Monday, October 17, 2005

No, Really, America is Beautiful

In Comments, Odograph writes:
I was thinking this morning that we (Americans) had some really good years ... maybe from 1975 to 2000.

I graduate high shcool myself in 1976 and barely missed the Vietnam draft, but saw that war and the fall of Nixon. Those two things left me with a healthy scepticism for governement, even American government.

As I further considered this, I wondered if 25 years was about what you had to have for a country to forget a lesson and do the same mistakes all over again. The words "not another Vietnam" were still en vogue in 200X but I think they'd lost their power, for a variety of reasons.

It will be interesting (dare I hope) if Bush ends his Presidency on the same note as Nixon, and the cycle begins again.

But strange as it is to say ... but for all his faults, and lies, Nixon was trying to disengauge from a war ... not start one. That's my coming-of-age recollection, anyway.
Well, they might take my Canadian citizenship away but I daresay America has had quite a few good years since 1776. The American revolution itself was as noble as could be expected for the age. I don't know enough about the Reconstruction, but the failed effort to "de-Confederate" the South (in the same way the US attempted to de-Nazify Germany) was bold and worthy, even if it did fail. Both the Revolution, the Civil War and the Reconstruction also marked temporary breaks in America's drive to steal the continent, so they're even relatively benign in that sense. (I should of course add that while Canada was late to the "steal North America" party, we were just as larcenous when we did arrive.)

And of course, while America's role in World War II is often overstated, victory would have been far more costly without the arsenal of democracy, it it could have been had at all. "Victory" without the United States entering the war would probably have meant the Soviet domination of the whole of Europe, not just the eastern half. So thanks for that, even if you did come late.

I tend to beat up on the United States pretty regularly (and I hope only when they deserve it) but that really shouldn't hide the genuine admiration I feel for our cousins. The last five years have been pretty rough on all of us - even the Republicans, though they won't admit it - but any anger I show towards America or Americans comes from disappointment, not resentment or hatred.
...And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and libraries of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them. In short, the flames kindled on the 4th of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism; on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.

-Thomas Jefferson, writing to John Adams, September 1821
My man Tommy J presaged the Second World War eloquently and eerily well, but he could never imagine that the "cloud of barbarism" would spread to the science and libraries of his own country. Well, what would you call Intelligent Design? Fortunately for America, this country remains...

And feel free to dock me a letter grade for referring to the genius of Monticello as "my man Tommy J."

1 comment:

odograph said...

I think we are speaking to slightly different issues, perhaps operating at different timescales.

My most recent lesson, my take-away, from millennial America is that democracy is still the best bet in government. Unfortunately that does not mean that democracies will always be right. It might only mean that they can self-correct without collapse.

The pendulum swings, but not so quickly or so smoothly that unnecessary loss of life is miraculously avoided.

Instead, people die, and ultimately the country comes to grip with it.

It would have been a much greater victory for democracy if truth had taken a higher place in the run-up to Iraq II, and if voters had reasoned their way to a rational course, but they did not. Instead, we have a lessor victory of democracy. Not a democracy that avoids a "staged war" but instead a democracy that at least can swing back and give an administration "low approval."

This really is the root of my sadness. I don't dispute the high points (Tommy J., etc.), but I'm pained that we must suffer the lows.