micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links
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Thursday, May 23, 2002
Speaking of The Simpsons, in season five’s “The Boy Who Knew Too Much,” bartender Moe Szyslak summed how all too many people in the United States view other countries. “Freddy Quimby was with me the entire...night in question. We were collecting canned goods for the starving people in... er, you know, one of them loser countries,” said Szyslak during testimony in the trial that would eventually acquit Quimby of the charge of murder.
I'm hearing a lot of German talk about the United States' power not being "counterbalanced." I can understand German diplomatic concerns along those lines. I just can't understand why we should share them.
Either Reynolds believe that U.S. military power is always benevolent or he believes the U.S. is in the best position when it is the strongest country in the world and he want to revel in American seniority.
The first belief in just empirically false while the second rests on the idea that Americans should want and are justified in wanting their country to be as strong as possible. This argument can be only be justified by saying that it is also true that the people of other countries or ethnic, racial or religious groups should also want and are also justified in wanting the group they most identify with to be as strong as possible. This will lead to an empire –as defined in the traditional sense not how Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri define it in their book Empire- which, like all empires will not last forever and will do great damage to those being dominated and/or it will lead to destruction of everybody.
The only other way I can see to intellectually justify this lust and celebration of power is to say the U.S. at some point committed the antithesis of the “original sin” and is thus justified in doing whatever it wants. This is ridiculous for two reasons. One is that the U.S. has over time improved in a number of ways and become more democratic and just. Many Americans justify their patriotism by pointing to this very progress and arguing that the most egregious faults have in fact been corrected by the economic and political systems of the U.S. Personally I feel this is rather unnuisanced and problematic way of viewing social progress but that the progress happened is as undisputable. But these gains could only be made because there were injustices in the U.S. This doesn’t necessarily demonstrate an “original sin” –and keep in mind that in practical terms I do not believe in original and therefore uncorrectable “sins”- but it does knock how the possibility of the opposite.
At least as devastating to the antithesis of the “original sin” hypothesis is the fact that just as progress has been made in the U.S., there have also been many retreats from human freedom, however you define freedom, in this country. If the U.S. was birthed and lived in perfection, this would not be possible.
Reynolds and most of those like him probably don’t really think in philosophical terms about their love of U.S. power. As I said yesterday, “most of the bloggers who comment on politics revel in power.”