The Corner

Re: ‘Anti-Americanism Forever!’

Jay – as an unreconstructed Americaphile and proud immigrant into the United States, I share your distaste for Americans who condemn their own country when abroad. Back in England, I would always thrill to meet Americans, but would often be left disappointed and sad if they wanted to talk to me about the evils of the United States, or even if their first words were “don’t worry I’m not….” But British anti-Americanism upsets me deeply, too. Jefferson, lamenting the breakdown in colonial relations, wrote “We might have been a free and great people together.” I would that we were now. Unfortunately, many of the British have an ersatz oedipal complex, in which the parent hates the successful child it has created, even to the point of sympathizing with its enemies. As I noted on Friday, British disdain towards the U.S. is part of a more general societal problem, which has seen too much comfort lead to a nation filled with people who simply fail to appreciate of the fragility of civilization, and thus have little idea where their interests lie. At Oxford, I used to enjoy replying to those who complained about American hegemony with a sarcastic, “I know, right. I hoped the Soviet Union was going to win the Cold War, too.”

Regardless of where it is expressed, anti-Americanism is, to me, the strangest of phenomena. America is a nation of immigrants, and it has visitors, residents, and naturalized citizens who have come from every single one of the world’s countries. To hate America, therefore, is not too far away from hating the world, or people at large. In a system which flows from We The People, one cannot even split hairs and try the shaky “I love the people, I just hate their government” card. Unfortunately reflexive anti-Americanism is tolerated in Britain and beyond to an astonishing degree. I have been at many a dinner party at which it has been stated, without embarrassment, that Americans are “all fat” or “all stupid,” or… choose your own negative epithet. And there is often general agreement, or at the very least indifference. The latter is no excuse–qui tacit consentire. I like to point out that if you were to replace the word “American” in the sentence with, say, “Indian,” or “Nigerian,” you would be frowned upon, and possibly asked to leave. In Britain, you could even be arrested. Try it for yourself, and see how uncomfortable it feels. Why, then, should such ignorant generalizations aimed at the best hope of mankind be so socially normal?

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