To celebrate the Fourth of July, don’t go see this movie
The week of July Fourth seems an odd time to release a film that questions the patriotism of the president of the United States, but that is precisely what right-wing idol Dinesh D’Souza sets out to do in his new film America: Imagine the World Without Her.
I wouldn’t ordinarily dignify such nonsense with a column, but America the movie exemplifies everything that’s wrong about the American political conversation these days, rich with examples from both left and right.
You get to meet a Sioux activist who wants to blow up Mount Rushmore, and a Chicano activist who talks about the golden morning when the United States will no longer exist. A former professor says that under certain unspecified conditions it might be just fine to drop a nuclear bomb on the United States.
The evil empire? “You’re sitting in it,” says the professor.
D’Souza lays out all of the worst charges against America, from slavery to the genocidal confiscation of Indian lands, from the way the American brand of predatory colonialism has stolen the world’s resources to the way American-style free-market capitalism robs from the poor and gives to the rich.
He then knocks down these charges one by one, with arguments almost as foul as the real and alleged crimes.
Slavery? It’s been around for centuries, says D’Souza, and there were even black slaveholders who sided with the Confederacy.
Genocide? Fewer Indians were killed by settlers than died of disease.
Predatory colonialism? Where? We let Iraqis keep their oil, and we didn’t “steal anything” from Vietnam. (Unless I missed it somewhere, South America is not mentioned.)
Then D’Souza swings around to his main target, President Barack Obama, whom he portrays as a believer in this radical-left narrative of American shame, in “America the Inexcusable.” As a result, says D’Souza, Obama is engaged in a conspiracy to bring the U.S. to its knees.
D’Souza has made the same case several times before — in three books and an anti-Obama “documentary” that came out during the 2012 campaign — and by doing so he has made a name for himself. At a recent convention of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, where Michelle Bachmann and most of the major Republican contenders for president in 2016 spoke, it was D’Souza who got the standing ovation.
D’Souza finds the root of Obama’s treason in an armchair psychoanalysis of the president’s early history.
“All politics is driven by deep motives,” he told the Faith and Freedom audience, “and the deep motives here are envy, resentment, revenge, hatred, self-hatred.” In America, as in his previous works, he traces these “very low and degraded emotions” to the anti-colonialism of Obama’s absent father and to Obama’s guilty association with such political dartboard figures as Saul Alinsky and Bill Ayers.
Maybe the most outrageous bit of propagandist hooey in America (there is a lot of competition) comes after a clip from the 2009 inauguration in which Obama calls us “to begin again the work of remaking America.”
“To remake America,” D’Souza says, slowly and ominously, “you have to unmake the America that’s here now.”
Then, over footage of poor old ravaged Detroit, D’Souza accuses Obama of having enacted a policy of “economic redistribution never before imagined, aimed at returning centuries of stolen goods” — as if the president who bailed out GM and Chrysler was actually responsible for soaking Detroit dry in order to give it all away.
Near the end of the film (spoiler alert) D’Souza deals with his own legal predicament. Six weeks ago, he pleaded guilty in federal court to making illegal campaign contributions in 2012 through third parties, including the woman to whom he was engaged, though he was married at the time.
At this point in the narrative D’Souza inserts a clip in which Fox News’ Sean Hannity calls D’Souza “the latest victim to be targeted by the Obama White House,” which allows him to avoid saying it himself.
What he does say is pretty close, though: “I made a mistake … But we don’t want to live in a society where Lady Justice has one eye open and winks at her friends and casts the evil eye at her adversaries. Where will they stop?”
He will be free to make the charge of selective prosecution more directly after his sentencing on Sept. 23.
Let’s be honest: America isn’t perfect or purely good. It’s a nation in progress, not a religious figure. All we can hope for is to make it, as the preamble says, “a more perfect union.”
As we do that, we have no excuse for a political conversation more rancorous than the one at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when despite their deep division over slavery — about the most contentious issue imaginable — our ancestors managed to agree on a Constitution that became a model for the world.
That spirit of pragmatic compromise has faded almost to invisibility, as the example of America and the political stalemate in Washington attest.
At the Faith and Freedom forum, D’Souza said he decided to release America this week “because I want to reach beyond the political audience. I want people to say, ‘Hey Honey it’s the Fourth of July, let’s go see America.’”
Instead, let’s declare our independence from such partisan venom. I can think of no better way to celebrate this Fourth of July.
I welcome your comments, reactions, amplifications, relevant links and ideas for future columns. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTOS: Independence Day fireworks light the sky over the U.S. Capitol, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial (from L-R) in Washington, July 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Conservative commentator and best-selling author, Dinesh D’Souza exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse after pleading guilty in New York, May 20, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson