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America’s Place in the Struggle Between Good and Evil

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Imperfect America as a Force for Good

My previous critique of leftist America -found here at"> -- led to further conversations about how we should regard the United States (as it has been before this Bush regime) in relation to the battle of good against evil in this world.

It seems that one's judgments about this question greatly influence how one sees the struggle now in Bushite America, and how one sees that struggle in the context of the overarching challenge to humankind to create a more whole and humane civilization.

Many on the left seem to see this Bushite regime merely as an extension of the persistent evils of America. And they are therefore dubious about a strategy that would direct our efforts to save our Constitutional system, or about any other approach that regards "restoration" and "repair" as worthy (even if not sufficient) goals.

I'd like to reply to that position with a simple assertion: If the United States had not existed -I mean, if there had been simply the whole rest of the world, but no United States or anything else in its place- during the twentieth century, the state of the world civilization at the end of that century would have been significantly worse than it was.

Yes, the United States is a flawed society. And yes, the United States as a great power did did many shameful things in the world. But the truth of both those statements does not make my assertion false.

(I am not including the ecological impact of American consumption of resources in this assessment, but rather I am focusing -as do such critics as Noam Chomsky and Harold Pinter- simply on the geopolitical impact of American actions in the world.)

When it comes to evaluating the impact of American power, the relevant issue is not how American conduct compares with some ideal of perfection but rather how the impact of America's wielding of its power compares with what would have happened in America's absence.

Power is by its definition a zero-sum game: If A has more power in the system, then players B, C, and D necessarily have less. If A disappears, the other players become greater powers. In the twentieth century, that would have meant more power in particular for Germany, for Russia, for China (toward the end of the century), and of course others.

Can anyone reasonably argue that if the United States had not existed at the time of Nazi Germany, and had not existed at the time of the Soviet Union, the world would have evolved in a better way?

Why History Has Been a Nightmare: The Social Evolutionary Perspective

There's a reason that history has given us such highly flawed societies, and such deeply wounded people. The dynamic set in motion by the rise of civilization (as I try to show in my book, THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES: THE PROBLEM OF POWER IN SOCIAL EVOLUTION) made it inevitable that civilization would develop for millennia in very warped and wounding ways.

Destruction and disruption come from what is newly emerged into the evolving wholeness of life. That problem with the newly emergent is why, for example, the virus that came to the New World on the Asian chestnut, with which that virus had worked out a more harmonious relationship, decimated the great American chestnut trees. So also with civilization, still a relatively new arrival onto the scene of life on earth.

Humankind unwittingly unleashed a new social evolutionary force that, in its lack of harmony with the biologically evolved systems that created us and the biosphere, has temporarily sundered the harmony and wholeness that life on earth had taken almost four billion years to create.

It is our task as humans -in aligning ourselves with the Good and thus in trying to heal this civilization- to strive toward the Wholeness that would be the fulfillment of our potential and the nurturing of life on earth. But in this imperfect world, there are only very imperfect things available to do the work of moving toward that Wholeness.

The United States has been one of those imperfect things that has nonetheless overall, over the past century, been a force for creating goodness.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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