30 August 2008

Foam finger

I like slacktivist's post here, but let's be honest about this:

To McCain, apparently, talk of unity is wimpy weakness. To McCain, strength comes from division. To McCain, America can't be strong with people from other countries, we can only be strong against them. McCain's notion of America's strength and purpose seems to be a paraphrase of President Eisenhower's notion of civil religion: "Our government makes no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt opposition to an enemy -- and I don't care what it is."


But John McCain thinks it's wrong to give them any credit for that. He thinks it's wrong -- un-American -- to give them any credit for their courage in coming together to claim their freedom. After all, McCain argues, America and the "great democracies" had stood for decades against the Soviet Union and that proud history mustn't be forced to share the stage with anyone else's proud history. America and its allies alone deserve credit and praise. To suggest that any of that credit or praise be shared with the people in the pictures above, McCain says, is to be "unclear" on an "important point."
I'm not aware if Obama has spoken on the exact subject but, frankly, I'd be surprised if his words would be dramatically different from McCain's. It's simply not allowed in Serious political discourse to suggest that the United States is not by default the Leader of the Free World and thus ultimately responsible for any great project of global cooperation. You won't, for example, hear Obama talk of the need to follow an international consensus on climate change. He has spent most of his time predictably raging against the demon of "foreign oil," mentioning green energy only insofar as it provides American jobs.

This is a corollary to what Andrew Bacevich talks about in this interview with Bill Moyers. The United States isn't going to fundamentally change until we leave behind our collective childlike need to have our politicans remind us that we are the smartest, cutest, and most wonderful child in the whole world even as we go around taking the other kids' lunch money and refusing to play unless we can be team captain. Unfortunately, this has been deeply embedded in the American cultural landscape for well over a century, perhaps from the beginning. Nothing short of an existential national crisis is likely to change it.