With the invention of modern communication any amount of information can be shared with anyone. This has made it extremely hard to stay ignorant, and the more someone is faced with this abundance of contradicting ideals, almost anything can sound really good or really bad. I believe America has remained so different from the rest of the world because of our geography. Now our global information is connected, and it looks like the people in this country are forgetting our worldview as much as we ignored the worldviews of other developed nations for nearly two centuries.
Americans use to stay away from an abundance of restrictive labels. Maybe even accidentally, this created a new kind of free-thinking. Political parties existed, but voting wasn’t seen as important (because the powers of the federal government were small) and therefore limited the social influence of the political parties. A candidate with some new ideas and a candidate with some traditional ideas could be running against each other in the same party. The only real titles people held that influenced their way of thinking was what denomination they were a part of. People had many ideas, but for the most part those ideas didn’t fit them into a category (or that category was very loosely defined). Because of America’s “friendship to all, alliance to none” foreign policy, Europe’s influence over Americans’ way of thinking was always declining during the 19th century. Something that still made America oddly unpredictable to the rest of the world up until the end of WWII.
Truth be told we are still extremely ignorant on the history of the rest of the western world, but I fear that backfires horribly in the information age. Our ideas of freedom, art, entertainment, and the west as a whole are very different to the rest of the west. You can compare many European phases to American beliefs, but we usually differ greatly because well… we are different. The American ideology is not a typical “ism.” It is not marked by an age, style or singular philosophy. The defining characteristics of this experiment is that of many; radical, classical, romantic, logical, religious, skeptical. They define us as a whole.
America took a much different approach and direction to the European’s Age of Enlightenment. Our revolution created something different. Not nationalism, not socialism, not agnosticism, not even liberalism. It has no title, only a motion in the battle of right and wrong. The French Revolution might have given us the concept of the right and left-wing, but in this worldview there is no right or left, only an up or down. A right and a wrong. Religion was very important to Americans, and this offered society some universal truths. It kept us focusing less on “what does my side believe” and more on “what is right in this specific instance.” We primarily thought this way until the 20th century.
For a brief time it seemed the downward course was introduced to America with modern liberalism (progressivism). Conservatism would become the opposition to this, but neither position could be very well defined until split between the two-party system. We slowly started referring to liberal and conservative as left and right-wing, simply because we knew them to be opposites. As modern liberalism drifted further away from tradition American beliefs (being influenced by post-modernism), Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination and made it clear they would be the ones, at least in spirit, to represent traditional American beliefs. With that Americans swung hard to the right in the 1980s, and to oppose this modern-liberals pushed hard into the Democratic Party. This came to define the Republican Party for several decades and the two party system as polar opposites. Sadly for America, over time the Republican Party had become more unbalanced (along with the rest of the country) as American history is blurred with the rest of Western thinking.
As Americans start to meld their right and left-wing beliefs with those of Europe, we start creating even more labels for ourselves and hiding in our little communities. Creating ideological bubbles on college campuses, and social media- tweaking them perfectly so we only see the worldview we want to see. Then these new communities in the name of their cause start wars with themselves on our streets. Instead of seeking to do right in the grand scheme of creation, they think their cause is the definition of justice. Antifa burning down property for a communist philosophy foreign to the freedoms they claim to represent. Nationalists following along to the age of enlightenment, placing limits on the human soul and creativity (this is why today’s “liberals” have no rationalization for their actions, and today’s “conservatives” are horrible with art and emotions.) Neither of which will admit that is what they are doing, because they let their cause define what is right and good- and therefore they can never be wrong. Americans are forgetting that our cause is righteousness. That we are called to duty by Divine Providence. Parts of truth may be found through science and emotion, but that does not make every fact or feeling true.