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The Old Spectre

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These two articles are very interesting, especially when you compare them.

Action – hypothesis: Americanism is Puritanism in our time, and as such it sees the US as the new Israel. This is a valuable idea. Only a puritan mind calls for a “war” on things like drugs or terror. I don’t like those things either but the word “war” seems more than a little hyperbolic.

If Americanism is the end-stage of political Puritanism, which in turn was the yearning to live in contact with God as a citizen of God’s new Israel, what is its creed?

The idea of an “American creed” has been around for a long time. Huntington lists its elements as “liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, human rights, the rule of law, and private property.” I prefer a different formulation: a conceptual triangle in which one fundamental fact creates two premises that create three conclusions.

The fundamental fact: the Bible is God’s word. Two premises: first, every member of the American community has his own individual dignity, insofar as he deals individually with God; second, the community has a divine mission to all mankind. Three conclusions: every human being everywhere is entitled to freedom, equality, and democracy.

In the American creed, both premises and all three conclusions refer back to the Bible, especially the Hebrew Bible. Americans have defined the “community” of the premises more and more broadly over the years, until it has grown to encompass the whole population of adult citizens—thus bringing the premises gradually into line with the universal conclusions. Today there is pressure to define the community more broadly still, so that it includes (for example) illegal as well as legal residents.

Freedom, equality, democracy: the Declaration held these truths to be self-evident, but “self-evident” they were certainly not. Otherwise, America would hardly have been the first nation in history to be built on this foundation. Deriving all three from the Bible, theologians of Americanism understood these doctrines not as philosophical ideas but as the word of God. Hence the fervor and passion with which Americans believe their creed. Americans, virtually alone in the world, insist that freedom, equality, and democracy are right not only for France and Spain but for Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reaction: Anti semitism is back in a big way and American puritanism is the new whipping boy for everyone who is too proud to look in the mirror during the light of day. It’s so much easier to blame someone else.

On both sides of the English Channel, left-wing intellectuals are creating new alliances to promote anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism in the guise of radical politics. This revived and virulent outbreak of an old disease, anti-Semitism, should alarm anyone concerned with the two regions of greatest importance to the United States today, Europe and the Middle East.

What’s different about this new outbreak is that it’s not only afflicting the usual suspects on the right: neo-Nazis, skinheads, and ultra-nationalists. Rather, it features an unholy marriage of the discredited old European left and the disaffected Islamist militants in Europe’s diaspora of 17 million Muslims. It is also tethered to rising anti-Americanism, adding to its potency and making it a double danger to Western values.

If anti semitism is indeed back, texts from before world war two will be especially valuable reading today. Through them we could see how it looked and sounded before Nazi Germany. From where we sit it is hard to take anything the Nazis said seriously and it is just as hard to see how anyone did. But the rhetoric at anti globalization rallies and anti Israel rallies is starting to sound eerily familiar – denunciations of America, of capitalism, and globalization often seem to be just shy of a good ol pogrom.

This is a very worrying tend and attempting to know it and deal with it now would be wise. John Ray’s new blog on the antisemitism of Marx and Engels is a good place to start.

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Written by Curt

January 15, 2005 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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