Skip to comments.'Anti-American' - Noble Ideas, But Shameful Actions
Posted on 03/19/2003 10:04:55 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
"...the thing I resent most is this making some kind of...equation between being anti-war and anti-American."
Jessica Lange, actress and anti-war protester
In my last column (Anti-War or Anti-Reality?) I stated that much of the current anti-war sentiment is simply a poorly disguised anti-Americanism. Two readers took me to task for equating anti-war protests with anti-American sentiment, and pointed out how protesting government action is a proud American heritage.
Now, as one who regularly opposes actions and policies of the federal government, I in no way oppose the expression of anti-war or any other anti-government sentiments. In fact, in times past I have uttered very similar words to Ms Lange's (above). I strongly support the First Amendment rights of everyone, including those with whom I disagree. However, freedom means responsibility, not just license. It is that responsibility that is lacking in the current anti-war, anti-Bush - and yes, anti-American - protests by college students/professors, the Hollywood crowd and others.
Dr. Larry Ingle, my favorite college history professor (as a Quaker, he is today on the front lines of the local anti-war protests), always insisted that we define our terms. So let me explain what I mean by 'anti-American,' as I have used the term. Perhaps the clearest way to do so is by identifying the ideas, values and standards that are commonly and traditionally defined as 'American.' Those are: an acknowledgment of and reverence for the Christian G-d of the Bible, which requires the honest attempt at living out Christian principles; a belief in and support of individual liberty, within the context of society's standards; and respect for and obedience to the law, beginning with the Constitution but including all legal statutes (including those we don't like). The American ideal also includes, on the economic front, the private ownership of property and the free markets of capitalism, in which men and women have the opportunity to translate good ideas and hard work into material prosperity.
To be an American is to hold to these foundational beliefs, to consciously and actively support and defend them. Anything that attacks or threatens to destroy those principles is 'anti-American.' Any activity that is damaging to those foundational principles is, to my mind, 'anti-American,' in the sense that it threatens the moral, political and economic foundations of this republic (e.g., most of the Democrats' political agenda and much of the GOP's actions in fact, most of the self-absorbed behavior of the great majority of Americans).
Smacks of fascism, you say? Rubbish. A healthy respect for the Constitution prohibits any such nonsense as an all-powerful government, something that 'liberals' seem to have forgotten. No one, and certainly not I, is suggesting that people shouldn't protest against ill-conceived American policies, be they local, state or federal. In fact, the case can be easily made that we too seldom do so, resulting in the tail of government wagging the dog of 'we, the people,' the exact opposite of what the Founding Fathers established. But our protests should not offer aid and encouragement to our enemies, especially on the eve of war!
I stated above that I have in the past felt and expressed a sense of shame at some things our country has done, just as Ms Lange has done. The big difference, however, is that I did so to friends, family members or co-workers, and followed up on that sentiment by writing legislators, working for and supporting candidates who shared my views and voting accordingly. I did not provide, by public display, aid and comfort to the avowed enemy of this nation, as Jane Fonda and others did during the Viet Nam War, a tactic that is acknowledged as having helped the Communists stay in the war even when they were being defeated on the battlefield.
Those who would use the supposed moral superiority of their political positions to override the will of the people, expressed through democratic elections, are but tyrants. It is easy to see the fate of liberty under such demagogues. It is a sad fact of American political life that the 'victory' of the anti-war protestors in the Viet Nam era has institutionalized such divisive tactics as the Left's norm on a wide range of political issues. So much for the ballot box and representative government, when those 'passionate' enough about an issue - feminism, war, the environment, homosexuality, abortion, etc. - feel justified in their attempts to overcome or thwart the will of the majority, simply because they feel they're right. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, et al, exhibited the same 'passion' for their beliefs!
It is noteworthy that the majority of the anti-war protestors are the most pampered and sheltered people in our society - college students and their mentors, socialist-leaning (if not outright Marxist) professors, the Hollywood and music industry crowd, and the media elites, who seem addicted to anything that will degrade, belittle or defile this nation. No one in that crowd is in danger of actually going to war, after all, and they are certainly not representative of the majority of Americans who work, pay bills and live responsibly.
The Dixie Chicks, a country music group, recently learned this fact the hard way. In a London concert, the lead singer opined that they were ashamed that the American president came from Texas. Interesting that they didn't say that here, in front of the audiences that have made them rich. Did they have the right to say it? Certainly. But the depth of their 'feelings' has already been revealed by their hasty apologies and 'clarifications' on their website. I guess the widespread indignation at their remarks and the subsequent trashing of CDs and threatened boycotts of their concerts made clear what, astonishingly, wasn't obvious to them before: country music fans are noted for their patriotism and affection for this nation. By condemning the president, especially on foreign soil, they took a 'family dispute' outside the family. It is a misjudgment that may prove costly to their careers, and rightly so.
I cannot honestly question anti-war protestors' patriotism or affection for our country, and I certainly do not oppose their right to express their thoughts. What I do question, however, is their lack of understanding (or caring?) about the practical effect of their actions. They help encourage Saddam Hussein, the prissy little French hens and the UN thugs and socialists who are determined to see harm come to this nation. It's bad enough that politicians of both parties haven't the moral integrity or political courage to fulfill their oath to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,' especially when it comes to national security. But when those pampered and sheltered from the harsh realities of American life have the audacity to offer aid to our enemies, consciously or not, and the arrogance to characterize it as anything other than the self-absorbed wallowing in shallow and petulant ideology, someone needs to point out their hypocrisy.
Good intentions are not enough, in raising children, doing a job, fighting a war or in being a citizen. It's not what you feel, think or intend, but what you actually do that has a concrete effect in the world. Many wise men have said that people know what you really think only by what you do and what anti-war protestors are doing is aiding the enemies of this nation.
That is what I mean by 'anti-American.' You're against the war? Fine. There are lots of things you can do within our political framework to express your will. But if you who believe some supposed moral superiority absolves you from the hard work necessary to change the politics of this nation, you're simply a useful idiot to those who would see it destroyed. There are evil people who despise this country for no other reason than that we're prosperous and free. The objective, practical effect of your 'protests' is to encourage and strengthen those people.
As columnist Walter Williams recently wrote on another subject, 'Intentions are not the same as effects.' Our concern must be with the effects of what we do, regardless of how noble we may think our intentions. By ignoring that reality, the anti-war folks practically guarantee war, this time and in the future, by encouraging enemies whose only hope against us lies not on the battlefield, but in the public opinion they help influence.
Exercise your Constitutional rights, by all means, but please wise up. The entire country does not think like you or your professors, your favorite actors or singers, or like Peter Jennings or Dan Rather. Though it may infuriate you, it's what that majority of working Americans think and do that provides you the opportunity to be such an ungrateful ass.
Try something novel - try to actually think before you speak or act. As the Dixie Chicks are finding out, it might just be to your benefit. It will certainly be to ours.
I'm saddened, saddened that folks think I'm anti-American after calling Bush a failure at diplomacy. I'm not anti-American, I'm anti-, anti- hmm. I guess I AM anti-American. Hey, I support the troops. I support the troops doing what I don't think they should do.
When someone shifts their position on issue after issue, tactically, to always oppose US actions, while simultaneously excusing the same behaviors in others, provided they are not American - then one is in the presence of anti-Americanism as an ideology. When someone excuses behaviors they otherwise condemn in the strongest terms, simply because the misdeed is committed by a professed enemy of the US, or because the misdeed is decried by the US, one is in the presence of anti-Americanism as an ideology.
It is a diagnosis behind a clearly perceived lack of principle. An historical analogy may illustrate the point. When Germany and Russia signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in 1939 and partitioned Poland, elements of the French left who had been outspoken opponents of Germany, champions of Poland, and hot for war to defend the smaller countries of eastern Europe against fascist aggression, turned on a dime overnight. They extolled pacifism, preached non-interference in eastern Europe, ridiculed Poland, and swallowed Russian propaganda claims wholesale. Then when Germany attacked Russia less than two years later, the same elements of the French left did an about face yet again.
These were clear signs of the presence of Communist ideology. The lack of principle in the succession of positions had a clear and simple explanation - they were taking their cues from the interests of Moscow, at every turn in the strategic road. An attempt to explain their behavior on any other basis - as consistent with principled pacifism, as changing diagnoses of the character of the German regime, as disagreements about the merits of individual disputes prior to each move in the broader war - made incoherent nonsense.
So, for example, when human rights groups that have denounced Saddam's human rights record for decades, detailing cases of torture, listening to testimony from refugees and survivors, cross checking them against capture documents, etc, were joined by the US, citing their own reports against Iraq, some of these groups turned right around and denounced the US for "using" them to "justify war". The sole rational purpose of cataloging such crimes and publicizing them in the west was obviously to encourage western governments to oppose and if possible overthrow Saddam. Yet confronted with that practical possibility, the very people who had spent decades of their lives working for exactly that end, denounced its possible achievement. This was a clear sign of anti-Americanism as an ideology.
Many groups on the left have been critical of lack of freedom for women in the Islamic world. Of religious fanaticism and enforced beliefs. Of tyranny. Of torture. Of chemical weapon use. Of military actions against subject minority populations. Saddam does all of these things and more, and as long as there is no immediately possibility of conflict, such groups opposed such things. But the instant the US takes the field against the regime sponsoring these practices, they go mute on the subject. They discover instead their allegiance to the 17th century concept of sovereignty, as Lincoln once described it: "if one man enslave another man, no third man shall object". This is a clear sign of the presence of anti-Americanism as an ideology.
A Quaker who has always been consistently pacifist is in my opinion misguided on an essential matter of justice and cannot be followed in matters of vital national interests. But there is nothing anti-American in a principled pacifism of this sort. But a pacifism that surfaces only when the US proposes to depose a dictator, but never shows itself when that dictator is killing a million men in a war with a neighboring state - simply because that state is not America - is not pacifism but anti-Americanism. A "pacifism" that justifies suicide bombings of innocent civilians as a "legitimate struggle", provided they are Jews, is not "pacifism".
A demand for "multilateralism" that is founded on a true belief in the inherent right of collective self defense, may be a principled thing. But a demand for "multilateralism" that is not satisfied by a coalition of 45 willing free nations is not a demand for "multilateralism". A desire for states to work through the UN security council in matters of war and peace may be a principled opinion (though to me a misguided one) about the conduct of international affairs. But when that desire is completely absent if France is dealing with the Ivory Coast, and appears only when the US is dealing with Iraq, then it is evidence of anti-Americanism as an ideology.
There is no great mystery about where anti-Americanism as an ideology comes from. For decades, the US led one side in a long confrontation of states and ideologies. The other side in that struggle employed every means it could to cultivate opposition to US power in the world. The means involved in all of that have not disappeared. Nor have the opinions that grew up in that period. In addition, many are uncomfortable with the scope of US power in the world after its success in that struggle. Some would have preferred a quite different outcome. This includes people here in the US, and others abroad.
There is nothing magical or mysterious about the existence of anti-Americanism as an organized body of opinion, therefore. A strong conviction that such opinions were widespread and strongly held was part of the political basis of Bin Laden and company's attacks on the US. They expected applause for taking on the US. And they have found not a little.