July 9, 2017

GLOBALIZATION IS ANGLOFICATION:

The Racial and Religious Paranoia of Trump's Warsaw Speech (PETER BEINART,  JUL 6, 2017, The Atlantic)

In his speech in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to "the West" and five times to "our civilization." His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It's important that other Americans do, too.

The West is not a geographic term. Poland is further east than Morocco. France is further east than Haiti. Australia is further east than Egypt. Yet Poland, France, and Australia are all considered part of "The West." Morocco, Haiti, and Egypt are not.

The West is not an ideological or economic term either. India is the world's largest democracy. Japan is among its most economically advanced nations. No one considers them part of the West.

The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white. Where there is ambiguity about a country's "Westernness," it's because there is ambiguity about, or tension between, these two characteristics. Is Latin America Western? Maybe. Most of its people are Christian, but by U.S. standards, they're not clearly white. Are Albania and Bosnia Western? Maybe. By American standards, their people are white. But they are also mostly Muslim.  

Steve Bannon, who along with Stephen Miller has shaped much of Trump's civilizational thinking, has been explicit about this. In a 2014 speech, he celebrated "the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam" and "our forefathers" who "bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West."

During the Cold War, when the contest between Soviet and American power divided Europe along geographic lines, American presidents sometimes contrasted the democratic "West" with the communist "East." But when the Cold War ended, they largely stopped associating America with "the West." Every president from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama emphasized the portability of America's political and economic principles. The whole point was that democracy and capitalism were not uniquely "Western." They were not the property of any particular religion or race but the universal aspiration of humankind.

To grasp how different that rhetoric was from Trump's, look at how the last Republican President, George W. Bush, spoke when he visited Poland. In his first presidential visit, in 2001, Bush never referred to "the West." He did tell Poles that "We share a civilization." But in the next sentence he insisted that "Its values are universal." Because they are, he declared, "our trans-Atlantic community must have priorities beyond the consolidation of European peace. We must bring peace and health to Africa. ... We must work toward a world that trades in freedom ... a world of cooperation to enhance prosperity, protect the environment, and lift the quality of life for all."

In 2003, Bush returned, and in his main speech didn't use the terms "West" or "civilization" at all. After celebrating Poland's achievements, he said America and Europe "must help men and women around the world to build lives of purpose and dignity" so they don't turn to terrorism. He boasted that America was increasing its funding to fight global poverty and AIDS because "we add to our security by helping to spread freedom and alleviate suffering." And he said "America and Europe must work closely to develop and apply new technologies that will improve our air and water quality, and protect the health of the world's people."

Bush's vision echoed Francis Fukuyama's. America and Europe may have been further along the road to prosperity, liberty, capitalism, and peace than other parts of the world, but all countries could follow their path. And the more each did, the more America and Europe would benefit. In deeply Catholic Poland, Bush sprinkled his speeches with religious references, but they were about Christianity as a universal creed, a moral imperative that knew no civilizational bounds. By contrast, when Trump warned Poles about forces "from the south or the east, that threaten ... to erase the bonds of culture, faith, and tradition," he was talking not about Christianity but about Christendom: a particular religious civilization that must protect itself from outsiders.

Perhaps Mr. Beinart should have been more precise here.  While it is true that Donald and Bannon and company define the West racially, there is no need for the rest of us to cede the definition to such people.  

As the Long War--the Cold War included--demonstrated much of the West did not always share the values of the Anglosphere.  While we reached the End of History--with its requirements of democracy, protestantism and market capitalism-- by 1776, much of continental Europe took another two centuries to accept the inevitable.  But the End is not just accessible to--indeed the destiny of--Europe but of people everywhere.  Prime examples like India and Japan are, of course, Western, having both had the advantage of being Anglo-American colonies.  Indeed, the point Fukuyama and W were making is that everyone can become Western and that there are, in truth, no viable alternatives.  

To the extent that Mr. Beinart accepts Donald's definition of the West he is making a threshold error. To the extent he meant to implicate that definition, demonstrate that it is Donald's and that it is racist, he is correct.



Posted by at July 9, 2017 7:04 PM

  

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