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).

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Does this sound like a good idea to you?

I’ve traveled in America, Canada, England, Western Europe, Israel, Mexico and North Africa.  My experience about driving (and walking) in these countries, is as follows:  In America and Canada, roads are really exceptionally well-organized, with clear rules, and the drivers, for the most part, following those rules.  In England, roads are fairly well-organized, with clear rules, and the drivers usually follow the rules.  The main problem for an American there, of course, is the fact that they drive on the “wrong” side of the road.  In Western Europe and Israel, there are rules, but nobody seems to follow them.  People do stop at lights, which is a good thing, but the whole concept of lanes, even though they are marked on the road, seems alien to them.  In Mexico, there are no obvious rules but, since I’ve only traveled in fairly sparsely populated areas, it didn’t really matter.  On then there is North Africa or, to be more specific, Tanger in Morocco.  As far as I could tell, there were no road markings nor were there traffic signs.  There were cars galore, though, moving in an anarchic, high speed dance.  It was kind of like watching large schools of sharks jockeying for position in an urban ocean, if you can imagine that.  It was terrifying.
I thought of Tanger when I read that European communities, frustrated by their driver’s lawlessness, have decided, not to encourage lawful driver, but to give up on laws:

Like countless other communities, this western German town lived for years with a miserable traffic problem. Each day, thousands of cars and big trucks barreled along the two-lane main street, forcing pedestrians and cyclists to scamper for their lives.

The usual remedies – from safety crossings to speed traps – did no good. So the citizens of Bohmte decided to take a big risk. Since September, they’ve been tearing up the sidewalks, removing curbs and erasing street markers as part of a radical plan to abandon nearly all traffic regulations and force people to rely on common sense and courtesy instead.

This contrarian approach to traffic management, known as shared space, is gaining a foothold in Europe. Towns in the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain and Belgium have tossed out their traffic lights and stop signs in a bid to reclaim their streets for everyone.

The assumption is that drivers are accustomed to owning the road and rarely pay attention to speed limits or caution signs anyway. Removing traffic lights and erasing lane markers, the thinking goes, will cause drivers to get nervous and slow down.

“Generally speaking, what we want is for people to be confused,” said Willi Ladner, a deputy mayor in Bohmte. “When they’re confused, they’ll be more alert and drive more carefully.”

The European Union has subsidized shared space programs in seven cities in five countries. Interest is spreading worldwide, with cities in countries from Australia to Canada sending emissaries to Europe to see whether the experiment works.

In Bohmte, a town of 13,000 people in the state of Lower Saxony, residents were tired of all the trucks whizzing along Bremen Street, the main route through the city. Since the street is categorized as a state highway, German law prevented local officials from banning trucks. They considered building a bypass instead, but merchants worried it would suck too many vehicles out of the city center, hurting business.

In 2005, city leaders learned about shared space and decided to give it a try. One of the biggest obstacles was persuading regional traffic bureaucrats to approve the unorthodox approach.

“They were grinding their teeth, but finally they agreed,” Ladner said.

On Nov. 26, a small section of Bremen Street – absent signs and curbs – reopened to traffic. With no marked spaces, people can park their cars wherever they want, as long as they don’t leave them in the middle of the road. The new pavement is a reddish-brick color, intended to send a subtle signal to drivers that they are entering a special zone.

Only two traffic rules remain. Drivers cannot go more than 30 mph, the German speed limit for city driving. And everyone has to yield to the right, regardless of whether it’s a car, a bike or a baby carriage.

I’ve mentioned in other contexts my sense that Europe is binary.  During the 1930s, Europeans couldn’t see any possibilities other than Communism or Fascism.  Now, they seem to be struggling between over-the-top, completely destructive political correctness and a resurgence of, yes, Fascism.  And so it seems to go with the roads.  Faced with stupid driving rules, rather than rejiggering the rules to make them work, the Europeans are jettisoning them altogether.  Binary.  Just binary.

Maybe it’s the Europeans?

Dennis Prager wrote an article examining the common complaint that religion is the source of all evil and that, if you just got rid of religion, the world would be at peace. This argument is always framed in terms of historical references to the Crusades, the religious wars that ravaged Europe in the 17th Century, the Russian/Polish pogroms, or the Spanish Inquisition, all of which saw massive killings in God’s name. It’s a cute argument but, as Prager points out, manages to miss a rather significant chapter in European history:

However, Cohen and others who argue for a secular society ignore the even heavier price in blood Europe has paid for secular fervor. Secular fervor, i.e., communism and Nazism, slaughtered, tortured and enslaved more people in 50 years than all Europe’s religious wars did in the course of centuries.

The Cohen to whom Prager refers in the above quotation is Roger Cohen, a columnist for the The New York Times who is the latest one to state that religion is always the problem. He went onto Dennis’ show, which I haven’t heard yet, but Dennis assures his readers that he was a charming guest, which I readily believe. Dennis uses his column to reiterate the points Cohen made and the fallacies that he believes lie in those points.

The whole column, though, gave me a different idea. If Europeans with religion are aggressively violent and Europeans without religion are aggressively violent, might the problem lie, not with religion (its presence or absence), but with the Europeans themselves? Europe is an old, old culture, with most countries reflecting tribal lines that go back a couple of thousand years. Might it be that, even if they deck themselves in truly beautiful art, architecture, literature and music, there is something in these tribal Europeans that still leads them to incredible acts of violence when they feel threatened? When they’re in religious mode, the threat and the reaction are painted in religious terms. When they’re in secular mode, the threat and the reaction are painted in secular terms. But maybe, when you’re European, the reaction is always going to be that atavistic tribal response, something that transcends whatever value system holds sway at that moment in time.

UPDATE:  Having had a chance to think about this post, I should note that its focus is on the Europeans just because they’re the ones that liberals like to trot out as some sort of higher, more sophisticated and pure entity, compared to rustic and primitive Americans.  It’s against that backdrop that it’s important to remind the Europhiles that, in the 224 years of America’s life, Europeans have done some pretty heinous things.  To me, this means that their moral high ground — that which they ascribe to themselves and that which liberals ascribe to them — is pretty shaky.

America has had its own nasty, brutish behavior, both as regards to blacks and Indians.  Nevertheless, it so far has not engaged in the enormous convulsions that have distinguished Europeans over their long history.  Yes, I know we had the Civil War, which left hundreds of thousands dead, but it was a war between armed combatants, not a slaughter of civilians/innocents, something that has characterized a fair number of European upheavals.  In any event, right now the verdict is still out on whether America has a better system, with its democratic republic and mainstream Christianity, or if America simply has not had enough time to build up to the bloodshed that sometimes distinguishes Europe.

Incidentally, I too used to be quite the Europhile.  Europe’s chronic and rising antisemitism and anti-Americanism, however, coupled with the manifest failures of its semi-socialist economic system, have left me jaded.  I can still admire Europe’s many virtues, its rare beauty, and the gifts, both aesthetic and intellectual, that it has bestowed on the world, as well as appreciating the goodness of hundreds of thousands, yes, millions of individual Europeans — but I still don’t have to like the collective Europe right now.

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.

Democracy died today in Europe

This is the beginning of James Lewis’ excellent summary of Democracy’s death in Europe, and I know you’ll want to read the rest:

With the signing of the Lisbon Treaty on December 13, 450 million people are now under a new, single government, called the European Union, headquartered in Brussels. Individual countries like Britain and France are yielding their national sovereignty to a new Über-nation. Without ever putting it to a vote of the people, the ruling classes of Europe have pushed through a constitution under the heading of a “treaty,” because it was voted down in the form of a Constitution by the people of France and the Netherlands two years ago.

The ultimate bureaucracy

I’ve disliked the EU ever since, in a moment of absolute insanity, I took a class on EU law when I was in law school. It was a Kafka-esque nightmare — and that was just studying about it, not experiencing it.

If you want some small insight into experiencing it, read this Spiegel article that describes what happens when you have unfettered bureaucratism — all in the name of the public good, of course. People who fear the European economic juggernaut (my mother says there’s now talk of going off the dollar standard and onto the Euro standard) might want to contemplate EU regulations before they panic.

The minute detail of these regulations presages two things for the European economy: stagnation, as people struggle to deal with bureaucratic meddling that stifles innovation and marketplace movement; and crime — not violent crime, but the exponential growth of a black market where people violate the bureaucracy left and right. Neither trajectory bodes well for economic growth or stability.

Europe’s binary problem

Little Green Football’s Charles Johnson has been engaged in a very hostile to-and-fro with Fjordman, Gates of Vienna and Brussels Journal, all of which initially garnered a lot of support for being European blogs/bloggers (or Euro-Centric) that were aware of the Islamist threat to the West. Johnson’s concern is that these people/sites have ties that are way too close to neo-Nazi movements in Europe. Here’s Johnson’s most recent post on the subject, along with links to all his other posts.

I suspect that Johnson’s problem is that he’s running head first into a European problem, which is the binary nature of its politics. Europeans don’t really have moderate parties as we understand them, with everyone fighting around the margins of the middle. Instead, they have two defiantly opposed camps: The Left, which is socialism, and the un-Left which, no matter how sensible it can be on many subjects, sweeps in (voluntarily and involuntarily) all the aggressive race hatred that simmers under the European surface. I know that’s a gross generalization, and I’m not in a position time-wise to pick my way through various sources to back it up. It’s just a long-standing sense of I have from reading books about Europe and reading the European press directly. Because there aren’t viable third ways, the racists always go to the right.

In making this point, I keep thinking of British support (and, indeed, much German support) in the 1930s for the Nazis. What you discover if you look at it more closely is that many of these supporters were not pro-Nazi, they were anti-Communist. It didn’t occur to them that the Nazis were just as bad, if not worse; and it didn’t occur to them that there were other possible roads than the Nazi way to defeat Communism. They were completely binary. They could not conceive of being anti-Communist without being pro the opposite.

Anyway, that’s my take on the subject, which I freely admit is poorly expressed and relieved of the burden of actual facts.

UPDATEIn discussing the oldest hatred (antisemitism) and Europe’s new fear (Islamophobia), Uriya Shavit touches upon both Europe’s strong reactions to alien groups that it perceives as threats and the fact that, while Jews never gave rational reason to justify that fear, spokespeople for Islam are throwing fuel on the rising flames of European nationalism.  The article isn’t quite on point when it comes to my post, but it’s close enough to include here.