23 January 2007

Give me your apathetic, your naive, your hypocritical masses yearning to complain...

Acclaimed historian Victor Davis Hanson recently completed a lecture tour of academia and was unimpressed both by the willingness of recent immigrants to criticize any perceived fault in their adoptive nation and by the unwillingness of native Americans to speak up in defense of their nation's traditional values:
Why would any wish to come to a country that they almost immediately fault—that takes more legal immigrants alone than all other countries combined? Is it that such contrariness earns acceptance from our own cynical and nihilistic elite? As I pointed out to these audiences, rarely do Americans in turn define newcomers here by the sins of their homeland.

Imagine, I went on, if Chinese students were reminded that the antecedents of their current government since 1945 murdered or starved to death 70 million of their own?

Should the Indian immigrant be reminded of suttee and the caste system?

The students seemed a little stunned, but had picked up the current American campus trait of thinking that if the United States can be shown not to be perfect, it is therefore not good—and that no one would dare to question the moral principles, or consistency, by which they press their own moralistic attack on the United States.

We worry about the Patriot Act. Castro and Hugo Chavez end free speech. We worry about morality in foreign policy, China contracts with the Sudan and Iran for all they can get. We worry about the glass-ceiling, the Islamic world doesn’t mention much about polygamy or female circumcision. We worry about the religious Right, Saudi Arabia arrests those with bibles. The world abroad, these students sometimes forget, does not operate on the principles of the campus library or student union.

Because the US is increasingly a country of the mind, not defined by race or ethnic background anymore, it becomes more, not less, critical to agree on a shared language, values, and respect for a unique past—if we are not simply to descend into tribalism. We are not a Japan or Saudi Arabia that can fall back on race or religion, when the notion of nationhood falters. We only have common ideals, a history, a language, and a Constitution. It is not written in stone that these exist in perpetuity without periodical homage and defense. So criticize the US when it deserves it; point out our flaws, but understand that the alternatives are far worse—and for a variety of reasons that are rarely any more discussed.

His entire post is well worth your time.

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