When they’re not insisting that we’re beloved by one and all, certain U.S. “leaders” are impugning the motives of those who don’t love us.
But there are reasons why they might hate us. Not one of them is “for our freedom.”
When I found this powerful essay by Jerry Salyer at Front Porch Republic, I decided that something was afoot.
A few conservatives have over the past week anticipated tomorrow’s festivities with sundry pointed reminders that all is not well. I don’t remember such dissent in prior years.
And I’m not talking about the kind of “conservatives” who are paid entertainers or Republican hacks like the idjit GOP Chairman, Michael Steele, who berated the way Obama has raised the Afghan War as if Dubya hadn’t abandoned it on his doorstep. There’s nothing remarkable about that kind of carping. (Earth to Steele: Afghanistan is the GOP’s baby as much or more than the Democrats’. You can check the DNA on that.)
So herewith and hereinafter, a few reasons, culled from men and women of the right, why it’s okay for you, too, to suspect that all is not well.
1. USS Vincennes, July 3rd, 1988. Jerry Salyer summarizes:
Whenever I hear someone claim that “our enemies hate us for our freedom,” I think first of the USS Vincennes and July 3rd, 1988. Twenty-two years ago today, Vincennes was as sophisticated as warships came and by far the most powerful surface vessel on Persian Gulf patrol. Sailors of other ships had given her the half-derisive, half-admiring nickname “Robocruiser” in acknowledgment of her AEGIS – a new high-speed computerized target detection and tracking system designed to achieve absolute airspace dominance. AEGIS could neutralize any aerial threat, from low-flying strike planes to supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.
Unfortunately on that Independence Day Eve, all the whizbang Yankee know-how that had gone into AEGIS couldn’t put Iran Air Flight 655 back together again when Robocruiser misidentified the airliner as a hostile fighter jet and blew it to smithereens. Onboard Flight 655 had been sixteen crew and two hundred seventy-four passengers, including eight infants. This inspired the kinder, gentler conservative Vice President Bush to be johnny-on-the-spot with PR damage-control: “I will never apologize for the United States. I don’t care what the facts are.”
2. “We think the price is worth it.” Thus did the Secretary of State of the imperialist President before the imperialist President before the current imperialist President dismiss, on 60 Minutes no less, the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children when asked whether US foreign policy aims outweighed those deaths as a side-effect of economic sanctions. This subtle diplomat (Madeleine Albright) also ejaculated that “[I]f we have to use force [against Iraq], it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and see further into the future…” “We are the indispensible nation” has always grated on my nerves, too. Thanks, Jerry Salyer (again) for reminding me that, for once, it wasn’t a Republican who uttered the hubristic bullshit.
3. “Creative destruction is our middle name.” This particlar quote (Michael Ledeen, contributing editor for National Review) probably has not made us odious in the eyes of the world, but the pandemic attitude it distills surely has. The fuller quote (from Salyer’s Front Porch Republic piece yet again):
Creative destruction is our middle name, both in our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence – our existence, not our politics – threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.
If that is conservatism, then count me proudly among the implacable anti-conservatives. But it’s not conservative. It’s crypto-Marxism, and it’s the hijacking of the term “conservative.” The very idea that conservatism would revel in destruction of tradition, even if done “creatively,” is demonically absurd. Yet:
From the beginning, like a tumor on the collective psyche, there has indeed been an anti-tradition tradition lurking in America’s intellectual class and general populace. From the beginning there has been a temptation to violate, subvert, and negate inherited understandings and mores simply for the thrill of it. From the beginning there has been an adolescent drive toward transgression, usually accompanied by a lust for domination and wealth and tragically intertwined with otherwise noble ideals. Many readers will be familiar with “The Unsettling of America,” Wendell Berry’s rebuttal of the creative-destruction cult which Berry calls “the dominant tendency in American history”:
Generation after generation, those who intended to remain and prosper where they were have been dispossessed and driven out, or subverted and exploited where they were, by those who were carrying out some version of the search for El Dorado. Time after time, in place after place, these conquerors have fragmented and demolished traditional communities, the beginnings of domestic cultures. They have always said that what they destroyed was outdated, provincial, and contemptible.
Salyer, passim. I wish Berry were wrong, but I know he’s right.
If my tacit point has eluded you, let me make it explicit: Read Jerry Salyer’s Independence Day Eve at Front Porch Republic. Savor it. Save it. Print it on low-acid paper and share it with your grandchildren.
4. Blasphemy in the name of pious patriotism.
5. Monsanto and the patenting of food. “This spring, Joel Salatin spoke at Patrick Henry College on “Food: The Cornerstone of Christian Credibility.” … Listen here.” (Rachel Blum, Food: The Cornerstone of Christian Credibility, at Front Porch Republic.)
I finished listening last night as I kept vigil at the Emergency Room (no big problem; all is now well). I’m still pondering much of what he said, but it doesn’t take me very long to conclude, with him, that much of what Monsanto is doing is flat-out evil. As he says, a Christian might as well go work in an abortion clinic as work for Monsanto — which among other things is trying to exact royalties from Indians harvesting long-grain rice where and how they always have.
The giant agribusiness companies have controlled our agriculture policy for too long. They do so in part through funding the best whores university scientists money can buy, who obligingly conclude that Agribiz knows best because, b’gosh, Agribiz is scientific, and we must give science its rightful place.
Good people — very good people — are ready to commit civil disobedience and go to jail to break the chokehold of the military industrial Frankenfood complex:
HT: Ocholophobist again. “What we need,” says Salatin, “is a food NRA.” I’ve got the motto: “I’ll give up my raw milk when they pull it from my cold, dead fingers.” (See also Michael Polan’s delightful Food Rules.)
[N.B.: Salatin opened his Patrick Henry talk with a fun anecdote. He grew up in an odd hippie fundamentalist family, very involved in organic foods, etc. In his Senior year at Bob Jones University, a BJU publication opined that frequenting health food stores amounted to apostasy and joining a religious cult [other than the BJU cult, I guess]. 30 years later, in 2009, BJU named Salatin Alumnus of the Year. They abandoned much of their racism in between as well. (“Oh! Never mind!”) The fickleness of Firm Foundation Fundies is a whole ‘nuther topic.]
It’s getting late. I could list several more with a little digging. But I hope you get the point. These critiques are not partisan hatchet jobs. They identify five (of X) reasons why some durned furiner who ain’t all evil nevertheless might not be a big USA Booster.
Perhaps I’m a dreamer, but I’m sober enough to know that we can’t end world strife by foreswearing our “indispensible” World Policeman role (a/k/a “Empire”) any more than we can eradicate tyranny (in the immortal and insane words of a compassionate conservative’s second inaugural) by adventuristic wars.
But variations on the theme “they just hate us for our freedom” make me nauseous. How stupid do my leaders think I am?
I’ll close on a more hopeful note:
Much of what I hear on the radio is a kind of patriotic mythology packaged as American history. If the left demonizes the American past as an age of bigotry and repression, conservative pundits portray it as a golden age of individual liberty. In other words, they take the leftist language of liberation and read it backward hawking the Constitution as if it were “Hope in a Bottle.” … Most conservative strategies are mere exercises in nostalgia. If only we could go back to the principles of Ronald Reagan, to the halcyon days of the Greatest Generation, to the glory days of the American founding! Like utopian leftists, they think “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden,” before the snake entered the American paradise and corrupted it.
Fleming’s point is hardly one of pessimistic defeatism, however:
If we once decide to ignore the latest schemes by talk-radio shills like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, if we work within our homes and parishes and with private and religious schools, we cannot fix the country as a whole, but we can rear decent children, enjoy life, and preserve our little corners of American civilization.
Heresy against a heresy may be piety.
(Salyer one last time) It may not be world peace, or even the mythical freedom that the shills tout, but rearing decent children, enjoying life, and preserving our little corners of American civilization are ours if we’ll grasp the counter-cultural nettle.