What is happening in America today has been happening in England for decades. Being American used to be easy. So did being English. Being either meant you were a part of the most easily identifiable people ever to appear on the timeline of human history.

Language, manners and the drinking of tea by the boatload have long characterized the English. Language, individualism and class mobility have long marked Americans. But then came the unfortunate adoption of the disunifying hyphen and its result, hyphenation.

The hyphen is but a small mark, smaller than the dash. Hyphenation is a condition, a reminder of what was. Do we think that Mexicans, Africans, Europeans and Asians come to America to be reminded of where they came from? Surely most come motivated by either a dream or sheer hunger. Yet, even if they become citizens, we hyphenate them. Many hyphenate themselves.

Different kinds of pressure have contributed to our hyphenation. Recently, another visit to England made it apparent to me that in London and up through northern England the United Kingdom is not so united. Hyphenation and disunity have set in. Scotland continues to seek national status, growing more and more dissatisfied as a mere region of the UK and giving further lie to the claim that “nationalists” are “provincial” and “racist.”

What’s wrong with having one’s own province or nation with values, traditions, language, borders and culture? Well, it’s just … racist. Or so say elite globalists. As actor John Wayne, put it, “We’re all hyphenated Americans so why make an issue of it?”

Hyphenation and denationalization pressure also come from those who wish to baptize England into Europe, thus creating an endless list of hyphenated “nations” subject (economically) to EU headquarters in Brussels.

And of course in the land of Lloyds of London, Barclay and other financial institutions, there is the unrestrained tide and pressure of international business, the global economy. While America’s president has illustrated the power to influence if not direct economic globalism (think “USA, USA!”), two British prime ministers have been unable to. Though bone tired from the Brexit debate, England is still in the throes of “Brexit or not?” “Shall we be English or hyphenated Europeans?” some are asking.

Just as England is struggling with the question, “What does it mean to be English?” Americans are facing the question, “What do Americans stand for?” Are we now so hyphenated, which is to say multicultural, that we have little in common? Like England’s past but unlike her present, America’s soul still lies in the countryside and in small towns even if electoral power doesn’t. How can one argue that the more diverse or different we are, the stronger we are unless, of course, there are some bedrock common values?

Though Lincoln didn’t say it first, his words still ring. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” There is a point at which “except they be agreed, two cannot walk together.” This tax rate versus that tax rate is one thing, but capitalism versus socialism is quite another. In their respective legislative halls and college campuses, Brits and Americans have begun to disagree on things not like the color of the drapes but the foundation of the house.

British historian Roy Strong wrote, “Families are falling apart, religion is discredited. So where does England’s sense of identity come from? What holds this country together? Not bloody much.”

In England it is said that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip are the last generation to live by the code of modesty, marital fidelity, austerity and patriotism. Married for 72 years, the royal couple has watched the marriages of three of their four children dissolve. The most dreadful of all hyphenations, post-modernism, seems to hover over Brits and Americans alike. Since the 1960s, America’s standards of dress have plummeted, austerity at the individual and national governmental levels is passé, modesty is “so 20th century,” higher education has slidden into indoctrination (gender theory, feminine “studies,” transgenderism), and many churches, instead of being a voice in the wilderness are an echo of that wilderness. “Post-modern” indeed.

America’s founders knew no hyphenation, no pastels. In politics and in life certitude was their mindset: “No taxation without representation,” “Give me liberty or give me death,” and “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

Two hundred forty-three years is not old for nations. Neither is individual liberty, religious freedom, free enterprise or representative democracy. Those who don’t embrace these still new concepts don’t need America. Those who are willing to embrace them, whatever their color or origin, should forget there was ever such a thing as a hyphen.

Roger Hines is a retired English teacher and state legislator in Kennesaw.


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