From a reader:
Believe me, I’m no fan of Hugo Chavez, but I don’t feel this is a good example of his governing resembling National Socialism (there are far better examples out there). How is this much different than the current debate in the US to ensure English stays the one, true language? (which I agree with)
And I read Tomasky’s review. I thought it was very good and fair for the first 4 pages or so but then got very weak toward the end. All in all an honest effort by him though. I will say, however, that his criticism that you overreached at times and were too broad when making connections (like with the envirokidz cereal) is somewhat valid. And maybe your Chavez post is an example of that.
I could be wrong though. I’ve always been a fan of your columns but after finishing LF a few days ago(which, on the whole, I LOVED), I realized that you’re not just a clever writer but also much smarter than you’ve been letting on.
Congrats on all of the much deserved success.
Me: Good to hear that Tomasky tries to be fair in the beginning at least. And thanks for the kind words. As for my Chavez post, I’m not sure I agree. All I was saying is that nationalism and socialism go together, and this was just one small example of it (I agree entirely there are better examples out there). Perhaps I should have said “can go together” which would make largely the same point insofar as it’s been a trope of the left that nationalism and socialism are opposites in much the same way that fascism and communism were opposites. But I’m fine with the way I phrased nonetheless.
More to the point, I don’t think the analogy to the effort to make English the official language works too well. I’m for English being the official language. I am not, however, for scrubbing the poisonous influence of Spanish words in our daily life, as Chavez is trying to do with English. I see nothing wrong with incorporating Spanish words into English. Such evolution is in fact the story of English.
Second, while I think you can defend the campaign to make English the official language on classically liberal or other non-nationalist grounds, I see no reason to defend the campaign against the charge of nationalism. I think a little nationalism is just fine. I prefer patriotism to nationalism. But I think a nation starts to fall apart if it rejects nationalist sentiment entirely. Americans are not a race, but we are a people and there’s nothing wrong with defending the concept of an American nation from those who would see us forfeit our sovereignty to the Parliament of Man, either at the UN or its winter retreat in Davos. The danger isn’t in nationalism, it’s in taking nationalism too far. This is the danger in almost all things of this sort. Tolerance is wonderful. Taking tolerance too far is suicidal. Patriotism is essential, taking it too far is dangerous. And so on. Historically speaking, nationalism isn’t fascism but fascism is nationalistic. I think many of the forces arrayed against illegal immigration and/or illegal immigration, bilingual education, etc are certainly nationalistic, but only a few of them are dangerously so. Responsible people on the right should keep such distinctions in mind. Poisons always depend on the dosage. A little of something is often good. A lot is often bad. And too much of almost anything can be lethal.
In short, while I certainly may be guilty of over-reaching in other instances, I don’t think this is one of them.