who is a former speechwriter to the President. Gerson's piece is a farrago of liberal/neocon cliches and propaganda about America's guilty past vis-a-vis slavery and Reconstruction.
The column is decorated (or at least it was in the New York Post) with a picture of Martin Luther King, who is quoted to the effect that the US stands for a “universal right” to equality. According to Gerson, who cites the left-liberal journalist Nicholas Lemann, our government reneged on its founding purpose not only by protecting racial slavery but also by not pushing hard enough during Reconstruction. But we can apparently redeem ourselves, by making democracy available to the entire planet--a project we are led to believe both the black electorate, created by the occupying Union army in the conquered Southern states after 1865, and Martin Luther King would have welcomed. All of these victims of prejudice knew that our Declaration of Independence, or more particularly its “all men are created equal” phrase, defines our moral character as a nation. Gerson begins his column by quoting Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison on the evils of American slavery. Until we had banned that evil and begun to move down the road toward full racial equality: “the land of the free was actually a prison house for millions of its inhabitants.”
Indeed we have heard this kind of denunciation of America's past from others in the present administration, Condi Rice being an example. She has likened the present chaos in Iraq to America in its early days; an insulting comparison, and an example of the way in which neocons, like left-liberals, are wont to view America's past as being shameful and America as being in need of some kind of perpetual revolution to reach perfect equality.
Gottfried points out the inaccuracy of Gerson's picture of Reconstruction.
Gerson’s interpretation of Reconstruction is derived from questionable leftist historiography, a fact that should not surprise us. His narrative is driven by often misplaced white guilt, coupled with an aggressive stance toward countries that do not fit his vision of Progress.
His picture of Martin Luther King further illustrates the tenor of his piece, combining anti-racist sentimentality with misrepresentation of his subject. The man he reverentially refers to as “the Reverend” and whom he quotes extensively on “America divided against itself,” and on our fight to recognize our “creed of ‘amazing universalism,’” was far from a traditional Christian, according to such sympathetic biographers as David Garrow and Michael Long. ''
[...]Note this is not an attempt to vilify King but an occasion to ask why Gerson, who is a self-identified Evangelical and a lifelong Republican, rushes to embrace figures and authorities who theologically and politically would seem light years away from him. The answer, put most simply, is that Republican and more generally movement, Republican spokesmen, are addicted to self-flagellating white guilt. Never mind that Republicans voted in much larger numbers than Democrats for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that it was a Republican president Richard Nixon who in the Philadelphia Plan began the practice of government-mandated set asides for minorities.''
Gottfried points out how the Republican attempt to gain black support has failed, with the GOP never garnering more than a tiny portion of the black vote.
And when he asks why Gerson, as a self-identified evangelical, embraces far-left figures like King, the answer is that the term 'evangelical' is a rather broad one, and Gerson, apparently, is politically very liberal, judging by his role models and his positions on various issues. Gerson is one of those 'social justice' Christians.
There is a false popular perception that being an 'evangelical' is somehow synonymous with being a 'fundamentalist' or a conservative Christian. Gerson is not the latter, nor is the President.
Gottfried also mentions the February 2005 interview of Condoleezza Rice by Rich Lowry for National Review. Lowry seems to draw a parallel between the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the effort to bring 'democracy' to Iraq:
When Bush is trying to reform a part of the world that has the lowest possible regard for women, Rice implicitly says women are as capable as men. When Bush wants Middle Eastern governments to respect pluralism and people of all faith and ethnicities, Rice implicitly says race and creed needn't matter. When Bush is extolling the power of freedom and American ideals, Rice implicitly says liberty and respect for human dignity can triumph over injustice, as they did in her 1950s-era Birmingham, Ala.''
This sums up the constant theme of the neocons: America is some kind of imperfect work in progress that must be reshaped towards more egalitarian ideals. America the flawed, America the racist, America the unjust. The view of history they present is that America is essentially a failure or a nation of hypocrites, a nation which has never lived up to its ideals. Sound familiar? It's essentially the same America that the liberals of the left disparage all the time. In fact, it makes me think of the controversial line spoken by Hillary Clinton
“I pledge allegiance to the America that can be.” —Hillary Clinton, reluctant to say the Pledge of Allegiance, according to Chris Matthews
The neocon, like his ideological brother, the left-liberal, is more enamored of the 'America that can be' than of the America that is -- and especially the America that was.
And in order to create this 'America that can be' we have to repent and confess our sins and profess the gospel of equality and 'freedom.'
So as an expiation for our past sins, we are sentenced to evangelize the whole world for democracy. I suppose that is the evangelical connection for people like Gerson and the President. They see themselves as disciples of democracy, bringing the Word to the world in need of political redemption. The 'Great Commission' which Jesus Christ gave to his followers was that they go out into the world:
'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...'but instead of teaching them the Gospel of Christ, we are to teach all nations the message of democracy and egalitarianism, and of course the Gospel of Martin Luther King.
This neocon missionary effort is inspired not so much by the Founding Fathers, who never advocated that we start a democracy delivery service to the whole world, but by the civil rights movement, and the abolitionist movement. As the abolitionists set out to free the slaves, by warfare if necessary, so the modern-day abolitionists set out to free the 'slaves' of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. The abolitionists and the scoundrels who inflicted the 'Reconstruction' plan on the occupied South seemed not to have foreseen the chaos they were unleashing, and even now, since that era of history has been buried and whitewashed, the lessons are unlearned. Maybe a similar lack of foresight is responsible for the chaos in Iraq. Pulling down an existing evil without any regard for what will replace it is not wise.
But ideologues, such as today's neocons are, like the radical Republicans of the Reconstruction era, are blinded by their ideologies and are often heedless of the consequences of their actions.
And we will be living with the unhappy consequences of the War Between the States and Reconstruction for a long time to come, unless we find some way to re-examine that period truthfully and pull some lessons and some truths from it.
On the other hand, the political establishment of both parties is heavily invested in the guilt industry, as Gottfried points out, and will continue to trade in politically correct falsehoods, unless there is a conscious effort to reject those crippling ideologies.