HB V

is older than it's ever been and now it's even older

3/04/2003

American Nationalism in a new century


“It is incredible how naively cocksure Americans are in their belief that they can whip any enemy whatsoever . . . There is no end to their patriotism; it is a patriotism that never flinches, and it is just as loudmouthed as it is vehement.”

--Knut Hamsun


The bewilderment that many Americans display when they receive news of the hostility of the rest of the world is a striking feature that separates the learned from the rest. Yet even I (acknowledged, I do consider myself “learned” or elite or an intellectual or whatever pejorative spin you want to put on someone who actually keeps up with current affairs. Try “nerd.”) found this history of European suspicion of the USA a bit surprising, in that anti-Americanism is not new. Nor is it entirely unjustified. Indeed, the United States by way of our cockiness, our utter conviction that we are always right in international affairs, and our (especially recently) habit of making pronouncements for what other country’s domestic affairs will entail cannot help but rub other countries the wrong way. Imagine what we would say if another nation’s leader declared about the U.S., “It's the stated policy of this government to have regime change. . .and it hasn't changed." (yep, that’s Bush, last July 8) What possibly gives the U.S. government the right to determine who leads another country?


(This is clearly off topic, but was anyone else taken aback at Powell’s answer to the endless questions dogging the administration regarding our motives in taking over the Iraqi oil fields? His answer: we aren’t out to take over the Iraqi oil fields, we’re only going to hold the oil in trust for the Iraqi people. Anyone else remember oil revenues held in trust for a sovereign people by the U.S. government? Hint: we’ve been stealing from them for hundreds of years…)


How much of the new anti-Americanism is directly attributable to our new unilateral nationalism? Considering that after September 11 there were demonstrations of solidarity in the streets of most major European cities, the amazing turnaround in world opinion is almost certainly the direct result of our president pushing a foreign policy that is unconcerned about maintaining allies or building consensus. And that is the saddest thing. In my dreams, the presidential inaugural address on January 20, 2005, will begin with an apology to the rest of the world for our brief national madness. In reality, I know that our national narcissism means the problem goes beyond Bush. In closing, I appeal to the great Republican Theodore Roosevelt, who said:


I believe in national friendships and heartiest good-will to all nations; but national friendships, like those between men, must be founded on respect as well as on liking, on forbearance as well as upon trust. I should be heartily ashamed of any American who did not try to make the American Government act as Justly toward the other nations in international relations as he himself would act toward any individual in private relations. I should be heartily ashamed to see us wrong a weaker power, and I should hang my head forever if we tamely suffered wrong from a stronger power.



I am not done with this topic yet.
Thanks, Mr. Rogers

I read this sweet interview with Mr. Rogers last week and was touched. I always watched Mr. Rogers as a kid. I have distinct memories of fighting with my brother as a wee youngster over whether we would watch Mr. Rogers (my choice) or reruns of Gilligan’s Island. I would say that he usually won those fights, but if that’s true, how did I watch so many episodes of the Neighborhood?

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