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What Happens to Truth

What Happens to Truth in an Age of Delusion? (Part 8)
Why Do so Many Americans Hate Their Own Country?

January 1, 2014


Events of the last few years, and 9/11 in particular, have made the understanding of anti-Americanism a far more compelling task than it used to be, although the phenomenon has been with us for a long time. Its first incarnation, European anti-Americanism, has deep roots, and its stereotypes spread over much of the world. (Paul Hollander, ed., Understanding anti-Americanism: Its Origins and Impact at Home and Abroad, 2004, p.3) 

Since the early 1990s, Europe has developed a strain of anti-Americanism that is almost Canadian in its odious condescension and ignorant resistance to fact. (Robert Fulford, National Post, March 22, 2003) 

Anti-Americanism is a complex and hard to understand phenomenon. For one thing it is impossible to grasp without understanding that it is not in the first place against what America does, but what it is. That explains why even the good it does - such as liberating a country (Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan) or a continent (Europe), or rushing to  help alleviate the impact of natural disasters -  makes no difference to the die-hard haters of America. Anti-Americanism has a long history, but it has spiked since World War II, especially during the Vietnam War and the subsequent wars in the Arab world. 

A Worldwide Phenomenon

One obvious reason has to do with the fact that radical Islamists, led by the late Osama bin Laden, have declared war on America, which they call “the Great Satan.” The result of that war have become very obvious since not a day goes by that we are not reminded of its repercussions affecting America as well as the entire Western world. (I will return to this issue in later instalments.) 

What should be a surprise to many is the fact that anti-Americanism is not only an international issue, but it has a very large home-grown presence in America itself. In previous articles I have introduced that topic. Here I will elaborate on that aspect, beginning with a few quotations of European public figures. I am indebted to Paul Hollander’s extensive description of this topic in his 1995 Anti-Americanism: Irrational and Rational, as well as his edited, more recent (2004) Understanding Anti-Americanism, mentioned at the start of this article. 

Harold Pinter, (1930- 2008) the British leading playwright, on the 2002 occasion of receiving an honorary degree in Turin, Italy, drew a comparison between his cancer surgery as a personal nightmare and an

 infinitely more pervasive public nightmare—the nightmare of American hysteria, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity, and belligerence; the most powerful nation the world has ever known effectively waging war against the rest of the world…. The U.S. administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal. Bombs are its only vocabulary. (Understanding…., p. 92)  

Pinter also stated that the atrocity of 9/11 was inevitable retaliation “against constant and systematic manifestations of state terrorism on the part of the United States over many years, in all parts of the world.” On another occasion, he stated: “The U.S. is really beyond reason now….There is only one comparison: Nazi Germany.” 

Carlos Fuentes, a prominent Mexican author, has compared the United States with past totalitarian systems, claiming that the U.S. government, then headed by president George W. Bush, was a more capable dictatorship than that of Hitler or Stalin because it had no external counterforce. Fuentes asserted that “Bush claims to act in the name of the people of the United States…. Such a declaration locates us, once more, before the ‘great lie’ that Hitler so astutely evoked….” Ibid, p. 29.

 The German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) viewed the United States as the embodiment of injustice and oppression. He gave this definition of Americanism: “the still unfolding and not yet full or completed essence of the emerging monstrousness of modern times.” Heidegger believed that Russia and America were similar from a metaphysical point of view because the result in both countries was “the onslaught of what we call the demonic, in the sense of destructive evil.” In his view America represented the greater threat since “Bolshevism is only a variant of Americanism.” (James Ceaser, “A Geneology of Anti-Americanism,” The Public Interest, Summer, 2003) 

Why the Self-Hatred at Home?

If you were listening only to the strident voices of the Left on the American intellectual and political landscape, you would think that America is fast becoming a totalitarian country were all dissent is smothered by the juggernaut of the right-wing establishment.  Now that the White House is occupied by a man of the political left, the tone and content of the public debate has changed. But the conflict between the two sides of American politics (statism versus a clear separation between state and civil society) is very much alive, though increasingly confusing and troubling.  

Future generations may look back to our time with puzzling amazement that while America was enjoying a period of unprecedented freedom, leisure, and prosperity, a virulent hate-America mentality arose because of alleged failure to satisfy the demands of a large segment of the population. A great deal of that hatred is animated by the intellectual leadership in the opinion-shaping institutions, especially the universities, the media, and the popular entertainment culture.  

Roger Kimball, writes in his chapter in Understanding Anti-Americanism, that “Sartre’s explosive anti-Americanism set the tone of elite opinion in Europe and, increasingly, in the United States. Vietnam fanned the smoldering resentment into a raging conflagration.”… The result was that the Vietnam War became the catalyst for the surge in Anti-Americanism in the United States.  

But Kimball is convinced that the war was not really the central issue. Rather, it soon became clear that Vietnam “was merely the occasion for disparagement …that went far beyond any specific government policy. Vietnam became the banner under which the entire range of radical sentiment congregated.” Jerry Rubin (1938 - 1994), a prominent leader of the countercultural movement and co-founder of the Yippies, bluntly admitted that if the Vietnam War ends, “we’ll find another war.” (Understanding....pp. 240-242) Subsequently, Rubin turned his hand to business and investments, which made him a multimillionaire.

While American politics has changed a great deal, anti-Americanism has not gone away. In fact, it has migrated closer to the center of American politics. (More about that later.) Let’s be sure to distinguish legitimate criticism of America from hatred of America. Being critical of Anti-Americanism  is not  about the free flow of conflicting opinions, the open and vigorous debate of different viewpoints, conducted in a respectful and civilized manner. Such is the legacy of an open and free society where all viewpoints can be tested in the public marketplace of ideas and beliefs.

 Anti-Americanism is very different because it is an ideology that is based on the belief that something at the center of American life is evil that threatens the entire world. Paul Hollander uses this term “to denote a particular mindset, an attitude of distaste, aversion, or intense hostility the roots of which may be found in matters unrelated to the actual qualities or attributes of American society or the foreign policies of the United States.”  

One of the most prolific and  garrulous critics of the United States is the darling of the radical left Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the  Massachusetts  Institute of Technology. He is the ever-ready pundit commenting on all things pertaining to the character and role of the United States. He is best –known for his many interviews, speeches and books in which he details the evil of the American “empire” as the epitome of capitalism and oppression. Shortly after 9/11 he denounced the U.S. as “a leading terrorist state.” After the start of the war against Iraq, Chomsky wrote in the New York Times thatThe most powerful state in history has proclaimed it intends to control the world by force.” 

During the Vietnam War, Chomsky joined the stream of travelers to Vietnam with other revolutionaries, such as Jane Fonda and Susan Sontag, to cheer on the Communists in the hope that the American military would lose the war. He assumed no responsibility for the many thousands of Vietnamese who were killed, imprisoned and died trying to escape the victorious Communist regime or for the murder of 2 million Cambodians after the American military left in 1973. He first denied that such genocide ever happened, but when the reality could no longer be denied, he insisted that whatever happened in Cambodia was the fault of America. 

Although Chomsky is an extremist and some are inclined to dismiss him as a self-promoting crank, his influence is still widespread since he has been able to pass on his despicable views to many generations of students.  Besides, he is one in a host of the “blame -America -first” army, reaching even into the churches. For example, Tom Driver, of the Union Theological Seminary in New York, quoted Jesus’ words, “Those who take the sword will die by the sword” as a way to understand the horrific crime of 9/11. He added:  “The violence that America has long exported has now come back upon us in a covert operation of masterly, although diabolical, planning.” (“Straight Answers to Moral Confusion in National Crisis,” November 8, 2003. 

The list of those who admire Chomsky as a hero is long. The fact is that in the privileged world of the American academia anti-American ideology is firmly entrenched. Chomsky is no exception. (See David Horowitz, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, 2006) 

A Revolutionary Mindset

Countless articles, essays, and books are devoted to anti-Americanism, a topic loaded with controversy, animosity and contradiction. No one in his right mind pretends to be able to do justice to this topic in a 2500-word article. But we can make a start in understanding the ideological underpinnings that give anti-Americanism its staying power.  

I believe it is instructive to view anti-Americanism as an outcropping of what is endemic to our modern, secular age, that is, an ideology of rejection and estrangement. This involves an overriding sense that there is something fundamentally wrong with the United States (and by extension the entire West) that cannot be corrected by piecemeal reforms, but requires a total uprooting of existing conditions and structures, if necessary by force; in other words, what is needed is  a Revolution.  

The big question is who does the analysis, and who will lead the way? The intellectuals are eager to take on that task. Norman Birnbaum wrote in 1988 that he had full confidence in their ability to provide the leadership in the needed revolution. He explained:

[The intellectuals] bear the responsibility for deciding anew how the world really is, or how it ought to be…. Installed, with all due modesty, in the vanguard of an aroused citizenry, we may set forth once again to redeem a not quite fallen world… We secular thinkers will find ourselves in the midst of those who take their social conscience …their self-definition from ecclesiastical tradition. (Norman Birnbaum, quoted in Paul Hollander, Anti-Americanism,…, p. 13)

Note that Birnbaum does not explain who does the installation - “with all due modesty”?

At its core, anti-Americanism is driven by the attempt to eliminate the past as that has been influenced by the Judeo- Christian faith, and to replace that with a thoroughly secular understanding of the good life. That worldview was succinctly defined in the 1973 Humanist Manifesto, in which its authors stated that there is no supernatural, no divine purpose, and no deity to save us, but that we must save ourselves. The same principle is summarized in Marx’s Communist Manifesto. History is rife with painful evidence that such ideas of self-redemption inevitably end up in cruel tyrannies. (The same goes for life under sharia law, but that is another story.) 

The real problem about the current revolutionaries who want to tear down what exists in America is that they are in denial about reality in countries ruled by dictators inspired by the Marxist or humanist manifestoes. Many are the “pilgrims” of the West who have travelled to the worst kind of gulags, yet they returned with glowing reports.  With their lies they sealed the fate of millions condemned to a life of misery and fear. That’s how it is possible that the Castro brothers and the late Che Guevara are still heroes of the radical left. Lenin used to call them “useful idiots.” (See Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba.)

 America has provided a home for millions of newcomers who experience their new country as a place of freedom and opportunity. Thousands if not millions are refugees of countries where the revolutionary ideas were put into practice. These are the people who speak from bitter experience about living in a tyrannical and lawless culture where fear and terror keep the population in bondage.  Many of them have written about their lives in slavery, and we should pay attention. 

An Influence for Good

I can imagine that some readers of this piece might say to me: “Do you mean to say that the Americans are the embodiment of goodness and that anyone who dares to criticize them is evil?” I do not mean any such thing.  

The United States is suffering from the same spiritual malaise that is afflicting the rest of us. It is burdened by all the forces of secularism with its rampant hedonism and materialism, evident in the breakdown of marriage and the family, abortion on demand, crime, drug addiction, corruption, political correctness, sleazy politics and ditto entertainment. The list goes on and on.  

However, the United States is not one uniform entity of evil and corruption, as depicted by its homegrown and foreign radical critics. Despite all the wrongs so clearly and often falsely  trumpeted by so many, you will also find in this country  wholesome  families and communities, schools and churches,  a love of freedom, the conviction that some things are worth fighting for, and a spirit of generosity that comes to expression in helping the needy nearby and far away.  

To call the United States a terrorist state that is a threat to the world and responsible for the impoverishment of the Third World is furthering the spread of malicious lies. These lies are also repeated endlessly in the Arab/Muslim world, and add immensely to the difficulties the United States is facing. Even now some are so blinded by their hatred that they want the United States to fail in its attempt to help establish freedom and normalcy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly, it’s now appearing that they will see their wish come true.

This is the time to stand with the United States against the lies and distortions hurled against it, even if we have certain reservations and misgivings about the details. The world situation is precarious. There are evil forces out to destroy and kill. To defend ourselves against them requires more than endless conferences and United Nations’ resolutions. Sometimes what are needed are military force and the kind of determined leadership that is becoming all too scarce.

America is undergoing a serious crisis of identity and belief. As the leading nation of the democratic West, we are all affected by America’s current turmoil and division, especially in Canada because we are close neighbours.

Many  prominent  Christian leaders in America, including  the Rev. Billy Graham, the  late Charles Colson,  Ravi Zacharias, and may others have reminded us that America’s upheavals and threats from within and without are first of all of a spiritual nature. 

 What America now needs is utterly beyond our human capacity. But it is not beyond the power of God to renew and heal.  That is exactly the reason we can again at this Christmas time thankfully remember that Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world but to save it.

May God continue to bless America.

Harry Antonides