Dr. Joseph DeJames

Dear Editor,

These writings are from a distinct perspective to a national column presented in The Daily News on Jan. 8, 2022, by Victor Davis Hanson from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

In the column, he claims that America, despite all its flaws, is still a bastion where millions of immigrants are “crashing its borders illegally.” His main point seems to be that there is an attack on America’s past by a current, ungrateful generation that highlights America’s flaws and disregards the successes, resulting in an attack of prior generations.

He states that previous generations won World War I and World War II, created the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and whose “toil helped create” the current generation’s comfort. He deems that the current generation of wokeness and criticism is ungrateful. Furthermore, he points to examples of worsening murder rate, increasing national debt, worsening standardized tests, assault, divorce and illegitimacy.

It is pertinent to mention that the Hoover Institution represents conservative thinking and is part of the prestigious Stanford University. I am not a historian, but I believe Mr. Hanson’s views are a bit skewed.

First, he uses the term America to describe what I believe is the United States of America. Canada, Nicaragua, Colombia, Bolivia, amongst many others, are also part of America. Unfortunately, the term “United Statesian” does not exist. Some may take this to be semantics, but it inherently puts forth a xenophobic attitude as well as a silent sense of superiority where the United States is the totality of “America” and other countries are not.

Secondly, just because something happened, it does not mean it is without flaws despite any benefit it may have conferred. Europeans arriving in the Americas brought much in terms of death and disease to the Indigenous people who they found already inhabiting there.

For example, slavery was a major force in the development of wealth in what became the United States. This indeed created some comfort for future generations. But what about those who were slaves and the lasting effect of slavery that lingers today? Many of the statues of Confederate leaders that were recently toppled were erected in the 1900-1950’s and beyond, way after the Confederacy lost the Civil War.

Much of what was legislated or created in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights was done with the express desire to exclude non-whites. This started with indigenous people, continued with Africans brought as slaves, and continues with the demonization of immigrants. It took, has taken, and continues to take much effort to not fall backwards as it pertains to the gains in racial progress that have been achieved.

Does this mean all non-white people are perfect citizens and above reproach? Of course not.

What is disingenuous is to think that actions by the dominant factions of previous generations should not be analyzed and critiqued just because it provided the United States with material wealth and helped create a country where people try to immigrate to. The “if we’re so bad, then why do people keep coming?” argument is an effortless way to ignore any shortcomings that may have occurred. If a father is abusive to his wife and children, should there be no complaints because he provides them with a good living? If the children have bad grades in school, are they further limited from complaining or wishing better conditions?

One thing I believe is that each generation is created by the previous one. I do not believe that generations emanate from a vacuum. Many young people are concerned about the environment. They fear that the world may not be as hospitable to them and future generations as it was to those in the past. Indeed, climate change and the impact of past human activity are the greatest threat to the survivability of the planet and humankind. Much of the damage was started by previous generations in the form of fossil fuel burning, destruction of rainforests for material gain, and pollution. Should the current generation be silent and grateful for the higher standard of living that those actions brought?

The answer is no.

So, if previous generations were so great, why is the current generation so ungracious? The answer is self-evident. There were a lot of dreadful things that were done by previous generations. If racial progress, gender equality, true meritocracy, and more equitable wealth distribution were foci of previous generations, then there would not be what Mr. Hanson perceives as ungratefulness. Only highlighting selected achievements does not paint a whole picture and dismissing the current generation’s concerns as ungraciousness is anachronistic.

— Dr. Joseph DeJames, St. John