February 14, 2006
This Water Has No Edge
When Dhimmi of the Month nominee Al Gore made his scurrilous attacks on the United States, many conservative pundits (or "pundants," as the president might say) made much of the fact that "there used to be an unspoken rule that politics ended at the water's edge." A commenter to that post, MTF, suggested:
The only other possibility is that he thinks the core voters on the Dimocrat side are blindly accepting and loyal, and his supporters just won't care what he says, or whom he speaks to, just so long as he squeaks enough anti-American rhetoric into the speech to satisfy the base.
This got me thinking that there is another possible reason why none on the left seems concerned that Gore made his remarks in a foreign country: it's possible that people are actually starting to lose the distinction between America and Abroad.
We see this also in the courtroom, even the Supreme Court, where some of the justices -- notably Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter -- have begun citing foreign statutes and even foreign court decisions (!) to decide American cases. It's hardly surprising that politicians (particularly those on the Left) travel freely to other countries and there express highly political sentiments without much regard to where they are or who they're addressing... they're always addressing the "international court of world opinion" anyway.
(I suspect most members of "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" are internationalists at heart, anyway.)
But I think what it really means is that people in general (not just Democrats) are starting to lose the idea that there is any difference between one location on Earth -- even here in America -- and any other.
With the advent of worldwide news, a broadcast from Karachi or Tokyo or Rwanda-Burundi looks and sounds the same as one from New York or Houston. It no longer "feels" foreign. The big distinction is between local news (about your city, your neighborhood) and "in other news," which means anywhere else; there is no longer any distinction between national and international news. A viewer sees a clip of Gore talking, and he can't tell where Gore is... so therefore, it ceases to matter.
Foreign correspondents may still live in the country of their posting; but what people see are the anchors, who typically don't travel; they converse with people in the foreign location as if they were in the same room. Even when they do go "on location" (a Hollywood term, by the way), they pop in, do the story, maybe stay overnight at the local Hilton, and then reappear back in New York the next day.
Because of the speed of modern travel and the excellence of communications, even in East African or South Asian hellholes, getting to or broadcasting from a foreign country really isn't any harder than getting to Chicago or Los Angeles... it just takes longer. And the cities even look the same, whether Buffalo or Beirut... excepting only some wartime damage (but no worse that we often see in American news about riots).
For this reason, I'm afraid the very distinction has been lost. I've noted this phenomenon before, but regarding history: because our schools do such a poor job teaching kids about the vast sweep of history, most people I talk to seem to think of all history as one undifferentiated mass called The Past, and that everything in The Past more or less happened around the same time. Thus, the Peloponnesian War, the Civil War, and Vietnam all happened roughly the same time -- in The Past -- and Thomas Jefferson routinely picked up the phone and called his friend Alexander the Great for wartime advice.
(TV shows like Xena probably contribute to this problem; even though they did it tongue in cheek, what sticks is that every historical figure was around at the same time, and what's more, they all knew each other!)
The loss of distinction between the United States and other countries is just as serious, because it entails forgetting the very concept of American exceptionalism... the idea that there is something unique and special about the United States that we should cherish. When our own Supreme Court looks, not to the Constitution of the United States, but to the caselaw of the European Union to decide American cases, we have a terrible, terrible problem.
We really are different; and among those differences are that we allow far more freedom of speech here than elsewhere. Most European countries have laws literally criminalizing "hate speech," which they define as anything at odds with established liberal EU protocols. Thus, saying "Islam as a religion is far too accepting of terrorism by its most extreme believers" would literally be illegal in quite a few EU countries, because it could be called hate speech against Moslems.
In America, we understand that a person who says such things is just expressing his own opinion. We even accept anti-American statements; we dislike them, but contrary to what Democrats say, we don't round such people up and put them in Gitmo (the Democrats seem to have confused us with their favorite European countries).
But since other countries, especially tyrannies like Saudi Arabia, do not have such freedoms, the people there tend to assume that any sentiments expressed by top politicians must be more or less official positions of the American government. I know this is true in Japan, for example, because Sachi reads a lot of Japanese bulletin boards; and that is exactly what they say: when American politicians go abroad and to make scurrilous statements, their listeners assume they're speaking for the American government.
That is why we used to hold that "politics stops at the water's edge": since you're assumed to be speaking for us all, you should restrict yourself to sentiments that we all share. But with the loss of the distinction between the United States and other countries, folks have lost their core understanding why it should matter more what someone says abroad than what he says at home... and also what the American Constitution says more than what laws in other countries say.
The two phenomena are intimately linked, both deriving from the same problem: with an increasingly worldwide society, the water no longer even has an edge. Gore merely made a "campaign stop" in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, just like he might make one in Concord, New Hampshire. He likely doesn't see the distinction, even today... or why saying something anti-American in the former should be any more or less offensive than saying the same thing in the latter.
All he knows is that the crowd loved him, they just loved him... in the Middle East.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 14, 2006, at the time of 4:13 PM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/487
The following hissed in response by: RattlerGator
Dafydd, you nailed it. However, I think it may be a bit worse than your presumed. You said, "He likely doesn't see the distinction, even today," but I believe he sees it.
And that's what makes it worse.
He simply believes he's SUPERIOR to the distinction, because he and his folks are a more evolved kind of American. I fear this is a mentality that might easily lead to traitorous conduct.
The above hissed in response by: RattlerGator at February 14, 2006 8:00 PM
The following hissed in response by: MTF
There's always been a Euro wing of the American liberal thought. Thomas Jefferson, Exh. A of that traditionally French oriented wing, in addition to his more positive contributions was also a man who tried to aid and abet French provaceteurs and spies operating in the country just after the war.
I think you saw nascent opposition to the general Democrat support for military action in Iraq only arise when France opposed the run-up to war (remember how worried they were about their oil investments in Saddam?). So, I believe there is a "France" wing or, more generally, a Euro side to the party.
But I think saying the Democrats have gone "world citizen" on us turns the traditional view of their internationalism on it's head a bit. The influence has always originated in Europe and exported here to be incorporated into American Democratic thinking. I'm hoping Abu Al has just gone Frenchy on us, like Kerry, and like Ginsburg and Souter before him. Hopefully, we're not going to see the Democrats turn into originators and exporters of anti-American rhetoric. That would really be bad news for all of us.
The following hissed in response by: Portia
Actually, Gator and MTF, I'm going to have to agree with Daffyd on this one. I think Al-gore has really lost the distinction. As have many in the Democratic party. This ties in with things like the "rights" of terrorists captured on the field. You can't convince these people that they're non citizens, they aren't conducting conventional warfare and they have no rights. It also ties in with motor voter. I cannot for the life of me convince these people that not everyone living in the States should have the right to vote. Trust me. I've tried. I expect the next "offensive" will be "healthcare for the world." (And yep, it will be offensive alright.)
The following hissed in response by: Portia
I am also going to have to confess to extreme issues with double letters. Sorry Dafydd. :)
The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman
" But with the loss of the distinction between the United States and other countries"
I don't think that sentiment exists among Jacksonian Americans, and that is a demographic group that the Democrats have completely lost, as a matter of fact, acts like those of Al'Gore, just solidify our rejection of the Transnazi (Transnationalist) Progressive agenda.
In addition there is a demographic group that the media never seems to acknowledge that might be swayed by Acts beyond the water's edge.
I speak of the 25 Million Vets in this country ,their families and friends. You realise how many VOTES they represent?
The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman at February 15, 2006 5:02 PM
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