August 11, 2006


Americans will die for liberty (Andrew Gimson, 11/08/2006, Daily Telegraph)

We are inclined, in our snobbish way, to dismiss the Americans as a new and vulgar people, whose civilisation has hardly risen above the level of cowboys and Indians. Yet the United States of America is actually the oldest republic in the world, with a constitution that is one of the noblest works of man. When one strips away the distracting symbols of modernity - motor cars, skyscrapers, space rockets, microchips, junk food - one finds an essentially 18th-century country. While Europe has engaged in the headlong and frankly rather immature pursuit of novelty - how many constitutions have the nations of Europe been through in this time? - the Americans have held to the ideals enunciated more than 200 years ago by their founding fathers.

The sense of entering an older country, and one with a sterner sense of purpose than is found among the flippant and inconstant Europeans, can be enjoyed even before one gets off the plane. On the immigration forms that one has to fill in, one is asked: "Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offence or crime involving moral turpitude?" Who now would dare to pose such a question in Europe? The very word "turpitude" brings a smile, almost a sneer, to our lips.

The quiet solicitude that Americans show for the comfort of their visitors, and the tact with which they make one feel at home, can only be described as gentlemanly. These graceful manners, so often overlooked by brash European tourists, whisper the last enchantments of an earlier and more dignified age, when liberty was not confused with licence.

But lest these impressions of the United States seem unduly favourable, it should be added that the Americans have not remained in happy possession of their free constitution without cost. Thomas Jefferson warned that the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots. To the Americans, the idea that freedom and democracy exact a cost in blood is second nature.

We went to the fine new museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, devoted to the American Civil War. It was the bloodiest war in American history. Americans slaughtered Americans in terrible numbers before the North prevailed. You can look up the names of soldiers on a computer, and I found to my slight surprise that a man called Joseph Gimson served on the Union side as a private in the 37th Regiment of Coloured Infantry, and was "severely and dangerously wounded" in the battle of Northeast Station on February 22, 1865.

We stood at Gettysburg, scene of the bloodiest battle of all, on a field covered with memorials to the fallen. Here Abraham Lincoln gave his great and sublimely brief address, ending with the hope "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth".

Again some Europeans will give an unkind smile. All this sounds so Puritan, so naïve and so self-righteous. We cannot help feeling that the Americans ought to have been able to settle their quarrel without killing each other, and, while we cannot defend the institution of slavery, we wonder whether the North had the right to impose its will by force.

These are vain quibbles. The North went to war and was victorious.

The Americans are prepared to use force in pursuit of what they regard as noble aims. It is yet another respect in which they are rather old-fashioned. They are patriots who venerate their nation and their flag.

Country, not nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2006 12:40 PM

In one of the comments: "I fear America may too suffer changing values. Millions of Mexican, Korean Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese and a multidude of other races, not least the decendents of African slaves, do not hold the same values he describes." The Secretary of State is decendant of former slaves, the Chief of commands in Iraq (Central Command?) is Lebanese, the marine who covered the face of the Saddam statue with the Star and Stripe is Chinese from Burma. Thousands of troops in Iraq are Mexican decendents and new citizens... In other words: the commentor's fear is unfounded and racist.

Posted by: ic at August 11, 2006 1:23 PM

That would be a nation.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2006 1:44 PM

"In other words: the commentor's fear is unfounded and racist"

Of course the commentor's fear is "well founded". He is aware of the last four decades of multi-cultural propaganda. The commentor is merely restating the warning of Jefferson in a more direct fashion. But of course you can choose to close your eyes to the obvious.

Nation can have more than one meaning.

1)A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country.
2) A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language and yes race which doesn't exist of course.

Posted by: h-man at August 11, 2006 2:29 PM

But it can't in the context of Europe vs. America. They are nationalist--a function of their Darwinism--we are universalists--a function of our Christianity. That's why nativism is unAmerican.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2006 2:41 PM

"why nativism is unAmerican"

America is also a democracy, which means if the people want it, they get it. Unless you can show where the constitution forbids borders.

Posted by: h-man at August 11, 2006 3:01 PM

Yes, if they did we would. They don't.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2006 3:30 PM

The claim that a race can be a nation has a slogan: "ORION - Our Race Is Our Nation." This slogan faces the problem that currently races have no legal authority, no actual power, and most people are not loyal to the races they belong to. It is not a descriptive slogan but a prescriptive slogan. It is a matter of plans instead of reality. If racists insist on retaining this idea, I recommend that the slogan be replaced by the slogan: "Make Our Race Our Nation."

Devising a suitable acronym will be left as an exercise for the reader.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at August 11, 2006 3:38 PM

Take a look, it's the rare nation that isn't fundamentally an ethnicity and that's why there are so many more nations now than there were when Europe was part of Christendom:

Scotland, Ireland, India, South Africa, Kenya and Rhodesia could be part of a Great Britain. They couldn't be part of England.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2006 3:50 PM

There are a lot of Americans that were born in the wrong place.

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 11, 2006 5:16 PM

It would be hard to top your slogan Joe.

Posted by: erp at August 11, 2006 5:36 PM

No, Orrin, definitely a nation, which is a political community of people sharing the same basic ideas, as opposed to a "Volk" as the Germans call it, which is purely ethnic/biological.

America is the quintessential Western nation, while the Europeans states are basically tribes with a flag (and a by now useless army).

Posted by: Peter at August 12, 2006 10:29 AM

No, nations are ethnic, not ideal. We are ideal not ethnic. It's a function of our being the only Christian country (Christian nation being an oxymoron).

Posted by: oj at August 12, 2006 10:38 AM
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