Vandals.
The consequence is that we cannot sit idly by, thinking that our lives will continue more or less as they have been going.
And that applies to this online journal as well. While it has tried to intelligently uncover the assumptions of both our own views and those of our conservative opponents, the rise of what the proponents of the new conception call ‘alt-right’, but which is really a white supremacist and self-centered nationalist outlook means that our intellectual targets have to change to meet the new circumstances. Henceforth we must confront a view that up until now has been in the shadows. As a result the kinds of essays we publish will be shifting.
That change of emphasis is already apparent in the pieces included in this new issue (#30 in fact) of Progressive Democracy. You can expect that the future will not resemble the past.