Friday, February 11, 2005

Fashionable anti-Americanism

Dominic Hilton writes that anti-Americanism isn't as bad as we think. Rather, it's more of an "industry" driven "fashion statement."
The industry of anti-American sentiment is just that – an industry. It should not be mistaken for legitimate and considered concern. “I hate America” is the world’s default position. Knocking America is a form of displacement. It helps non-Americans avoid focusing on their own big problems. In fact, strip it of its lacy hosiery and the world’s relationship with America is disgustingly Freudian.
Further along, he cites Jean Francois Revel and others
“The illogicality at base consists in reproaching the United States for some shortcoming, and then for its opposite,” writes Jean-Francois Revel in his aptly-titled Anti-Americanism. “Here is a convincing sign that we are in the presence, not of rational analysis, but of obsession.”

. . . Anti-Americanism, when not perpetrated by true haters, is often a stale mockery of America, born of our own fascination. This is our (the world’s) problem, not America’s. Jean-Francois Revel suggests that we “project our faults onto America so as to absolve ourselves”. As he says of his native France, and Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin say of the last four hundred years, some of this “Hating America” is born of fear, some of plain old weakness, some of outright jealousy. The left, in particular, is green with envy. 20th-century Communism only served to augment belief in the American Dream. “The success of America was thus a devastating blow to the Left,” writes Michael Ledeen. “It wasn’t supposed to happen. And American success was particularly galling because it came at the expense of Europe itself, and of the embodiment of the Left’s most utopian dream: the Soviet Union.”

But some leftists are getting tired of it. The narrative of left-wing anti-Americanism “has ceased to be critical, but become predestinarian,” says John Lloyd. Such stasis serves nobody except the tyrants, the terrorists, and the unoriginal, knee-jerk loudmouths who cash in on the fashionability of the flaming Spangled Banner (categorised by Barry Rubin as “self-interest”).
To me, Hilton provides the best insight when talking of America's ideals as opposed to its "materialism" (or actions)
America is going to say and think big things about itself. Look at its history, and then understand that the United States is a nation, and acts as such – in its own interests and with a powerful identity. In his response to Bush’s second inaugural, the American commentator David Brooks identified “this weird intermingling of high ideals with gross materialism” which so defines his country. In the spirit of Washington and Kennedy, the president waxed lyrical on mankind’s highest ideals. Later that evening, “drunken, loud and privileged twentysomethings” carried each other piggyback down K Street.

“The people who detest America take a look at this odd conjunction and assume the materialistic America is the real America; the ideals are a sham,” Brooks wrote. “The real America, they insist, is the money-grubbing, resource-wasting, TV-drenched, unreflective bimbo of the earth. The high-toned language, the anti-Americans say, is just a cover for the quest for oil, or the desire for riches, dominion and war. But of course they’ve got it exactly backward. It’s the ideals that are real.”

The ideals are real. Not because they are America’s, but because they are ideals and they are the right ideals. Those who don’t revel in extremism, dictatorship and political stagnation have to decide whose camp they want to be in. Does Europe really feel more allied to communist China than conservative America? The European Union and China share “a convergence of views about the United States, its foreign policy and its global behaviour,” says David Shambaugh of George Washington University. This should send a shudder down the spine of democrats. Who truly wants to believe the late Susan Sontag and her assertion that America is “a doomed country … founded on a genocide”? Get over yourself. I’m sticking with my stateside compadre John Hulsman, who believes

“there is little doubt we have all benefited from the ‘na├»ve’ optimism that has enabled America to do amazing things not just for itself, but also for all mankind.”
Hilton's conclusion draws on John F. Kennedy
America is not the panacea, nor is it the devil. Our problems are generally our problems. The world would do well to be a little more like America, a tad more insular, self-involved.

Non-Americans love to quote John Kennedy’s famous call, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Why? It is the second part of Kennedy’s couplet we should heed and let roll off our tongues: “My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” This still stands. And freedom, like charity, discipline and intelligence, begins at home.

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