The Corner

Re: The nefarious “we”

Jonah, you’re absolutely right about what Daffy Duck so shrewdly identified as “pronoun trouble”. Speaking as a sinister cosmopolitan myself, I used to be extremely careful about saying “we” because I wrote for newspapers in a lot of different countries, and, when this Internet thingy came along, eagle-eyed Googlers would tot up the “we’s” and scoff that I’d claimed to be American, Canadian, Irish and Australian all within the space of 72 hours, even though in almost every case it was the result of some copy editor changing a hectoring “you pathetic Brits” to “we British”. But, along the way, I began to notice how, for a certain type of sentimental progressive, the denial of anything other than the planetary “we” was a badge of honor.

My favorite example of strained liberal tribalism was when Michael Ignatieff, the former Harvard prof and BBC brainiac, came back to Canada a couple of years ago to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party. He was returning to a country he’d spent his entire adult life away from in order to do Canadians the favor of becoming their Prime Minister. So he wrote the usual slim volume laying out his political philosophy and in the intro claimed that writing the book had “deepened my attachment to the place on earth that, if I needed one, I would call home”.

Gee, thanks. That’s awful big of you.

Progressives often claim the first lines of “O Canada!” – “our home and native land” – discriminate against immigrants for whom it’s not, technically, their “native” land. But Ignatieff’s rewrite would make for the perfect post-modern national anthem:

O Canada!

The place on earth that, if I needed one, I would call home!

As Thomas Jefferson doubtless said, disinterest is the highest form of patriotism. 

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.


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