I was reflecting on a process which began fifteen odd years ago and recently came to a conclusion.
There is a mixture of feelings about what constitutes “America”.
On one hand, I feel a broad agreement with “values it historically represented” and with “the thoughts and works of Americans” in science and technology and literature, over the years.
On the other hand, I feel a broad disagreement with various bits of foreign policy, as well as a few “recent trends”.
It hasn’t been clear to me how I should resolve these conflicting sentiments.
Are they just intertwined parts of the same? Is it Like “the case of Jekyll and Hyde”, except writ large over a country?
It felt schizophrenic.
One way of reconciling this that occurred to me, and since then feels quite natural to me now, is to separate out two elements of America: Republic and Empire.
Of these, the “Empire” is what exists in a practical sense across the world, and then feeds back in various ways into policy and culture, national and domestic.
And of these, the “Republic” is what people (claim to) owe allegiance to, which “owns symbols” like the flag and the constitution, and which has formal (or, moral) claim in turn over institutions of government.
Both exist at varying levels of significance, at the same time, and with lesser or greater amount of symbiosis.
I will noodle about this over time, but this does seem to be a useful way of looking at “what America is“.