Reader Joe Hartley comments on our The problems on the Left post.
Most American citizens are so wedded to the concept of the United States as the Chosen Land, incapable of doing any wrong, that all anti-war activities will ultimately be meaningless until Americans change their view of themselves in the world. It didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen after Vietnam; if anything, Americans are becoming more and more Wilsonian, imbued with a Protestant ethic of making the world perfect (and, not so coincidentally, in Our image.)
The differences between the Left and the Right on this issue are not because the left (or the Democrats) are weak or cowardly, but because there is no substantial difference once you believe that you have the right to intervene to change history or to rescue people. It will look somewhat different at the margins, but the logical incoherence we see is because neither Left nor Right truly disagree with the concept of American intervention around the world.
That’s precisely why Congressional Democrats don’t oppose the war or much of what Bush does. Most of them are in basic agreement that the US can and should invade countries. American exceptionalism isn’t just the domain of neocons. Yet the economy is wobbling and the wars are going badly – so of course that’s when cognitive dissonance often kicks in the hardest. It reminds me of the current sense of unreality in the stock market now. Uh no. Everything is not fine.
Interesting, isn’t it, that those presidential candidates at the left and right margins, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, are the most opposed to the wars?
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any magic answers. If Americans could see themselves as other nations do and witness their own heavy-handedness, maybe, but Americans have been so self-congratulatory for so long that no one can image a different reality where we do not go forth looking for dragons to slay. American would have to move beyond its adolescent self-indulgence toward something that approaches political maturity. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see that happening anytime soon since itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a LOT more fun to believe oneself to be invincible and of spotless morality.
It’s not that we need to speak truth to power and then people will understand. There’s a conscious desire not to understand. The Left will not break through that with angry protests or accusatory tirades. As I’ve mentioned before, we need a better story, a new approach, a way to get people to want to change. The antiwar movement needs to do what The Breakthrough Institute wants to do with the environmental movement. Forget the doomsaying. Make it optimistic. Don’t just preach to the choir, get everyone involved. Think big.