Nothing perhaps gives me shits more in politics than the smarmy and self-satisfied self-loathing of the Western lefties. The â€œMy country, always wrongâ€ attitude is not only self-indulgent and morally vacuous, itâ€™s also deeply ahistorical: it judges the past by the highest possible standards of today, it eschews any context or relevant comparison, it focuses solely on the bad and strenuously denies and ignores the good, and it singles out oneâ€™s own society for the highest opprobrium. Sartre was wrong, hell is not other people, itâ€™s us; we are the devil, the source of all evil in the world.
And boy, didnâ€™t we get a lot of that in the run up to the 4th of July, courtesy of an ostensibly anti-Trump but really just generally anti-American hashtag #AmericaWasNeverGreat. One graphic, in particular, caught my attention, as it had been frequently reposted â€“ and as it so well encapsulates the peak stupid, the historical ignorance and the moral degeneracy of the self-loathing left.
It would be remiss of me not to reply to the anonymous â€œhistorianâ€ who compiled the above tripe.
1) All the evil practices that America (and in other contexts the West generally) is accused of â€“ imperialism, dispossession, slavery, witch-hunts and persecutions, etc. â€“ have been a part of just about every culture and civilisation in history. The more technologically advanced and the better organised have always conquered and subjugated (and sometimes enslaved and exterminated) those less so: all the romantic â€œOthersâ€ that the left idolises and celebrates, the Aztecs and the Incas in the Americas, the Ashanti and the Zulu in Africa, the Chinese and the Mongols in Asia, the Arabs in the Middle East are just a few of the hundreds of examples. America and the West are not unique or uniquely evil; they are just the most effective and successful at what the humanity has been doing since well before the written history.
2) Letâ€™s talk about some specifics. The belief in witches (both women and men) has been universal throughout human history, as has been their persecution. There has been very little of it in America; everyone has heard of Salem, not because it was so common but because it was so rare. Slavery has been similarly accepted in every human society in history â€“ it still is in many. The difference is that America is the only country which nearly destroyed itself over the whole issue. The bloodiest war in its history led to the end of slavery inside the United States and gave further impetus to the international struggle to eradicate slavery. Women and minorities couldnâ€™t vote anywhere in the world for most of the history up until the relatively recent times; the United States is actually one of the international pioneers in expanding franchise.
3) America ignored the Holocaust by fighting to the death with its perpetrators. Just as it had fought the Japanese imperialists on the other side of the world (and yes, that included using the atom bombs to shorten the war and the bloodshed), and just as it had fought the German militarism in an earlier war. Then it spent nearly half a century protecting much of the world from the communist imperialism. The false pretences that young Americans were sent to Vietnam to fight were presumably that South Vietnam was a victim of the communist aggression and that communism itself is an evil, oppressive ideology that brings death and misery everywhere it shows up.
4) The self-flagellating left is ultimately evasive and disingenuous: if America has been so uniquely horrible, which are the â€œgoodâ€ societies then? Which arbiters of goodness should we compare ourselves to and imitate? Sweden? Bhutan? The !Kung hunters and gatherers? Because some of the previous favourites â€“ the Soviet Union, Maoâ€™s China, Cuba, Venezuela â€“ say more about your moral imbecility than the state of America.
As I wrote yesterday, â€œI donâ€™t idealise the United States. Humans are imperfect and fallible, and so is the work of their minds and hands. But the great free experiment that is America has got a lot of things right over its past few centuries of history, and, as importantly, its energy, capacity and imagination carry on the promise and the potential to keep getting more things right, for America and for the rest of the world.â€ In my books, America was great when in the course of one century she thrice fought to save the world from totalitarianism and authoritarianism. America was great when she gave hundreds of millions of her people the opportunities to live good and decent lives and when she thus provided inspiration for many more around the world. America was great when its scientific prowess, technological bounty and the spirit of adventure contributed so much to making lives longer, healthier, wealthier, safer and better.
The bad things about the American history are universal, the good things for most part unique.