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July 04, 2006

Patriotism, Liberty and Learning.

Happy Birthday, America.

Yesterday my British friend Justin Patten at Human Law posted Britain falls out of love with America - Is this the death of the special relationship? I spent a good chunk of early 2003 through late 2004 in England, Wales, France, Germany and eastern Europe. I paid dues explaining and often defending the US decision to invade Iraq to European friends and business people who deeply cared about America and its role in the world. They thought America had gone nuts. I reminded them America's geographic isolation from the rest of the world, past successes, free-for-all mentality and unfortunate histories of violence and land acquisition were part of the reason. But Europeans seem to understand our history, traditions and culture much better than we understand theirs. Now, they are just as concerned and appalled as three years ago. The point is no longer Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, or Wherever. It's the fear that America has become so isolated, ignorant and dismissive of non-American cultures that we are now permanently out-to-lunch. It's no longer about US tourist run-ins with feisty French hotel clerks over room sizes or with London cabbies over fares to Heathrow. It's serious.

Americans are the new Romans. Looked-up to but feared. To be fair, ancient Rome made studied efforts to understand the new terrains and cultures in their path. We don't, and we don't care. We never have. Remember the JFK saying? "Liberty without learning is always in peril." Well, here's a better quote, from a dead-serious Hunter Thompson in 1972 during a different war: "This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it--that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesman with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms about killing anyone who tries to make us uncomfortable." You don't have to be a liberal, conservative, libertarian or even a-political American these days to find something true in those words. Everyone should be concerned. Our British, French, German and other friends abroad still love us. They just want us to snap out of it. They want Americans to understand and embrace the non-American world.

Posted by JD Hull at July 4, 2006 11:41 PM


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