America Derangement Syndrome — or, yes, you can call them unpatriotic

While idly browsing the shelves at our local public library, I stumbled across a fascinating book — one that is fascinating on a couple of different levels. It’s called Uncouth Nation : Why Europe Dislikes America, and was written by Andrei S. Markovits, a Jewish man who was born in Romania, and raised during the 1960s in Vienna and America. He is now a professor of comparative politics and German studies at the University of Michigan.

Although Markovits occasionally lapses into the terrible writing of academia (e.g, at p. 28, “To be sure, anti-American sentiments have indeed varied in their manifest expressions both diachronically and synchronically….”), he presents his thesis very lucidly, and it’s a good thesis. Markovitz believes that the anti-Americanism that is increasingly present in Europe is not George Bush’s fault, but that it has been present in Europe since Columbus’s time. Even when America was just a little blink over the horizon, elite Europeans viewed it as a threat to their cultural stability and own sense of superiority. This sense of threat only worsened in the 20th Century as America, along with its siren song of freedom (economic and social), gained the actual power to affect European affairs. Now, Europeans have to deal, not only with their ancient and visceral dislike, but also with the reality that they are dependent on a nation they have historically disdained. In other words, Markovits describes an “American Derangement Syndrome” throughout Europe:

Just like anti-Semitism, so, too is anti-Americanism antonymous. Everything and its opposite pertains: too religious, too secular; too idealistic, too materialistic; too elitist, too populist; too prudish, too pornographic; too individualistic, too conformist; too anarchic, too controlling; too obsessed with history, not having any history; too concerned with culture, not having any culture; too dominated by women, too controlling of women. America, in the view of some Europeans, is so obsessed with freedom and individualism that this obsession impedes genuine individuality and creates what one conservative German critic of the United States tellingly labeled ‘freedom Bolshevism”…. In short, the motto is clear: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (p. 24.)

I agree and, with every paragraph I’ve read in the book, I think Markovits makes and proves his point about the deep roots anti-Americanism has in Europe.  There’s more to the book than that, though.

What caught me was the way in which Markovits is forced to expose the anti-Americanism that characterizes the American Left, and that cannot be excused by looking to Europe’s long-standing dislike for America.  The topic comes up because Markovits tries to increase his argument’s credibility by establishing his own position.  At least, that’s why I think he is forced to acknowledge that the American Left, like the world Left, is defined by its hatred for America.  After all, if this were a standard rant against the Left coming from someone on the Right, no one would pay attention to it.  The argument about Europe’s chronic, historic dislike for America gains credence only if it’s made by an insider.  And so, in the book’s preface, Markovits is forced to explain that Europe’s almost hysterical anti-Americanism is a coming together of ancient hatreds and modern politics (most that go far beyond BDS), and that this hatred infects the American Left, which has made him something of an outcast.

Markovits begins by pointing out the anti-American and anti-Semitic animus that is becoming the core definer for the Left:

There can be no doubt that anti-Americanism has become a kind of litmus test for progressive thinking and identity in Europe and the world (including the United States itself). Just as any self-respecting progressive and leftist in Europe or America, regardless of which political shade, simply had to be on the side of the Spanish Republic in the 1930s, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become the requisite proof of possessing a progressive conviction today. [Snip.] Over the last thirty-five years, a steady anti-Americanism and an uncompromising anti-Zionism, which occasionally borders on the anti-Semitic, have become key characteristics that both divide and determine political identity absolutely. They are “wedge issues” — clear articles of faith or “deal breakers” — whose importance overshadows, and even negates, many related components of the “clusters” that characterize such an identity. (p. xiv.)

Because the “litmus test” is hatred for America, all the other standard Leftist tropes become secondary if you want to belong to that club.  Markovits uses himself as an example of this fact.  He begins by establishing his Leftist bona fides. Thus, here are the beliefs this comparative politics profession at the University of Michigan holds:

I am an advocate of affirmative action in all realms of public life; a supporter for decades of numerous civil rights organizations, in favor of complete equality for women and discriminated ethnic groups, especially blacks, in the United States; an opponent of the death penalty. I favor legally recognized marriages for gays and lesbians; support the right of all women to complete and exclusive autonomy over their bodies, in other words, the right to an abortion; support unrestricted stem cell research [snip] and favor the Kyoto Climate Protocol, the International Criminal Court, the Ottawa Conventions on the ban of land mines, and the International Biological Weapons Convention. I do not want prayers in public schools and oppose charter schools; I favor strict gun control laws and — as an animal benefit activist — oppose hunting for sport. I have always supported trade unions in their difficult struggles, always favor increases in the minimum wage, have never broken a strike or crossed a picket line, even when I did not agree with the striking union’s demands; I welcome the legalization of marijuana, advocate a more just and socially conscience health care system, and desire progressive taxation and a much greater role for the public sector in economic matters. I am a decisive opponent of subsidies for rich American (and European) farmers, deride th exclusivity and price gouging of the pharmaceutical industry, oppose trafficking in women and exploitation of children, and am appalled by the erosion of civil liberties in the United States as well as by the shameful, completely illegal situation in Guantanamo and the outrageous abuses in Abu Ghraib prison. [Snip.] In terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, I have always supported the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state and have held views that have been akin to the Israeli peace camp’s. I have regularly condemned and opposed certain measures of American foreign policy, regardless of which party needed to be held responsible (whether the Vietnam policy of Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson or the Iraq policy of Republican George W. Bush), and I have therefore — as should be obvious from the above list — positioned myself quite clearly on the left side of the political spectrum in America (and Europe as well). (pp. xiv-xv.)

Prof. Markovits Leftist bona fides are as impeccable as they come. He has a problem, though, which is that there is a thread of innate honesty and intelligence running through him, and it is this that leaves him unwilling to accept mindlessly the anti-American and anti-Semitic hostility that is now becoming a dominant trait on the Left at home and abroad. Thus, after reciting his sterling Leftist credentials, Markovits had this to say:

Yet I am increasingly avoided by leftists on both sides of the Atlantic owing solely to the two wedge issues mentioned above [anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism].  As a reaction against this, I find myself having withdrawn from the established American and European lefts in whose presence I feel increasingly misplaced.  I am not writing this to elicit sympathy for my increasing political marginalization but rather to make a point of how central anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become to virtually all lefts on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.  (p. xv.)

In other words, from a die-hard Leftist, you hear that, yes, the American Left is indeed unpatriotic because to hate America is the test for admission into the progressive club.

I’m rather impressed with Prof. Markovits’s ability honestly to confront the fact that the anti-Americanism that oozes out of Europe and keeps popping up at home is not just a figment of the Right’s paranoid imaginings.  Instead, it’s real and it’s rising.  It is, as I’ve captioned it in this post “America Derangement Syndrome” (“ADS”).  Just as with Bush Derangement Syndrome, it exists at an emotional level that has no need for facts.  America is evil because it’s evil.  Bush is evil because he’s evil.  No further proof needed.

What’s sad is that, even as Markovits has been able to break away from the ADS, even to the point of becoming shunned by his former Leftist compadres, he’s still in the grip of an unreasoning BDS.  Every few pages, he feels compelled to blame Bush for something, only to back away and acknowledge that, whatever Bush did, it doesn’t excuse the European (and, by extension, American Leftist) animus to America and Israel.  For example:

George W. Bush and his administrations’ policies have made America into the most hated country of all time.  [Wow!  Because apparently everyone loved the Mongols, the Romans, the Ottomans, the Nazis, the Nationalist Japanese, etc., etc.]  Indeed, they bear responsibility for having created a situation in which anti-Americanism has mutated into a sort of global antinomy, a mutually shared language of opposition to and resistance against the real and perceived ills of modernity that are now inextricably identified solely with America.  [I think this paragraph was written before some recent European elections.]  (p. 1.)

After reading the above, I almost felt like snarling, “Smile when you say that, Pardner.  Them’s fighting words.”  If that’s not unanchored BDS, I don’t know what is — and Markovits is completely unaware that it exists.  Even as he’s castigating the Europeans for their unreasoning American hatred, he’s engaging in precisely the same type of thinking vis a vis Bush.  There’s hope for him, though.  That same inconvenient honesty that finally broke him free of the Left’s strangle hold about America, forces him to acknowledge that Bush is not the culprit in failing American-European relations:

While the politics, style, and discourse of the Bush administrations — and of George W. Bush as a person — have undoubtedly exacerbated anti-American sentiment among Europeans and fostered a heretofore unmatched degree of unity between elite and mass opinion in Europe, they are not anti-Americanism’s cause.  Indeed, a change to a center-left administration in Washington, led by a Democratic president, would not bring about its abatement, let alone its disappearance.  [Take that, John Kerry!]  (p. 5.)

Perhaps, as time goes by, and as Markovits peels away the unthinking allegiance he has to Leftist doctrine, he’ll begin to take stands on matters that are informed and principled, and not driven simply by ideological loyalty.  Certainly to leave the ideological trap will make him a more honest thinker and, I’m willing to be, a better teacher (and that’s without regard to how good a teacher he may already be).

Better to be respected than liked

It’s a good day at American Thinker. In one of my preceding posts, I quoted at length from Kyle-Anne Shiver’s article about Mike Huckabee. Now, I’m about to quote from Soeren Kern’s article about the reflexive anti-Americanism that characterizes Europe.

Kern’s starting point is Bill Clinton’s announcement that, if Hillary wins, he and George H.W. Bush will go on a whirlwind, worldwide tour convincing everyone that George Bush has been relegated to the dustbin of history and that America is willing to make nice again. (If this is really true insofar as Clinton is speaking for George H.W. Bush’s involvement, I really don’t think I can say enough bad things about George H.W. Bush, a man who would go around attacking his own son. I doubt it’s true, though.)

Kern starts off by pointing out what should be obvious to Bill Clinton, who claims to be a learned and intelligent man: Anti-Americanism predates George Bush, although there’s certainly been a resurgence during his administration.  Kern goes through Spain, Germany and France for examples of anti-American sentiment that existed decades or even centuries before Bush’s presidency.

The more important point that Kern makes, though, is that Europe’s anti-Americanism is, as one might expect, as much a product of envy as anything else. And, really, you can’t blame the Europeans, because it’s extremely human to want to take down a peg, or to dislike, someone or something that has the power and wealth you really think should belong to you:

As political realists like Thucydides (c 460-395 BC) might have predicted, anti-Americanism is also a visceral reaction against the current distribution of global power. America commands a level of economic, military and cultural influence that leaves many around the world envious, resentful and even angry and afraid. Indeed, most purveyors of anti-Americanism will continue to bash America until the United States is balanced or replaced (by those same anti-Americans, of course) as the dominant actor on the global stage.

In Europe, for example, where self-referential elites are pathologically obsessed with their perceived need to “counter-balance” the United States, anti-Americanism is now the dominant ideology of public life. In fact, it is no coincidence that the spectacular rise in anti-Americanism in Europe has come at precisely the same time that the European Union, which often struggles to speak with one voice, has been trying to make its political weight felt both at home and abroad.

In their quest to transform Europe into a superpower capable of challenging the United States, European elites are using anti-Americanism to forge a new pan-European identity. This artificial post-modern European “citizenship”, which demands allegiance to a faceless bureaucratic superstate based in Brussels instead of to the traditional nation-state, is being set up in opposition to the United States. To be “European” means (nothing more and nothing less than) to not be an American.

Because European anti-Americanism has much more to do with European identity politics than with genuine opposition to American foreign policy, European elites do not really want the United States to change. Without the intellectual crutch of anti-Americanism, the new “Europe” would lose its raison d’être.

That’s the reality behind anti-Americanism, and one that has nothing to do with George Bush. He’s just the latest rhetorical device in the European’s never-ending sense that they can elevate themselves, not by improving themselves, but by knocking America. Behind this psychological reality, though, lurks a real danger:

Anti-Americanism is (at least for the foreseeable future) a zero-sum game because the main purveyors of anti-Americanism are in denial about the dangers facing the world today. They believe the United States is the problem and that their vision for a post-modern socialist multicultural utopia is the answer. Never mind that most Europeans do not have enough faith in their own model to want to pass it on to the next generation.

This is the dilemma America faces: If it wants to be popular abroad, it will have to pay in terms of reduced security. And if it determines to protect the American way of life from global threats, then it will have to pay in terms of reduced popularity abroad.

But if America loses out against the existential threats posed by global terrorism and fundamentalist Islam, then the issue of America’s international image will be moot.

Better, therefore, if the next president focuses on keeping America strong and secure, rather than on pleasing those who will never like the United States, even if its foreign policy changes.

Better, also, for the next president to focus on wielding American power wisely, because doing so will earn the United States (grudging) respect, which in the game of unstable relationships that characterizes modern statecraft, is far more important than love.

Even fairweather friends can be useful

Kerry assured us that, because he spoke French and loved the UN, he would have Europeans eating out of America’s hand if he were to become President. How great must his chagrin be with the fact that it is during Bush’s watch that the Europeans are coming back to us. And it is during Bush’s watch — and despite the War in Iraq — that the more stable Arab nations are coming back to us. They may not like Bush or America, but with Russia and China placing pressure on Europe, and Iran placing pressure on fellow Muslims, political expediency is driving them back into the American penumbra. Charles Krauthammer, not unsurprisingly, sums it up well:

And it makes the point that the Bush critics have missed for years — that the strength of alliances is heavily dependent on the objective balance of international forces, and has very little to do with the syntax of the U.S. president or the disdain in which he might be held by a country’s cultural elites.

It’s classic balance-of-power theory: Weaker nations turn to the great outside power to help them balance a rising regional threat. Allies are not sentimental about their associations. It is not a matter of affection, but of need — and of the great power’s ability to deliver.

What’s changed in the last year? Bush’s dress and diction remain the same. But he did change generals — and counterinsurgency strategy — in Iraq. As a result, Iraq has gone from an apparently lost cause to a winnable one.

The rise of external threats to our allies has concentrated their minds on the need for the American connection. The revival of American fortunes in Iraq — and the diminished prospect of an American rout — have significantly increased the value of such a connection. This is particularly true among our moderate Arab allies who see us as their ultimate protection against an Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis that openly threatens them all.

Once again, it seems that actual reality is running counter to the conclusions that the “reality based party” has drawn in approach the world around it.

The Bush doctrine at work

The familiar (way too familiar) trope on the Left is that the Bush doctrine is making everyone in the world hate us.  That desire to be loved, and the fear of being hated, is a feelings based mentality, of course, that has nothing to do with justice, morality, right, honor, etc.  My own view, as a Mom, is that I don’t have to be loved, I just have to be right.

It’s worth keeping those two conflicting sentiments in mind — “everyone must love me” versus “do the right thing regardless of how people feel about you” — as you look at a series of cartoons that MEMRI has assembled from Arab newspapers.  Lately, of course, to read a sentence that contains both the words “cartoons” and “Muslims” (or “Arabs”) usually means bad news.  This time, however, the opposite is true.  While the cartoons show absolutely no love for America (nor even any mention of America), they contain something much more important:  a denunciation of terrorism.

Bush doesn’t have to be loved but, boy, it would help us over here if the world would realize that he’s right.

Catch ’em being good

I used to have the worst children in the world. Truly, I did. And I knew that they were the worst children in the world because the evidence came out of my own mouth. I had to criticize them constantly because of the way they ignored instructions, the way they broke rules, and the way they fought with each other. I knew in my mind that I loved them — they were, after all, my children — but my heart had doubts, because they were so very difficult.

I was complaining about them one day to a wise man and he stopped me in my tracks by asking, “Do you ever catch them being good?” My instantaneous response: “Huh?” He explained to me that most people have a bit of a problem with giving praise because good behavior is considered normative and that it therefore slips past them, unnoticed. We see when our children hit each other, but we take as ordinary, and unworthy of comment, the fact that they had spent the previous half hour playing peacefully together. He told me that a good rule of thumb with children — indeed, with anyone — is that for every negative thing that comes out of your mouth, at least four positive things should also come out of your mouth. As to the latter, you shouldn’t lie or make up things, but you shouldn’t let the ordinary dissuade you from making a positive comment.

For the first week, it was I bit of struggle. “Oh, Little Bookworm, I’m so proud of you. I know you wanted to, but you didn’t hit your brother.” (Normally, I would simply have commented on the yelling that took place.) “Look at you, Little Bookworm. You’ve eaten much more neatly than you did yesterday.” (Previously, I would have pointed out the mess on the floor.) By the end of this week of mental effort, I discovered something wonderful: I actually had — and continue to have — great children.

Now, many years later, my heart and my head are in synch — I love my kids, because they are lovable. Sure, they can be naughty, but isn’t that true for everybody? And yes, when I’m in a bad mood, the criticisms definitely amp up, and I have to remind myself, still, to catch ’em being good. But after so many years, catching them being good is mostly automatic, with manifest benefits for us all.

Believe it or not, this bit of parenting advice (and it’s the best advice any parent will ever get), has a political purpose, but I’m taking my time getting there. Part two of this story is the conversation I had the other day with my sister, who was reminiscencing about the fact that she always found my Mom rather frightening. She acknowledged that Mom was constantly professing her love for us but, when it came to my sister, every “I love you” was followed by a criticism. “I love you. Your room is a mess.” “I love you. Stop slouching.” “I love you. Why aren’t you doing better in school?” As an adult, my sister knows that my Mom truly adored her, and felt that the best thing she could do for my sister was to improve her with a constant, bracing storm of criticism. As a child, though, my sister came to a different conclusion: Either my mother was a fool, for how could anyone but a fool profess love for a creature as imperfect as my sister obviously was, or my mother was a liar, and did not love her at all.

(Incidentally, I had a different experience. Since I was the younger child watching these “loving” harangues, I made sure to clean my room, stand up straight and do well in school. Mom happily praised me for doing well in these areas, in contrast to my sister. It speaks well for the enormity of my sister’s goodness that she loved me then and loves me now.)

And now I’ll get to the political point:  Don’t the ordinary Progressives, not the dyed-in-the-wool Marxists masquerading as Progressives, but the ordinary, man-in-the-street Progressives, remind you of the parenting style that professes love but only voices criticism?  Though they claim to be patriotic Americans, everything they say about America is critical:  America is too racist, too classist, too rich, too greedy, too abusive of the environment, too religious, too conservative, too xenophobic, and on and on.   Never, never, do the Progressives catch America being good.  So perhaps, the ordinary person, the one who is not politically engaged, might be excused for thinking that Progressives are either fools, for how could anyone but a fool claim to love such a dreadful society, or they’re liars, and don’t really love America at all.

Naomi Wolf continues to weave her conspiracy fantasies

A few weeks ago, I used Naomi Wolf’s latest anti-American article as the springboard for a larger post about the new conspiracy theorists among us.  Well, she’s back, and this time the Confederate Yankee is leading the attack, exposing her ignorance about matters historic, as well as her logical fallacies and paranoid fears.  She’s very, very smart (and always has been), but my God, does that girl lack common sense.

The alignment of the Left

One more thing, related in a way to the SF mural post I did earlier.  Yesterday, I did a post about that amazing collection of photographs that came to the US Holocaust Memorial, showing photos of the Auschwitz staff (guards/management) at play.  My post was fairly banal, in that I made the unoriginal observation about the horrifying normalcy of evil, which is part of why the Holocaust looms so large in the collective memory:  we can’t separate ourselves from the perpetrators because they are not alien savages; they are like us.

What was much more interesting than my post was the horrible anti-Israel comments I got, all of which denigrated the Holocaust by saying the Jews are now, and were at their founding, just as bad.  Even more interesting was the fact that these comments relied on Leftist Israeli academics who promote this viewpoint:  Benny Morris and Victoria Buch.  (The commenters seemed not to know about, or care about the fact, that Morris has been repeatedly exposed for manipulating the material to the point of fraud, not to mention the fact that this heroic intellectual, fearing Iran, has shifted dramatically rightward, perhaps as he contemplates the real meaning of a real Holocaust, not just a Leftist defined event.)

As my sister-in-law pointed out having seen the two posts in tandem, Leftism trumps and absorbs everything in its path and reduces it to the simplistic level of oppressors and victims.  Then it tells all who are neither Jewish, Israeli nor an old-fashioned patriotic American that they are in the victim category and must make common cause with all other victims.