Tuesday, October 2, 2007

America is Bigger Than an Idea: It's a Nation

Jonah Goldberg, writing yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, neatly defines the chasm separating the modern Left and Right; dividing Red State from Blue:
I've come around to the view that the culture war can best be understood as a conflict between two different kinds of patriotism. On the one hand, there are people who believe being an American is all about dissent and change, that the American idea is inseparable from "progress." America is certainly an idea, but it is not merely an idea. It is also a nation with a culture as real as France's or Mexico's. That's where the other patriots come in; they think patriotism is about preserving Americanness.
If you've been paying attention here at all, I imagine you can guess which of these views I would subscribe to. The different views of patriotism Goldberg describes impinge on virtually every significant political and policy disagreement we have.
I especially love that "[b]eing an American is all about dissent and change." Now isn't that laughable ? The only "dissent" the Lefties put up with is that which hews to the party line. I'm thinking of all the little goateed darlings infesting the universities, eating their granola; smoking their imported smelly cigarettes; drinking their fair-trade organically grown coffee; seeking their daily guidance from the Lefty internet; partying on Daddy's money; each with his own "Question Authority" bumper sticker. Such valiant dissenters ! They respect the right to disagree only when they share the disagreement, and question any authority that isn't theirs. Try dissenting against them, and find yourself branded the functional equivalent of a heretic; or watch the brave dissenters shout-down the next right wing speaker who appears on their campus. These are the future HR managers, lawyers, judges and other abominable no-men who will soon be telling you how to live your life because They Know Better.
I would argue that we have something more complicated than a clash between two different views of "patriotism." The fundamental political and cultural conflict in our society today is between two different world views: on the one hand, what John Fonte was pleased to dub "transnational progressivism" -- the ideology of the cultural overclass of lawyers, celebrities, media personalities and international business (to say nothing of international bureaucracies) -- and their acolytes in training in the universities; and on the other, traditional nationalism and patriotism.
Something as parochial and gauche as patriotism has no place in the worldview of the new cosmopolitans, Fonte's transnational progressives. For the international overclass, environmentalism and multiculturalism are the household gods, and, as Mr. Goldberg says, the only "we" that matters, is not the national "we" but the multicultural and global "we" as in "we are the world":
For such globalists, it just seems obvious that the U.S. Supreme Court should consult polls of Africans or the laws of France to glean the real meaning of the American Constitution. And, of course, John Kerry was right to say that there's a "global test" for what America can do in the name of its national interest.
The transnational progressive view is fundamentally anti-individual -- it has to be because it emphasizes group rights: based on race, class, gender, sexual preference, membership in a "historically underrepresented" or putatively "victimized" class. It is at once anti-democratic and paternalist, in that the emphasis on group rights -- rights that cross national frontiers -- creates a need for an overclass of lawyers, mediators, judges, human relations experts and facilitators to mediate between different groups.
Ideologically, an American member of this overclass: with his (or her) degree from an Ivy League or other right-thinking Blue State university is as home in London or Paris as in New York. Money is freely fungible and transferable, and the increasingly coordinated European and American regulatory bodies make sure that business can be conducted on the same terms in those places; and, not incidentally, ensures that bothersome local preferences of ignorant, no-class boobs in Flyover country -- expressed by state legislators and other elected local poobahs -- can be gotten around. In this world, borders and national sovereignty are a nuisance -- interfering with the free movement of capital and empowering the local unwashed.
Of course, to the Overclass, there is politically correct culture, and bad culture. "Good" is immigrants keeping the cultures of where they came from -- even having school lessons in the curriculum of the countries they came from. "Bad" is wanting the melting pot to apply -- for immigrants to adopt American culture and values. I sometimes envy the rest of the world: Frenchmen, Mexicans, Germans and everybody else can have nations. They can have their own cultures, their own laws, their own distinctiveness, they can be themselves. But the great and good say that America's an idea -- and they render the idea meaningless because at bottom they think it's no big deal: that American rights are either the same or less than human rights, and that anybody and anything from anywhere can be an American.
Maybe One World is the way to go, but as for me, I want nothing of it. To me, America is not just an idea -- a set of vague principles that anybody, anyplace can subscribe to or join. America's bigger -- it's a nation -- entitled to its own culture and development, which should look to the welfare of its own citizens first. Unfortunately though, the forces making for McWorld are in the ascendant. For their own reasons, our own elites seem to want to join their foreign confreres in tying the American Gulliver down. We shouldn't let them.


louielouie said...

i don't soil essays of yours, eloquent like this one, with comments of mine, however.

El Jefe Maximo said...

I'm not totally shocked by the link in yr. however, LL. That's more or less what I figured.

At least with Bush, and as was true with the older line post-WW II internationalists, we get to be internationalist in a world run more or less on American terms. There has always been a sort of double standard to globalization --many of its lefty critics contend that it means globalization on American terms. And so, for many years, it more or less did.

Now this is changing -- as the enemies of American influence and the new transnationals at last see that they can use globalization to restrain the Americans.

Don't get me wrong: I'm much too Gaullist to be isolationist. We are far too emmeshed in the world in terms of commerce and dependence on raw materials to ever succeed with isolationism. America is, in all but name, an Empire and we have mostly done well out of that, and should remember that every time we put gas in the car. But I want to keep American in the Empire.

Anonymous said...

"For their own reasons, our own elites seem to want to join their foreign confreres in tying the American Gulliver down. We shouldn't let them."

I think you give much too much credit to left leaning university musings. Actually much of the change is being driven by good old American business capitalism. For example much of the reason for the failure of the recent immigration bill was the reluctance of business to give up their supply of cheap labor. Also companies such as Walmart and their competitors have driven much of the US manufacturing overseas in order to deliver cheaper consumer goods. Even high tech goods, such as airplanes, now have many parts and sub systems produced in multiple countries. Business is also requesting continued import of foreign knowledge workers, i.e. engineers, in order to supplement the dismally low output from US universities. The large accumulation of US dollars by foreign holders will eventually be returned to the US in the form of more purchase of American companies and/or US property and natural resource assets, since we produce limited amounts of manufactured goods they are interested in purchasing. The failure to reduce imports of oil will cause us to remain entangled with the Middle East, and Russia too, for years to come. Even the demand for agricultural products in foreign countries and the trade off between food vs energy production will affect the American economy.

The global rise of economic activity and wealth of other nations will inevitably result in the United States becoming ever increasingly involved with these countries, and our culture is bound to change.

El Jefe Maximo said...

I don't disagree with your analysis a bit, anon. But I would like to see us try to affect all of these rather negative trends in a positive way.

louielouie said...

anon said:
Also companies such as Walmart and their competitors have driven much of the US manufacturing overseas in order to deliver cheaper consumer goods.

imo, they have gone in search of slave labor.
these comsumer goods, clothes, furniture, household appliances, are what made middle america. if middle america has no job, how can they afford the cheaper consumer goods.
soon the middle class will disappear and we will have........europe.
the middle class is what made america.
soon there will only be the haves and have-nots.

Banjo said...

What in hell is happening at the LA Times that they run a column by Goldberg?

hank_F_M said...

El Jefe

An excellent brief. One of the best comments I have seen on the subject. Keep it up.