Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Here's a long but worthwhile read by Bruce Bawer on European anti-Americanism. He reviews a number of books on the subject and injects a lot of fun statistics and anecdotes. There are a lot of great points in Bawer's discussion - too many to include here. Much of it boils down to something a friend once said in reference to an essay by Umberto Eco on American culture: Europeans just don't get it. No matter how well read or well traveled they may be, it's virtually impossible to find a contemporary European who has anything beyond a cartoonish sense of what America is all about. I find this sentiment has a great deal of truth in it. And though I'm nearly as anti-statist as it gets (which is particularly apropos at the moment), I also really have a fierce streak of patriotism born out of a reverence for western civilization. Nothing tends to fuel it more than travelling abroad and being reminded why everything is so much better here. Before returning to my endless "We're number one!" chant, I'll leave you with these bits:

If Europe’s intellectual and political elite was briefly pro-America after 9/11, it was because America was suddenly a victim, and European intellectuals are accustomed to sympathizing reflexively with victims (or, more specifically, with perceived or self-proclaimed victims, such as Arafat). That support began to wane the moment it became clear that Americans had no intention of being victims.
Americans, they argue, are possessed by na├»ve, simplistic ideals, while Europeans are more aware of real-world complexities. Actually the opposite is closer to the truth. Yes, America is built on an idea, namely liberty; but far from being divorced from reality, it is an idea that Americans have realized, developed, and successfully exported for more than two centuries. We have demonstrated the depth of our commitment as a people to this idea by waging a revolution, a civil war, two World Wars, several smaller wars, and the Cold War in its name. It is, in short, an idea that is utterly indissoluble from our own living, breathing, everyday reality. By contrast, much of Western Europe is founded on an idea of itself that is significantly, and dangerously, divorced from reality. That idea, as Robert Kagan explains so adroitly, is that the world has moved beyond the necessity of war. It is a pretty fiction, but a fiction nonetheless. And keeping it alive requires that one ignore dangerous realities—such as the growing problem of militant Islam within Europe’s own borders.