America: Imagine the World Without Her, directed by Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan. Written by Dinesh D’Souza, John Sullivan, and Bruce Schooley. Distributed by Lionsgate, 2014. Rated PG-13 for violent images. Running time: 105 minutes.
“If [danger] ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.” Abraham Lincoln spoke these words of warning in 1838. Dinesh D’Souza quotes them in his documentary, America, and contends it is a warning we still must heed.
D’Souza sets out to explain why some Americans today loathe their own country—and why America, whatever its historical shortcomings, far from deserving the condemnation it often suffers, stands out as a gloriously moral nation.
If America declines from within, argues D’Souza, it will be because leftist intellectuals persuade Americans to feel ashamed of their own country. Americans cannot morally support that for which they feel ashamed. But the leftist case against America is flawed, D’Souza argues, and Americans properly are proud of their country and the ideas it represents.
The two primary villains in D’Souza’s account are Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States; and Saul Alinsky, author of Rules for Radicals, leftist “community organizer” extraordinaire in Chicago and mentor to Hillary Clinton (among many others). D’Souza persuasively argues that the presidency of Barack Obama is in many ways the culmination of the work of those two men, especially of Alinsky.
D’Souza spends most of his film describing five main claims against America, then showing why those claims fail. As D’Souza notes, although Zinn did not originate these five claims, he synthesized and popularized them, weaving them into “a single narrative of American shame.”
As D’Souza describes, Obama and other leftists believe that “wealth and abundance of American life are not earned, they are stolen.” And, “If our wealth is stolen, then we must give it back.” Why is it allegedly stolen? First, leftists claim, America was founded on the genocide of Native Americans and the theft of their lands. Second, the United States stole a huge portion of Mexico. Third, American prosperity was built on the backs of slaves. Forth, America exploits other regions through “imperialist” military policies, of which the war in Vietnam is the most glaring example. Fifth, American capitalism is inherently “greedy,” and it involves the exploitation by capitalists of workers in America and abroad.
D’Souza fairly presents the leftist case for each of these claims, interviewing or showing archival footage of such icons as Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Michael Moore, and professors Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill, as well as lesser-known figures.
In his rebuttal, D’Souza, of course, does not deny that historically some American policies were unjust and at times horrific. But, D’Souza counters, leftists either ignore crucial historical context, or else they mischaracterize crucial aspects of history. . . .