Back in 1959, novelist Norman Mailer wrote “Advertisements for Myself”—a collection of essays and vignettes that was an autobiography of sorts. “America” is Dinesh D’Souza’s filmic advertisement for the USA.
D’Souza was born in India. He’s been in this country for 30 yrs, is a Christian, and a political conservative. He has the unbridled enthusiasm for this country that many immigrants have. For those who are ambitious, or well-educated, and come here seeking a better life, it is truly a land of great opportunity.
D’Souza comes from a country with massive poverty and a slowly dying caste system. Early in the film he inserts vignettes from Alexis de Tocqueville’s journal about his travel’s here in 1831. The French aristocrat noted in “Democracy in America” there was a casteless camaraderie of the masses, freedom of religion and a personal freedom like nowhere else on earth. “Democracy in America” was an 1835 advertisement for this country.
Professional movie critics (Michael Medved aside) tend to be snarky liberals, and of course they hated the film and gave it low scores. Personally, I found it riveting. It’s an amalgam of contemporary documentary footage, interviews, and vignette flashbacks of Washington, Lincoln, Frederick Douglas and de Tocqueville. It is an imperfect document but still fascinating.
It takes D’Souza a while to make his points. The points: (1) where would the world be without America? (2) from whence came our collective national guilt and self-loathing, and (3) Who’s Barack Obama and why is he saying bad things about our country?
He begins the film by listing the charges made against the USA:
Theft of land (native americans)
Theft of labor (black slavery)
More theft of land (the Mexican War)
Theft of the world’s resources (most of our wars, but especially Iraq)
Theft of the American dream
He refutes all of these (more or less), tho some of his arguments are rather disingenuous. Frankly, I was amazed that he interviewed some of the people he did—articulate folks who clearly have an animus against this country. Like a good prosecuting attorney he spells out the charges against us quite vigorously.
Along the way he takes potshots at various noted lefties: Howard Zinn, Saul Alinsky, William Ayers, Hillary and of course, Obama. For those unfamiliar, Howard Zinn has been referred to as the most influential historian of the past 50-years. Carrying enormous guilt from his USAAF service in WW-II, Zinn made it his goal to reeducate us about how bad we are as a nation. He’s greatly succeeded on our college campuses. The Zinn Educational Project is fascinating. Look it up. Like many uber-libs, the currency he trades in is guilt. Uber-libs are folks who generally have no religion, yet they have the leftover vestigial guilt of a faith based on the law, and not grace. And their goal is to share their misery; we should all feel and bear the same guilt.
Me, I have plenty of guilt, but none about being born a white, middle-class American. I do not understand God’s grace but I accept it. We are not all born equal in the world in terms of country, locale, abilities, family, etc. However, we are equal in the sight of God and that’s what’s really important. I feel ashamed of some of the things my country has done, but I don’t feel guilty as I did not perpetrated them. I only feel guilty when I think I’m not living up to the command to love God, and love and serve my neighbors—well, that and my predominant cynical, worldly attitude. I must say, D’Souza’s “America” knocked a chip out of my cynicism. It reminded me of some thoughts on our country that needed recollecting.