Earlier today, I read a piece by Rich Lowry which started to get at a notion which has fascinated me for some time now. Why do so many intellectuals and their allies on the left have so much hatred, so much contempt for the United States, their own nation? They seem to think that we could fix every evil in the world if only our nation changed its behavior.
A strength of the West always has been its ability to generate self-criticism. (As long ago as 1901, a British politician was complaining that “eminent men write and speak as if they belonged to the enemy.”) This makes it easier to correct errors and avoid excesses. The problem is, if the self-criticism becomes too sweeping and unrelenting, it amounts to a kind of self-sabotage, as it did in the mid-1970s when the United States lost the Vietnam War by refusing even to provide aid and air support to the South.
It seems that we have let our strength evolve, er, devolve rather into a weakness. We begin by looking at our own flaws and end up focusing on them, as if all that were necessary were for our side to correct its flaws, then our enemies would stop hating us and lay down their arms and become our friends.
And some in the West see the flaws as the defining factor of a nation.
How is it that self-criticism became self-hatred? That instead of seeing our flaws as a part of a generally good system, we let them define the system. When they look at American history, some see such horrors as slavery, racism and other forms of intolerance and discrimination as dispositive of our nation’s evil rather than as terrible aspects of an otherwise good system while barely noticing that we have worked — and are still working — to overcom these horrors.
It is a topic that I wish to address in subsequent posts. I’d hesitated on blogging about it earlier today because I haven’t really flesh out my thoughts. But, in the spirit of my vow to do more T-shirt blogging this year, I’ll put the idea out there and invite your comments. Perhaps, in responding to your thoughts, I might better be able to articulate my own.