Tuesday, September 21, 2004

How American should you be to become President? -Part II

This is part two of a three-part blog concerning the proposed constitutional amendment to allow foreign-born citizens the right to become President of the United States and my feelings about the proposal and topic.

Part II:

In Part I it was established that foreign-born citizens have been a staple of American government for quite some time. In fact their involvement in government spans most job positions with the exception of the Nations highest office, the office of the President. This is mainly due to Article II of the Constitution of the United States, which forbids any non-naturally born Citizen from becoming president of the United States.

So what were the conditions and thinking at the time which required the framers of the constitution to take such a position.

It is important to note that during the time the founders were putting together the United States Constitution the United States was much more vulnerable then it is today. The founders still had vivid memories of living under British rule. Also from a historical perspective they were aware of the chaos that was created when various European countries meddled in the affairs of other countries. A "foreign" influence in the Nations highest office might result in economic insecurity and/or war.

The framers were genuinely afraid of foreign subversion. The prospect of a European noble using his money and influence to sway the Electoral College, and return the young republic to a royalist fold. Keep in mind several European figures were quite popular in the New World, including Frances Marquis de Lafayette the Revolutionary war hero.

Now more than 228 years later the constitutional ban is being perceived as outdated. The argument that a foreign-born president would have an actual or perceived bias toward their country of birth is seen as a weak argument given the public and media scrutiny that goes with every presidency today. Certainly any foreign-born president would be impartial toward his or her country of birth given this fact, or they would be driven out of office. Others argue in parallel that refusing immigrants the right to hold the nations highest office creates a second-class citizen and violates all ideals of equality. After all is not the American dream centered on the ideal that every American citizen has equal potential? Currently about 11 percent of the U.S. population, were born outside the United States. That means that about 1 in 10 U.S. residents cannot run for president.

Further debate is centered on the wording of the constitution. The constitution states that only a "natural born citizen" can become president. Although it is generally accepted that birthright citizenship includes both those born on U.S. soil and overseas to U.S. citizen parents, it was not always the case. It was not until 1790 that Congress passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act, which gave citizenship to children born overseas but only when the father was a citizen. In 1934, it was extended to include giving citizenship to children whose mothers were American citizens. Whether people born in those circumstances can serve, as president has never been decided because it has never been challenged. The constitution does not specifically say that you have to be born in the United States, so what the term "natural born" means is somewhat debatable, but the informal interpretation that we all accept has never been tested. Had Senator John McCain been nominated, we may have had our first big test as he was born to American parents in the Panama Canal Zone.

Opponents have their arguments as well. At a time when many are concerned about terrorist sleeper cells, is it not reasonable to believe that some nation-state or terrorist group might take advantage of such a loophole? The key reason the Founders included the natural born citizen clause in the Constitution was to help protect the nations most powerful office against foreign interest? Has this threat really ever gone away? The original constitution contemplated a relatively weak Presidency, which is the case in many countries around the world today. This office has now become the most powerful in the world. The one area of Presidential authority that is virtually unchecked and uncheckable is the President’s power as Commander in Chief of the Army. Can a foreign-born citizen be safely entrusted with this power?

So how do contemporary arguments for and against a constitutional amendment to allow foreign-born citizens to become president hold up against criticism? Which are valid, which are invalid, and what is my opinion? I shall put these arguments to the test as well as present a new argument into the fold that I have yet to see published in Part III.

End of Part II
Posted by mightymerk, 6:30 PM | link | (0) comments |

Thursday, September 16, 2004

How American should you be to become President? - Part I

This is part one of a three-part blog concerning the proposed constitutional amendment to allow foreign-born citizens the right to become President of the United States and my feelings about the proposal and topic.

Part I :

"No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

This quote is from Article II - Executive Branch of the U.S. constitution.

There is a lot of talk as of late about allowing foreign-born U.S Citizens to become President of the United Stats. In fact there is a proposed constitutional amendment by California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher that would allow such a possibility. Sen. Orrin Hatch a Republican in Utah has also introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

Much of this hype is centered on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s success to become Governor of California. The bodybuilder, turned move star, turned political heavy weight has had mostly positive reviews since taking office, but the talks of Arnold the Democrat Destroyer for President was in play even before he took office. Arnold is certainly an appealing candidate and quite possibly best illustrates the American dream in America. I also hold no doubt that Arnold is a proud American citizen and wants only the best for his fellow citizens. I am a mostly conservative person, who has voted mostly (but certainly not all times) republican in local, state and national elections. If I were an "at all costs" type of person I might be a strong advocate of amending the constitution. But as a student of history, and geo-politics I simply cannot be such an advocate. All said and done, I would rather have 8 years of the worst democrat in office (thinking a new president can lead us on a road to recovery) then allow a non-natural born citizen into the Presidents office. I do understand the fact that in essence I am endorsing an "all citizens are equal, but some citizens are more equal" ideology, but in the case of this nations, and quite possibly the world highest office is not something to be taken lightly.

Some history of foreign-born officers in our national government:

Despite the recent Schwarzenegger craze, the topic of foreign-born citizens becoming elected officials has a fairly deep and rich history.

The first governor of Georgia was John Adam Treutlen who was born in Germany.

Martin Kalbfleisch, born in the Netherlands was May of Brooklyn and a U.S. Representative of New York.

Charles Augustus Lindbergh (father of the famed aviator) was born in Stockholm, Sweden and served as U.S Representative from Minnesota's 6th District.

Contemporary examples would include, Thomas Lantos, born in Hungary and now serving as U.S. representative from California and Henry Kissinger born in Germany and served as U.S. Secretary of State and Madeleine Albright born in Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) serving in the same capacity.

All in all some 1,000+ foreign-born U.S. politicians have served in various capacities.

So why did the original framers of the constitution specifically write into the constitution that no foreign-born citizen could run for America's highest office? Did they apply rational reasoning for this decision at the time and how does it apply to the topic today?

We shall explore these topics and I shall share my feelings regarding this and more in Part II and III

End of Part I

Posted by mightymerk, 9:39 AM | link | (3) comments |

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Meat and Dead Meat...an ethical question

(This is an original ethical question (I believe) that I have been thinking about for some time)...looking for some feedback.

I use to read a lot of books by Peter Singer. I was first introduced to Peter Singer's work when I took one of the many Philosophy/ethics/critical thinking classes in college.

For those of you who do not know who Peter Singer is, let me tell you a little about him:

Peter Albert David Singer is an Australian philosopher and currently a professor at Princeton University, USA. He works in practical ethics, and treats ethical issues from a utilitarian (specifically preference utilitarian) perspective. Utilitarianism is both a theory of the good and a theory of the right. As a theory of the good, utilitarianism is welfarist, holding that the good is whatever yields the greatest utility --'utility' being defined as pleasure, preference-satisfaction, or in reference to an objective list of values. As a theory of the right, utilitarianism is consequentiality, holding that the right act is that which yields the greatest net utility.
Let me tell you something. The guy is a philosophical GIANT with a master command of language. At times he is a very tough read.

With regards to abortion, Singer holds that the right to physical integrity is grounded in a being's ability to suffer, and the right to life is grounded in the ability to plan and anticipate one's future. Since the unborn, infants lack the latter (but not the former) ability, he states that abortion, and painless infanticide can be justified in certain special circumstances. Those special circumstances include case of severely disabled infants whose life would cause suffering both to themselves and to their parents.

Killing such a disabled infant would not be wrong, at least not from the Utilitarian perspective. This would be because when measuring how a beings interest would be weighed, it should always be weighed according to that being's concrete properties, and not according to its belonging to some abstract group. So in some circumstances killing a newborn baby is not at all wrong, yet if you killed a frog it would be an ethical issues (because that Frog has more self awareness and looks to avoid pain).

I am not trying to argue a case for or against Abortion by the way.

Now PETA, animal rights activist, and many vegans subscribe to Peter Singers philosophy. Fair enough, as I do not want to debate this at this time.

People choose not to eat meat, choose not to wear fur etc. because it involves the elimination of a being (non-human in this case) that has self-awareness as well as the ability to feel pain and desire to avoid it.

So here is my ethical question:

Science has come a long way. On a small scale, we have been generating replacement tissue and body parts on lab rats (better known as neo-organs).† Then there is the case of Dolly the sheep.

While both areas of science still have a long way to go, there is no doubt that interesting ethical question will be raised through these medical and technological wonders.

What if in the future we could not only clone animals, such as cows, pigs and chickens, but in the development of these clones we were able to make it so brain, spinal cord, or nerve development would not take place, but these clones would develop all the necessary muscle tissue to serve the dietary needs/desires of humans. These clones would also develop the fashionable furs that are so desirous. Let's say that this genetic cloning process was as routine as a root canal (however distant in the future this capability might be). The flesh of these clones would be safe to eat, and their furs safe to wear. These components would not differ with the components of a "living being".

Let's just pretend my blog for today is the modern day School of Athens. Let's ponder for a moment...

We are talking about Dead Meat, from start to finish:

Using Peter Singers same methodology, we would be developing groups of cells with no sense of self-awareness, the ability to feel no pain, and no sense of future. They would have no brains, no nerves, no spinal cord etc.

Now if you were a vegan, because you believed that eating the flesh of living creatures, which care for their young, and are able to feel pain and try to avoid it, would you now eat a hamburger because it tastes good?

If you were a member of PETA, who looked at the Mink industry in utter disgust because living creature were being humanely exterminated just so some Hollywood high-roller could have a coat to wear...do you now buy yourself a mink coat if you thought they were more attractive?

I would argue that greater utility would be achieved as people would now be able to enjoy delicious cheeseburgers and and McDonalds french fries (which would be cooked in cloned animal fat now) and now be able to enjoy the comforts and glamour of a fur coat...guilt free!!

† http://www.pbs.org/saf/1107/features/body.htm

Posted by mightymerk, 5:24 PM | link | (7) comments |

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Of Yeah-man's and Yemen's...

100% True Story...word for word

Where I live many convenience stores are run/owned/operated by people born in countries other than America. Most of these foreign-born workers come from India, Pakistan, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Poland. Of course nothing is an absolute, but I think I am fairly accurate with this assessment.

As I understand it and have observed many of these people are highly-educated skilled professionals that work these jobs to pass time as they apply for permanent work visa's,work-papers and citizenship. Many times these are the same people who go on to become doctors, engineers etc.

The other day I went to a convenience store I do not frequent too often to buy some ice cream. I was delighted to find that they had toasted almond bars...my absolute favorite...well anyway...a fellow named Alex pleasantly greeted me. I am certain Alex was his 'adopted' name. He started to ring me up. I bought three ice cream bars (for a few friends and family). Alex asked me "Is that all?" I replied back 'Yeah-man'.

Alex looks at me noticeably agitated. Yeah-man? What do you mean by Yeah-man? I replied back in a slower cadence...Yeah....Man....it's a figure of speech. He repeated it several times "Yeah-man...Yeah-man....oh Yeah Man..Ok sir I understand. I noticed that the first time he repeated it back to me it sounded like Yemen, a small country bordering Saudi Arabia and Oman. I caught on that he took my initial 'Yeah-man' as an ethnic insult of Yemen (as in you Yemen). I quickly told him that I understood why he was confused, and no I was not calling him a Yemen national. He smiled and I smiled because it was quite funny.

Feeling I needed to engage him a little more I asked where he was originally from (based on his thick accent and sensitivity to my 'Yeah-man' my Sherlock Holmes senses kicked in). Alex replied to me "You would not know my land. If I told you the name of my country you would not know it". I felt a little insulted.

He turned the question around on me and asked me where I though he was from. Still fresh from my 'Yeah-man' experience I did not want to immediately insult him by guessing the wrong Central-Asian country he was so clearly from. I offered up Bulgaria as my guess and he quickly responded that he was from another former Soviet-block country.

I asked him again "Where are you from?" He replied back that I would not know his country. I told him that I was fairly well traveled (at least in Europe) and that I just might know of his country of origin. He then told me he was from Uzbekistan. I was fairly familiar with this country for several reasons:

1 - As a student of history (one of my favorite subjects), I was quite familiar with Uzbekistan as a former country of the Soviet Union.

2 - CIS (a collection of former Soviet countries) was one of the prime regions for which I was responsible for on a professional level at one time.

3 - With current events being cented on or near the region of Central Asia (think Iran and Pakistan) Uzbekistan shows up almost nightly on the news (even if just a glancing look on a map).

I explained to Alex that I was familiar with Uzbekistan, as well as the surrounding countries of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Alex replied, "your Geography is good, most people do not know where my country is". I explained him the three points above in brief format so he understood where my knowledge stemmed from.

I said to Alex "I bet you speak Russian" and his answer was "of course". (all soviet territories, regardless of ethnic origin were forced to learn Russian) I asked him about the language of his native land and he replied that it was Turkish. When I replied back that it made sense considering the Ottoman dynasty once included Uzbekistan Alex replied, "your knowledge of history is pretty good". I shook Alex's hand, as he was actually the first person from Uzbekistan that I had ever met. He recommended that I travel to Uzbekistan at some time in my life. I told him I would consider it...but only time will tell.

And that is my story about Yeah-man's and Yemen's...
Posted by mightymerk, 1:02 PM | link | (6) comments |

Sunday, September 05, 2004

A Brief History of anti-Americanism - Part III

This is the third and final part of a three-part blog involving my study and reflections on the history of anti-American sentiment in the world. You can find the first two parts of this work in the previous entries.


In the late nineteenth century America was emerging as a great industrial country. While still behind Britain, France and Germany in military and political terms, America was rising to global preeminence as it pioneered in the development of big industries and assembly-line methods. The modernization of Europe seemed to parallel what already existed in America. It became more secular, democratic, urban, faster paced, mass-oriented, geographically mobile, classless etc. Ironically as the United States proved wrong its historic anti-American critics who said it could never succeed, this very success only inspired more anti-Americanism. As discussed in the first two parts of this work, America was traditionally a land to be laughed at. A science project gone bad. A Volcano was about to explode, or implode depending on your perspective. The idea that America was a failure was now proved wrong. America went from a country to be ridiculed as politically unviable, socially failed and culturally impoverished to become a country who's influence (potential and realized) was to be dreaded.

French economist Paul de Rousiers wrote in 1892, "America ceased to be an object of curiosity to become an object of dread."∆ If the United States was going to become a great power in the world, it might impose itself on others. If Europeans voluntarily accepted its spirit, soulless industrialization and modernization would they also sink into social, cultural and political barbarity?

It should also be noted that there were many sympathizers with America (outside of the emigrants who continued to flock the United States). Edouard Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye, opposing his own dictator, Napoleon III, wanted to establish a French republican government modeled on America's constitution. Along with several other leading French intellectuals he produced a movement that helped France reestablish a republic, which also resulted in the presenting of the Statue of Liberty to New York.

Again and again America was deemed as too badly an organized society because people there did not know their place. Among the evils of democracy were a "commonness of mind and tone, want of dignity and prevalent in and about conduct of public affairs, insensibility to nobler aspects and finer responsibilities of national life; apathy among luxurious classes and fastidious minds because they are no more important than ordinary voters, and because they're disgusted by vulgarities of public life; lack of knowledge, tact and judgment in legislature."˚˚

America was accused of being so terrible because it was simultaneously too homogeneous and yet too varied, too democratic yet not democratic enough, too amoral and yet too puritanical. If these same measurements were applied to the very own countries of the anti-American Europeans, they might also be found wanting.

Americans may have lacked the seasoning that Europeans possessed but as a new society it was not all that unique in that manner. America was able to use European achievements as its past while constructing its own future. Europeans had a different problem. Would they be able to build a future different from that of America?

In bragging about their lofty intellectual level and exalted tastes, anti-Americans were comparing the average American to the top 10 percent of their own society. Keep in mind the cultural apex of which Europeans boasted was largely monopolized in each country by a single capital city and by the upper classes alone. Only only a tiny minority of society enjoyed the greatness of opera, ballet, chamber music, or poetry. While it may have been arguable to say that Europe had a high culture and America had a lower one, but how many Europeans actually had access to this culture?

During this period the United States continued to excel in new forms of creativity such as Jazz, film, photography, and dance. While American techniques of mass production could be said to debase culture, they were also the greatest tools ever created for spreading its benefits.

America's first big action on the world stage took place with the Spanish-American war in 1898. Spain was easily defeated and this stood as a pivotal event that European critics saw as the start of an American advancement on the European continent. Philippe Roger, a French historian spoke about it like this, " The idea was that the daughter of Europe--America-- had turned against Europe and was now a potential enemy."

America's second big action on the world stage was its intervention in World War I. This too provoked anti-American reaction, even from the countries it helped as an ally. In France Woodrow Wilson was seen as being too self-righteous and too soft on the defeated Germans. He was also seen as a wooly-minded idealist and a religious fanatic, stereotypes that several American leaders would share. When he failed to persuade Congress to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, French critics added weakness to their indictment of him. In the 1920's and 30's America was portrayed as the main threat to Europe. This in an era when Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin were among that continent's rulers. Why was this? Perhaps the fact that the 1920's were a period of great prosperity in the United States. Economic growth was accompanied by the spread internationally of such American innovations of jazz, films, and automobiles. To many there was no difference between German Nazism, Soviet Communism, and Americanism. Of these, however, Americanism was the most dangerous of all because it was the most appealing.

Capitalism itself became a common target but as Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski pointed out " Why the problems of the real and the only existing communism, which Leftist ideologies put aside so easily, are crucial for socialist thought is because the experiences of a new alternative society have shown very convincingly that the only universal medicine these people have for social evils, state ownership as a means of production, is not only perfectly compatible with all disasters of the capitalist world, with exploitation, imperialism, pollution, misery, economic waste, national hatred and national oppression, but that it adds to them a series of disasters of its own: inefficiency, lack of economic incentives, and, above all, the unrestricted role of the omnipotent bureaucracy, a concentration of power never known before in human history."÷

Increasingly, both French and German anti-Americans closely linked their anti-American doctrine with anti-Semitism. Jews and Americans became twin symbols of blame for those who hated modern society and rapid change. American action was put in the worst possible light. The United States only entered the war in 1917 because it wanted to profit from European suffering as long as possible and then dominate the continent at the lowest possible cost. American society was thought to be hypnotized by technology and obsessed with moneymaking to the point where human spiritual life was destroyed. Europeans genuinely loved their countries while Americans only supported their nation out of greed.

The contradictions continued in European criticism. Americans were cowboys who prided themselves on their individualism, reject social controls to an extent almost unprecedented in the world, yet French anti-Americans insisted that the United States was a mass society that imposed unacceptable standardization on each person.

By the late 1930's into the 1940's anti-Americanism would be temporarily restricted to pro-Communism and pro-fascist circles. While French and other European cultures would survive quite nicely through the depression of the 1930's, the Nazi era and later Communist challenge, the anti-Americans worst nightmare came true. The United States became more powerful and influential, saving Europe in another world war and the subsequent cold war while finding even more ways to spread its culture. The thoughts, influence and ideas from the first three periods of anti-Americanism would lay dormant for a short while, waiting to be revived on numerous occasions thereafter.

Final thoughts:

Contrary to public theory, anti-Americanism is nothing new. As I have demonstrated (albeit briefly) anti-American sentiment had predated the founding of the United States as a nation. What started as a broad prejudice against innate inferiority of the land, broadened to include the belief that the systems and people of America were derelict. Finally, when America's political, social and economic success would not be denied anti-Americans focused on the fear of American expansionism in the forms of cultural absorption and military imperialism.

Because so much of the criticism from anti-Americans was almost always based on the lowest common denominator, Americans have been in a simultaneous struggle in resenting and resembling some of the harshest criticism.

While I consider 1945-present the present stage of anti-American sentiment, with Europe now being joined by Latin American and Middle-East/Asia, is far from complete for review. I would suggest that upon any study, much of the foundation in both argument and practice would be heavily comprised of rehashed, reshaped arguments

What can be observed through the first three stages though, is that anti-Americanism was a reaction to the concept and phenomenon of America itself. The success it had become as a nation and the ideological alternative it had become to existing nations.

End Part III

∆ Paul de Rousiers, La Vie Americaine (Paris: Diderot, 1892)
˚˚ As quoted in Baker, America Perceived, 160.
÷ David Horowitz, Left Illusions, 109.
Posted by mightymerk, 5:44 AM | link | (15) comments |

Saturday, September 04, 2004

A Brief History of anti-Americanism - Part II

This is part two of a three-part installment involving my study and reflections on the history of anti-American sentiment in the world. You can find the first part of this work in the previous entry.

As previously discussed the idea that civilization could never arise in America, the degeneracy theory, had been the first stage of anti-Americanism. The second stage was the claim that the American's efforts to create a civilization had failed. Between the creation of the U.S. system in 1783 until roughly the end of the Civil War in 1865, this was generally the dominant view. This is not to say that there were not European proponents of America's vision for something new and fresh, to which they wanted for their own countries.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe penned an ode to the United States:

America, thy happy lot
above old Europe's I exalt:
Thou hast no castle ruin hoar
No giant columns of basalt.
thy soul is not troubled
In living light of day
by useless traditions,
vain strife and array

(it should be noted that Goethe never had actually visited the United States)

For those viewing the United States as a threat to all existing Western civilization, destructive of order and an enemy of traditional values, discrediting it became a matter of life and death. Such was literally the case for Simon Linguet, a French lawyer, who warned in the 1780's that a rabble of adventurers would use the continent's rich resources to make the United States a great economic power. Eventually, he predicted, America's armies would cross the Atlantic, subjugate Europe, and destroy civilization.† Linguet did not have to wait long to see the society he revered destroyed by new ideas paralleling those in America. He was guillotined by the French revolutionaries in 1794.

Frances Trollope a British national, might have been the single most influential person shaping European perception of America in the first half of the nineteenth century. Her book Domestic Manners of the Americans, published in 1832 enjoyed a phenomenal success and was translated into several languages. The focus of her book was America's ascetic and cultural failings. Americans table manners, command of the English language, rate of speed at which they spoke all became fodder. Criticism on the propensity of American's to discuss political and religious matters, and women's "poor" taste in clothing were also talking points for her book. Ironically enough Trollope's book was a bestseller in America as well (despite it's very negative context), showing the growing tolerance and lack of vanity of the people.

A common subtext of all anti-American criticism during this period was the ruinous nature of the American belief in equality. Trollope wrote, "If refinement once creeps in among them, if they once learn to cling to the graces, the honors, the chivalry of life, then we shall say farewell to the American equality, and welcome to European fellowship one of the finest countries on earth." ≈

The elevated status of women and children in the developing America was also seen as a negative consequence of America's emphasis on freedom and equality. The general criticism at the time was that the United States had rejected the natural order of society, even at a time when women could not vote. For this reason, America was sarcastically referred to as a "paradise for women" in some writings.

The success of America and its imitation by their own countries would undermine, or at least was thought it would undermine the personal interest of the European intellectual elite and aristocracy. Given the fact that everyone in America was criticized for their spirit of equality (perceived or realized), most of the criticism offered would have an excessive emphasis on the lower common denominator. The old aristocratic disdain for the masses was often barely concealed beneath. It goes without saying that the peasants and workers who flocked from Europe to America as immigrants did not share this attitude.

The view that materialism and democracy blocked the creation of a serious culture in the United States was being disproved. Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe and many others were doing important and original work. As in politics, the viable mass-oriented alternative to Europe's official aristocratic culture was possible.

The British novelist Charles Dickens, despite some good feelings about America and Americans could not quite shake himself loose from European disdain. Traveling from Cincinnati downstream to Cairo, Illinois, he wrote of the "hateful Mississippi circling and eddying before it, and turning off upon its southern course a slimy monster hideous to behold; a hotbed of disease, an ugly sepulcher, a grave uncheered by any gleam of promise: a place without a single quality, in earth or air or water, to commend it: such is this dismal Cairo."π
This would become the very material that Mark Twain would render so unforgettably as a write exemplifying a distinctly American worldview.

The reactions to America of each country's nationals mainly reflected the priorities and problems of their native lands. The British put a little more emphasis on excessive equality, the French on intellectual and cultural poverty, and the Germans spoke of spiritual barrenness. During this period, anti-Americans concluded that the United States was to be ridiculed, not feared. The political system was viewed as a complete failure and might well collapse on its own weight.

This second period of anti-Americanism then was to insist that the United States WAS a failure. Contrary to the predictions of these anti-Americans who would see the Civil War as the doom they had been expecting, the United States did not collapse. Rather, the United States grew steadily stronger and more visibly successful. Only when American industrialization began to lead the world in the 1880's was it no longer possible to insist that it had failed. But anti-Americans would find the threat of American success to be an even more serious matter.

In Part III I will chronicle how the viability of America as a political, social and economic influence gave rise to a new anti-Americanism, in short, the fear of America's future and its impact on the global sphere.

End Part II

† Barry Rubin/Judith Colp Rubin, Hating America - A History
≈ Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans
π Dickens, American Notes
Posted by mightymerk, 5:54 AM | link | (4) comments |

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

A Brief History of anti-Americanism - Part I

This is the first of a three-part installment involving my study and reflections on the history of anti-American sentiment in the world.

A short intro:

Despite the recent surge in anti-Americanism and despite what many might tell you, anti-Americanism and foreign nations being anti-American is really nothing new.

Today's progressives, leftists, socialist, communism (whatever) might urge you to believe that anti-Americanism started with the advent of the cold war and subsequent CIA covert operations, backing of ruthless dictators and random engagement in conflicts around the world. In short, other nations view America as great oppressors, bloodthirsty capitalist and imperialist.

Today's conservatives, right-wingers, fascist, neo-cons (whatever) would have you believe that anti-Americanism is the direct byproduct of America's advancement as the sole super-power in the world (both militarily and economically). Compounding the issue is the fact that he America is acting unilaterally without the help of some of its traditional allies in the war on terror and in the war in Iraq. In short, other nations view themselves as modern day 'David's' to the U.S.'s 'Goliath'. One might consider that they suffer from Geo/political penis envy.

While both points may contain some merit the overall picture is far from complete and far from new. The fact is that anti-American sentiment has existed for hundreds years (largely in Europe and now more recently in Latin-American and Middle Eastern nations) even well before the birth of the United States.

Early anti-Americanism:

Arguments concerning 'America's' development first took center stage in the eighteenth century. The land that the Europeans knew, as the new world was inhabited by Native Americans found to be technologically behind them and were considered spiritually inferior as well. To many Europeans the ideas of America's innate inferiority validated an existing notion among many Europeans that their way of life was superior and more advanced then all others. Disputes arose early as part of a broader debate over the proper form of a society. Concerns about America's faster pace of life, lower class barriers, democracy, and mass rather than elite culture and whether or not these things would advance or destroy culture. By all regards, America was seen as a test case for all of this.

"This was no abstract or marginal debate. It involved Europe's best minds, the leading naturalists, scientists, and philosophers of the day. Few of those insisted that America was intrinsically inferior to Europe ever visited there. Like those of many later anti-Americans, their theories were based on ignorance and misinformation or a distortion of facts designed to prove some political standpoint, philosophical concept, or scientific theory."†

Mercantilist saw the development of America with its vast natural resources as an opportunity to enhance Europe's wealth, by providing raw materials and furnishing markets, colonies there would bring the mother country endless riches (assuming they remained under European control).

Some of the earliest arguments by proponents and opponents of the 'New World' were expressed by French intellectuals and common men. Michel Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur, who fought in his country's losing war against Britain and then became a farmer in upstate New York wrote lyrically that America as "the most perfect society now existing in the world" because it was so fresh and flexible. It was welding together of immigrants from all over Europe "into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great chances in the world" In contracts to Europeans, Americans did not "toil, starve, and bleed" on behalf of princes but for their own benefit under leaders they freely chose. Europe would learn new ways of living and governance from this people's achievements.*

Conversely most members of Europe's governing and intellectual elite believed that civilization was a delicate matter. To the majority, the new land was simply backward. If European society as already at the peak of achievement (spiritually and technologically), starting afresh was a dangerous and doomed enterprise.

Works by leading anti-American Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon were widely and quoted (though largely forgotten now). Buffon who never visited America insisted that nature was "much less varied than in Europe". Ignorant of such impressive American animals as the buffalo and grizzly bear, Buffon claimed that the biggest American animals were "four, six, eight, and ten times" smaller than those of Europe or Africa. Without inhaling a breath in America, he felt confident concluding that its (America's) air and earth were permeated with "most and poisonous vapors" unable to give proper nourishment except to snakes and insects.˜

During the first wave of anti-Americanism the cause of that country's inevitable failure was placed on the innately inferior nature of the land (and not the recently emigrated Europeans). After America's independence, though, this blame was increasingly transferred to a degraded people who lived in a badly structured society. Fears grew in Europe that ideas embodied in the United States (republicanism, materialism, the leveling of classes, and more importantly the rejection of aristocratic high culture) would break back across the Atlantic Ocean.

Once America established itself as a living challenge to the European monarchies, anti-Americanism came to serve a specific political function. While anti-Americanism still incorporated aspects of the degeneracy theory, it increasingly focused on the claim that the American democratic experiment was a failure leading to a degraded society and culture.

With proof that the American continent was a land in which stewardship amongst men and beings could be achieved one would have thought that anti-American sentiment would become less of a focus among the intellectual elite of Europe, but this was not to be.

In Part II I chronicle the growth of anti-Americanism as it evolved from simple criticism of the land and nature of the new world to full blown attacks on the people and government of America. I will also cover the new experience of Americans having to live in the shadow of the American Stereotype.

-End Part I-

† Hating America - A History - Barry Rubin/Judith Colp Rubin -

* Crevecoeur, "Letters from an American Farmer" http////;//old.jccc.net/~vclark/doc8_1_1.htm

˜ Chinard, "18th Century Theories on America as Human Habitat,"
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