Jonah’s response to the July 4 The Editors podcast is a rip-roaring fun read, and also a little baffling. I’m still not completely sure how he gets from all of us saying that there are things we love about America besides its ideals to three of the four of us being under suspicion of possibly being passively okay with a Kim Kardashian monarchy. But let me dive in, briefly for now.
A couple of preliminaries:
First, I’ve never denigrated America’s ideals in my life and the 50-minute mark of a podcast devoted to lovingly discussing the American Founding would be a very strange place to start. Let the record show that a couple of minutes after allegedly showing my true hand as someone who doesn’t appreciate American exceptionalism, I quote Calvin Coolidge’s paean to the Declaration (approvingly!).
Second, a word on format: In these podcasts, I ask, with apologies to the late John McLaughlin, an exit question at the end of each topic that is meant to elicit a very quick answer — a percentage chance of something happening, a numeric rating of a speech or policy, a “yes” or a “no.” So nothing should be read into Ian’s one-word answer to my question about loving our country if it had different ideals, except that he was giving a brief answer to a question meant to be answered briefly. (This is also why no one extensively litigated the wording of the question, as Jonah suggests they should have.)
Now, to the substance. Jonah takes great umbrage to my statement that other countries have ideals and have conceived of themselves of having special missions in the world. But this is obviously a fact (as Casey Stengel said, you could look it up), and even Jonah doesn’t deny it. He makes the leap from this, though, to attributing to me the view that our ideals are no better than any other country’s. His case here would be much stronger and more persuasive if I believed that or had ever said it.
I raised this in the context of a discussion of whether America is a nation or an idea. My point was that America is an idea, so are other countries, and (implicitly) that this is an absurd way to think about nations. As it happens, Jonah concedes we are a nation and not an idea, but not all conservatives are as common-sensical on what should be an easy question.
As for the question regarding whether we would love America if it had different ideals, Jonah doesn’t actually directly answer despite discussing the question at much greater length than the rest of us did. I guess he’s a “no,” but I have to say I doubt that this is way he really feels. My suspicion is that when Jonah hears “America the Beautiful,” or sees ballplayers run out onto the field on Opening Day, or gazes at the Grand Canyon, or watches a monster truck crush a car, or cracks open a cold one at a barbecue, or encounters any one of the countless things that make this country so enchanting, a still, small voice says, “God, I love this place.”
And, no, that doesn’t mean he’s okay with Kim Kardashian becoming queen.