Pictured: Obama supporters celebrating in Grant Park, IL.
Surely one of the most dull-witted and thoroughly obnoxious insults leveled at liberals (or anyone who disagrees with them, for that matter) by many arch-conservatives is that they’re “anti-American.” For some curious reason this irresistible need to impugn the patriotism of others when a political disagreement arises seems to be a trait that’s unique to the Right and was sadly very much in evidence during the heated “discourse” of the last election cycle.
Most notably (although many, many other examples could be provided), Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann stated the other week to Chris Matthews that she was concerned that Barack Obama “may have anti-American views,” and suggested other liberal members of Congress also may be anti-American and should be investigated in some kind of media witch-hunt. Sarah Palin was also no slouch when it came to playing the “anti-American” card, suggesting at a GOP fundraiser that she only liked to travel to “Pro-America parts of this great nation,” she said. Compounding this idiocy, she added that: “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.”
Oh well. That awful nastiness is all behind us now, right?
Like many I suppose, it was striking to see the widespread outpouring of positive sentiment from various quarters and disparate locations around the world yesterday at the election of Barack Obama. The Huffington Post ran a wonderful slideshow on its front page yesterday illustrating this phenomenon that showed candid scenes of jubilant celebration from around the global community that was heartening to say the least. Cynically dismiss it as sentimental piffle or whatever if that attitude happens to float your boat, but I’d suggest that there was something highly significant and worthy of consideration in the world’s reaction to what happened in America the other day.
Closer to home, a cursory glance at various “liberal” and “progressive” blog postings all appeared to be strenuously expressing similar feelings of not only joyously welcoming America’s emergence from what had been the seemingly interminable gloom imposed by the willful ignorance, Medieval quackery, and insufferable arrogance of the Bush-Cheney regime, but also looking forward with optimism to energetic renewal of dialog and engagement on many fronts.
But back to the matter at hand: “Anti-Americanism”… So, what does it actually mean when one Canadian levels this charge against another because of their political views? In the Canadian context the charge of being “anti-American” obviously takes on a wholly different meaning than being “unpatriotic” as is the case south of the border, although the underlying motivational dynamic likely remains the same and it has to be seriously wondered whether the people casually flinging it around really even appreciate the distinctions involved.
I’ll leave the matter open-ended because after giving the subject some amount of thought I came to the conclusion that the onus here really should be placed on those making the charge to substantiate what exactly is meant by it. While I could ramble on and on at great length about the historical roots of “anti-Americanism” in some discursive, highly convoluted way tracing it back to the eighteenth century and following its subsequent branches hither and yon through various strains of political thought in Europe and Canada, it would be presumptuous of me to do so because it’s uncertain that’s related in any way to the particular rhetoric that we’re dealing with here.
So here’s the question to those who employ this term as an insult: What is it that you’re actually saying when you invoke this expression?