The Corner

Cosmopolitanism, Cont’d

From a reader:

A point I don’t think you get very well (and I have observed this to be very common in the mindset now known as “neoconservatism” for lack of a better word) is that the uncomfortableness associated with ”we” isn’t a sign of alienation from our homeland and our communities. It is a sign of alienation from our government.

 Me: I think is around 92% wrong and 50% unfair (Hey, didn’t you know it’s quantitative Wednesday?). It is hardly as if conservatives don’t understand that one can love their country and criticize their government. Please. (Oh and for the record, I’m not really a neoconservative). I understand perfectly the distinction between government and nation. And I understand also that many liberals often invoke this distinction to defend their cosmopolitanism, in effect changing their position when cornered. This defense is sound in certain cases to be sure, I think it’s more often a false argument made fairly dishonestly.  I am referring to people who call themselves “citizens of the world” or who think in those terms. This sort of thing has a very long track record, from those who wanted — or still want — the United Nations to serve as “the parliament of man” in Tennyson’s phrase or the “world brain” in HG Wells’, to today’s transnational elites, who think that Davos amounts to the global brain trust. 

Here’s a article I did on the subject for NR a while back in which I argued that cosmopolitanism is actually the driving force in much of what we call liberalism and leftism.  

But if you want more examples, here are just a few that happen to be fresh in my mind.


A reader tells me that Janeane Garofalo recently used the “I’m a citizen of the world” to describe herself on Bill Maher’s HBO show (I don’t watch it). Or consider this from David Ehrenstein   in his dust-up with Andrew Breitbart in the LA Times:

“A fortiori I’m not so sure about the “love my country” bit as I’m markedly disenchanted with the entire concept of all nation-states. Move an inch beyond language and culture and their meaning and purpose almost invariably mirrors that of the Crips and the Bloods.”

Or here’s Katha Pollitt in her famous meditation on the American flag during the early stages of the Afghanistan war:

My daughter, who goes to Stuyvesant High School only blocks from the World Trade Center, thinks we should fly an American flag out our window. Definitely not, I say: The flag stands for jingoism and vengeance and war. She tells me I’m wrong–the flag means standing together and honoring the dead and saying no to terrorism. In a way we’re both right: The Stars and Stripes is the only available symbol right now. In New York City, it decorates taxicabs driven by Indians and Pakistanis, the impromptu memorials of candles and flowers that have sprung up in front of every firehouse, the chi-chi art galleries and boutiques of SoHo. It has to bear a wide range of meanings, from simple, dignified sorrow to the violent anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry that has already resulted in murder, vandalism and arson around the country and harassment on New York City streets and campuses. It seems impossible to explain to a 13-year-old, for whom the war in Vietnam might as well be the War of Jenkins’s Ear, the connection between waving the flag and bombing ordinary people half a world away back to the proverbial stone age. I tell her she can buy a flag with her own money and fly it out her bedroom window, because that’s hers, but the living room is off-limits….

Bombing Afghanistan to “fight terrorism” is to punish not the Taliban but the victims of the Taliban, the people we should be supporting. At the same time, war would reinforce the worst elements in our own society–the flag-wavers and bigots and militarists. It’s heartening that there have been peace vigils and rallies in many cities, and antiwar actions are planned in Washington, DC, for September 29-30, but look what even the threat of war has already done to Congress, where only a single representative, Barbara Lee, Democrat from California, voted against giving the President virtual carte blanche.

A friend has taken to wearing her rusty old women’s Pentagon Action buttons–at least they have a picture of the globe on them. The globe, not the flag, is the symbol that’s wanted now.


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