Sunday, August 13, 2006

Willing to Die For.......


At the Telegraph, editorial writer Andrew Grimson writes his impressions of Americans, America and our warlike mentality. Here are some of them:

The sense of entering an older country, and one with a sterner sense of purpose than is found among the flippant and inconstant Europeans, can be enjoyed even before one gets off the plane. On the immigration forms that one has to fill in, one is asked: "Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offence or crime involving moral turpitude?" Who now would dare to pose such a question in Europe? The very word "turpitude" brings a smile, almost a sneer, to our lips.

The quiet solicitude that Americans show for the comfort of their visitors, and the tact with which they make one feel at home, can only be described as gentlemanly. These graceful manners, so often overlooked by brash European tourists, whisper the last enchantments of an earlier and more dignified age, when liberty was not confused with licence.

But lest these impressions of the United States seem unduly favourable, it should be added that the Americans have not remained in happy possession of their free constitution without cost. Thomas Jefferson warned that the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots. To the Americans, the idea that freedom and democracy exact a cost in blood is second nature.

Yes, most Americans believe this, but more and more equate peace marches with actual bloody battles for life and liberty itself. The language and culture of bleeding for beliefs is transposed on those unwilling to even miss a meal for such cherished notions as non-aggression and socialism. I'm not suggesting that peace activists pick up arms and spill their own blood for their beliefs. Not only would that be hypocritical, it would be quite against the laws that ensure liberty. But come on, opining about sacrifice and real sacrifice are two entirely different things. Just because you believe something strongly and feel it deeply doesn't make you a "patriot". And yet, weepy displays of emotionalism somehow pass for acts of courage in some Americans minds. Like I said yesterday: We are going soft.

We stood at Gettysburg, scene of the bloodiest battle of all, on a field covered with memorials to the fallen. Here Abraham Lincoln gave his great and sublimely brief address, ending with the hope "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".

Again some Europeans will give an unkind smile. All this sounds so Puritan, so naïve and so self-righteous. We cannot help feeling that the Americans ought to have been able to settle their quarrel without killing each other, and, while we cannot defend the institution of slavery, we wonder whether the North had the right to impose its will by force.

These are vain quibbles. The North went to war and was victorious.

That is the same argument today. Does America have the right to impose its will by force? The answer has always had moral underpinnings. It is a tough case to make that God is for slavery. Slavery is immoral. America, first and foremost a Christian country, used the Bible to make moral choices, to even decide what was moral. This leads the majority of citizens to some interesting political positions--ones that relativists and secularists find immoral. Gay marriage for example. Like it or not, most people believe that homosexuality is immoral. Why? Because God says so. The same reason slavery is immoral. So, it is tough to paint the civil rights movement with the gay movement in most people's minds. In fact, traditional American reasoning would put these two movements at odds with one another. Thus, the pushback. It might make Americans look less sophisticated and even puritanical, but the majority of Americans still don't care. Doesn't mean this perspective won't change. As a general rule, I think America is moving towards the moral relativistic vacuum that is Europe, not away from it, (don't give up hope yet, Europe--America may become as weak-willed and impotent as you yet) George Bush's re-election and warlike actions notwithstanding.

The idea has somehow gained currency in Britain that America is an essentially peaceful nation. Quite how this notion took root, I do not know. Perhaps we were unduly impressed by the protesters against the Vietnam war.

It is an idea that cannot survive a visit to the National Museum of American History in Washington, where one is informed that the "price of freedom" is over and over again paid in blood.

The Americans' tactics in Iraq, and their sanction for Israel's tactics in Lebanon, have given rise to astonishment and anger in Europe. It may well be that those tactics are counter-productive, and that the Americans and Israelis need to take a different approach to these ventures if they are ever to have any hope of winning hearts and minds.

But when the Americans speak of freedom, we should not imagine, in our cynical and worldly-wise way, that they are merely using that word as a cloak for realpolitik. They are not above realpolitik, but they also mean what they say.

These formidable people think freedom is so valuable that it is worth dying for.

And from what I see from this side of the Atlantic, and my very Red State, is that in Europe and in the Blue city-centers that house the cynical intellectuals, the John Kerrys, who idealize socialistic self-satisfaction, nothing is worthy dying for--not freedom, not liberty, not even life. Because well, my life isn't more valuable than someone elses life. The debate becomes all very existential and theoretical.

Meanwhile, the uncivilized, the brutish, the morally bankrupt, advance their cause at the end of the spear willing to kill themselves and others for another idea, one that the South fought for in the civil war, in fact: money and power. Of course the South didn't want slavery taken away. They knew it was immoral. Abolishing it, though, meant losing riches. And diminished bank accounts diminish their power.

While the Islamofascists are framed in religious terms, and yes, they cloak themselves in religion, what they really fight for is power, control and domination and riches in the hands of the few who have the power to control and dominate. Ironically, this is the argument that many Americans make for why America went to war--riches and power. Even in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, they will hold this position. It makes America immoral in this fight, no? It makes the hand-wringing about global warming moral and meaningful. It is certainly an easier enemy to fight, isn't it?

The enemy always reframes the immoral position. In the South it was "states rights"--a noble notion, that. For the Islamofascists, it's religious freedom--another noble notion. I mean, who can deny the power of that? Except the tenets as they define them would enslave everyone except the few. Even supposed allies reframe the immoral position. Europe reframes their immoral appeasement position as "reasoned" and "balanced" when in fact they are lazy and pusillanimous.

Nearly everyone has a defense of their actions that makes sense to them. Americans historically have tried (imperfectly) to base their actions on Godly/Biblical principles. Americans have defaulted to "inalienable rights given by God", so they naturally turn to God to decide what those rights are and what they are willing to die and fight for: freedom, equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Quaint notions? Not for someone who plans to meet his Maker face to face one day.

No comments: