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Political thought and commentary by Mark F. Sharlow
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Statement against Anti-Americanism
Anti-Americanism is an important current of thought in our time. Many leftists in America, especially members of the academic "hard left," label the United States of America as evil because some Americans have engaged in slavery and other forms of oppression. Meanwhile, anti-Americanism flourishes overseas, fueled partly by objections to American foreign policy and partly by a religiously motivated conviction that Western culture is evil.
Without going into the details of the different kinds of anti-Americanism, we can say without hesitation that anti-Americanism is wrong. It is wrong to blame an entire nation (any nation) for what some of its citizens, or some of its administrations, have done. America is a nation founded on high ideals of freedom. Those ideals are what America really is about. The crimes that some Americans have committed cannot change this. One does not have to be a chauvinist, a jingo, or even a conservative to figure this out.
The crimes that the America-bashers focus on, such as African slavery and genocide against Native Americans, were profoundly anti-American acts. These acts violated the ideals that America stands for. The fact that American citizens performed these deeds does not change this. The fact that the American government approved some of these deeds, even at the beginning of the country, also does not change this. These evils happened in America, but they are not what America is about! America is about freedom for the people. Any action that goes against freedom is in conflict with the principles of American democracy. (Despite some leftist arguments, the creation of the United States did not depend upon these wrong actions. If the wrongs had not happened, America would be different today, but it would still exist.)
Condemning America for the social evils that occurred on its soil is a mistake. It is much like condemning a person for having a disease. When we find cancer in the human body, we try to remove the cancer. We do not throw away the whole body. Similarly, no one should hate America for the evils that have afflicted that nation. Instead, we should try to remove the evils — not hate the nation.
One can say the same about mistakes in American foreign policy. Even if that policy were partly or wholly wrong, this would not mean that America is an evil country. It would only mean that the policies of the U.S. government (and probably only of some of its administrations) were wrong. This would not be a good reason to embrace anti-Americanism.
Anti-Americanism often is a code for a general dislike of political freedom. In the author's experience, many of the campus leftists who bash America also embrace Marxist political philosophies that would deny freedom to all people. Something similar can be said about religious fanatics who feel that America is immoral and sinful. These fanatics (who are not confined to one religion) generally believe in religious dictatorship, not freedom. Those who dislike freedom often use America as a convenient dumping ground for their hatred — perhaps because America has long been associated with freedom in the public mind. It is wrong to hate any country or nationality, but hating a country created for the sake of freedom can be a sign of bias against freedom as well as of ordinary prejudice.
It is possible to disagree strongly with the policies of the American government, or to object vigorously to some events that have happened in America, without condemning an entire nation. Blaming an entire country for the misdeeds of some of its inhabitants is simply unreasonable.
By making these remarks, I am not encouraging chauvinism or disrespect for other nations. I am only stating that anti-Americanism is a misguided ideology. If something is wrong in America, let's fix it — instead of using the problem as an excuse for the unjustified attitude called anti-Americanism.
Page updated 12/10/08
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