The Corner

The Nefarious “We”

Close readers may have noticed that I am increasingly vexed by cosmopolitanism, the idea that we are not citizens of a country or products of a place but rather “citizens of the world.” See this old G-File, particularly the second half for a fuller explanation of my views.

Well, here’s Katie Couric speaking at the National Press Club yesterday:

The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying ‘we’ when referring to the United States and, even the ‘shock and awe’ of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable. And I remember feeling, when I was anchoring the ‘Today’ show, this inevitable march towards war and kind of feeling like, ‘Will anybody put the brakes on this?’ And is this really being properly challenged by the right people? And I think, at the time, anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic and it was a very difficult position to be in.” 

What a fascinating little slip! How deeply disturbing it is when Americans refer to the United States in a time of war as “we”! Some may think this is a little thing, but I truly don’t. I hear liberals refer to the  United States as “this country” quite often, usually accompanied with an eye roll, as in: “Of course, in this country, we have to pay for our own health care.” Or, “in this country people think it’s ‘unpatriotic’ to call America an evil empire.” The “in this country” thing makes it sound like some sort of accident or mistake that the speaker was born here. Woops got off the bus one country too early on the Northbound express! 

A critic might respond that  I’m perhaps overly sensitive to this sort of thing and therefore  I probably pick up on it too much and think it’s a bigger deal than it is. That may in fact be true. Indeed, to some extent I’m sure it is.  But just as my sensitivity to this sort of talk says something about me and my views, doesn’t Couric’s sensitivity say something interesting about her and her views? That she was made uncomfortable by the use of “we” to describe the United States of America during a time of war is really quite revealing, at least to my ears.


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