Opinion

‘America’ The Movie And The End Of The Negative Narrative

Someone once said that a one-sided story is simply propaganda. The same is true for the historical narrative of the United States that has been de rigeur among the academic set for the past half century. Until Dinesh D’Souza’s recent film, “America” ($8.2 million at the box office), one side — a negative one — has gone largely unchallenged since the radical movements that swept university campuses in the 1960s and 1970s. The proof of how lost the positive American story has become can be detected in the reviewers’ coverage. By and large, these cranky chroniclers dismiss the film as “right wing,” “off the wall,” or “a doc to mock,” etc.

From a technical or stylistic perspective, the critics have stated that the film has it’s cinematic moments, although one dismissed it as a glorified “power point” presentation, and another accused D’Souza of “doing Michael Moore in reverse.” Yet almost all miss the crucial point: “America” represents a positive narrative of America that has been buried, but having resurfaced under D’Souza presentation.

So yes, D’Souza, an Indian emigrant, who experiences his adopted home America as an outsider, has a difficult, Davidian task (in this analogy media is Goliath). That task? Re-introduce the American public to their long-lost country, to recreate a positive narrative for understandingAmerican history. Demonstrate to the nation that the “blame-America-first” arguments, when put into historical context, don’t hold water.

As I witnessed this adept rewinding of American history at the LA premiere of the movie, I came away with at least 5 historical points that for many Americans might expose the emperor as, if not naked, rather scantily-clad:

  1. Native Americans died not only from colonial genocide, but from disease, as did Europeans when earlier visited by Asian peoples.
  2. African Americans, while of course the undisputed victims of the atrocities of slavery, also owned a significant percentage of the southern slave plantations.
  3. The Southwest was not imperialistically invaded by the U.S., but rather as “Texicans” intentionally and enthusiastically seceded from Mexico out of a desire to become Americans.
  4. Overall wealth creation should neither be demonized nor defined by its abuses, but celebrated for the freedoms of opportunity it has provided to millions around the world.
  5. Saul Alinsky launched a revolution to bring down America in the very circles that would have influenced both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

These events alone do not a narrative make and that’s where the point of view — “the slant,” if you will — defines the debate. For decades, the accepted (and inaccurate) historical slant has blamed human inequality on the American empire: the tyrannical regime that fights wars for oil, exploits foreign people, and remains a supremacist nation when it comes to race. D’Souza, with respect to these opposing views, challenges that slant with a simple yet profound question, “compared to whom?”

What other culture — past or present — can stand this level of moral scrutiny? Stalinist Russia? We all know the answer. In fact, if America was measured by its imperialism, compared historically to Persia, Rome, or even Britain, we would be doing a poor job. America does not keep the spoils of those conquered, but rather has paid a significant price to rebuild her fallen foes. Germany, Japan, Mogadishu, Iraq, or many other cases, are examples of when the public has clamored for the U.S. to “do something,” but if it is executed imperfectly, off to the woodshed.

Perhaps it could be argued that D’Souza’s “America” does not have all the counter spin needed to fully expose the views promulgated by the dominant side, but it will comfort many to witness that an individual can still break a window of the present day’s fortress of ideology. “America” does just that as it calls out the status quo, one that ironically, in the name of revolution, has become the establishment itself.