Dinesh D’Souza challenges the Left’s dominant anti-American narrative — that America is guilty of a broadly shameful plunder-and-conquest history — by revealing that the country’s true story is one of unprecedented triumph over humanity’s long and shameful plunder-and-conquest history…through its unique idea of individual liberty. [Dir: Dinesh D’Souza, John Sullivan/ 103 min/ Documentary/ American revolution, Pro-capitalism]
It is common grade-school knowledge that America is guilty of many sins, and indeed was founded on sin. In the East, we stole land from the various native tribes, and we used slaves to work the land; in the West, we attacked Mexico and stole half of its land; today, we plunder by way of wars for oil and influence, and our capitalist economy makes the poor poorer to make the rich richer on a global basis.
But, asks author Dinesh D’Souza, what if all that “common knowledge” is just Left-wing marketing schlock, essentially a made-up narrative of half-truths intentionally woven together to undermine American confidence in its real history and libertarian intellectual underpinnings? That’s the case he makes in this film, and it’s a surprisingly good case.
Yes, he says, the European settlers and their American descendants did take land from the native tribes, but there was nothing unusual in it; plunder and conquest was the general state of the world in those days. As D’Souza points out, the native-Americans themselves were no exception, and routinely plundered and enslaved each other. Europeans and their American descendants came out on top simply because they were better armed. But unique among all nations of the world, America had been founded on an idea, that “all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights.” And some Americans began to argue that the Old World ways of plunder were inconsistent with such rights. It took time, but America overcame the world’s long established pattern, made peace with the native-Americans and paid restitution, an outcome quite unusual in the history of encounters between technologically-advanced and less-developed peoples.
But isn’t America responsible for slavery? No, says D’Souza, slavery too is at least as old as recorded time and is a global phenomenon; there have been slaves in every age and in virtually every country on Earth. Far from inventing slavery, that too was inherited by America, and again it was America that overcame it. For the first time in human history, a nation — America — fought a civil war to end slavery, and hundreds of thousands of Americans — not Frenchmen, not Koreans, not Chinese, not Albanians, not Swedes, not Algerians — not anybody else but Americans died for that cause…that all men are created equal.
Fair enough, you might say, but most assuredly we stole half of Mexico; you can’t blame that on the long history of humanity. The average American — and I include myself — knows almost nothing of the Mexican-American War, but I learned enough from this film to discover that events were a bit more complicated than that, the most notable point being that Mexico was run by a dictator (Santa Anna) against whom Texans legitimately rebelled to gain their independence, and that when all was said and done American forces actually were in possession of all of Mexico, but curiously, for a rapacious conqueror, gave back the more populated half of it. (I might add, something I learned by doing a little research after watching the documentary, after the war the U.S. government paid Mexico for the land it kept, the amount of $18.25 million, in the same league as the amount paid for the Louisiana Purchase ($15 million) and the Alaska purchase ($7.2 million) and pretty much the going rate for undeveloped, undefended wilderness…another curious thing for a conquering nation to do. For a brutal conqueror, we seem mighty wishy-washy about it.)
But what of our “wars for oil” of today? Again, D’Souza points out, our avarice is of a very curious nature — after defeating the Iraqi army and gaining control of Iraq’s oil fields, we then gave the oil fields to the fledgling democracy we spilled American blood to establish. That would hardly seem consistent with the idea that we had gone there to steal the oil (but it might just be consistent with the idea that we had gone there to spread democracy).
The final shop-worn argument in the Left’s anti-American narrative — that free markets impoverish the poor — barely needs to be refuted, because it is by now so dead-obvious that the poor are better off under capitalism than its alternatives, but D’Souza takes a brief stab at that as well.
So if all this grade-school history is full of holes, why is it being taught and who came up with it? Though they are most assuredly not the sole authors of the anti-American narrative, D’Souza calls on the carpet in particular historian Howard Zinn and, above all, Saul Alinsky, a left-wing radical organizer noted for his thuggish political tactics and author of “Rules for Radicals.” Not to give away too much here, but you will be surprised at Alinsky’s breadth of influence, not the least of which is his intellectual impact on, of all people, a young Hillary Clinton. Who knew Hillary Clinton wrote her college thesis about Saul Alinsky?
America: Imagine the World Without Her is an entertaining film with a patriotic punch. I might have organized it a bit differently, but it works, and I learned a few things of which I was formerly unaware. It won’t persuade many on the Left, but it’s perfectly adequate as a call to action for the rest of us not to be too easily taken in by false narratives, and to learn a bit more of our own history, which we must preserve through the knowledge of it. If nothing else this film will convince you that the Left’s anti-American narrative is not simply a fair and objective reading of history and it did not come about by accident; those who crafted it were well aware that “he who controls the past controls the future; he who controls the present controls the past.”
External Reviews of America: Imagine the World Without Her
“Like its subject, America isn’t perfect and its arguments sometimes aren’t sophisticated. But it’s the perfect film to take the family to on a Fourth of July…Here’s hoping it begins a long-overdue national conversation about the true meaning of America.”
“D’Souza’s America,” John Fund, National Review, 6/29/14
How to See It
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–Washington Examiner: Dinesh D’Souza’s ‘America’ banished from New York Times best seller list
–IJ Review: Costco’s Removal Of Dinesh D’Souza’s ‘America’ Proves To Be A Massive Backfire As It Soars to the Top
–Amazon Book: America: xImagine the World without Her
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