Tags: America: | The | Un-Europe

America: The Un-Europe

Wednesday, 08 May 2002 12:00 AM

My forebears came to America not only to live in America but also to get away from Europe. The same was true for millions of other families.

Who, after all, decides to leave the homeland of his ancestors, probably never to return? Someone who is rich and successful? Someone who owns property and has servants? Someone who enjoys the benefits of a good education? Someone who is satisfied with the way things are?

No, one who decides to uproot himself and his family must overcome the fear of traveling to a distant land, where he will have to learn a new language and new customs. He must leave familiar surroundings and people, and hope to make new friends and adapt to new surroundings.

In short, he must discard the past and trust in the future.

Why would someone want to do that? Specifically, what would he want to get away from?

In some cases, immigrants wanted to get away from crushing debts, and occasionally from criminal charges. More often, they wanted to escape persecution for having the "wrong" religion, or being from the "wrong" ethnic or social group. As a rule, immigrants did not "fit in" with the status quo.

They did not want to be forced to follow their fathers' trades. They did not "get along" in the class system. They did not "take orders well" or "keep in their places." To the contrary, they wanted to go to a country where, in Lincoln's words, people were less interested in who their grandfathers were than in who they were.

They wanted the freedom to practice their religion openly, or not practice it, or convert to another religion – and so long as they were good neighbors and hard workers, few would notice, much less persecute them.

It is only natural that a nation peopled with such self-selected individuals would value individualism highly. This has its drawbacks. Loss of the "neighborhood" and breakup of the extended family may be the prices we pay for individualism.

But a nation of individualists doesn't stratify itself into rigid social or educational classes. It doesn't segregate itself into ethnic or religious groups from which it is difficult to escape. Rather, it tends to see people as people, not merely as representatives of their social class or ethnic group.

A nation of individualists uses accents to tell from which part of the country one comes, not whether one is a member of the "in" group. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush needed no speech coaches to become president.

In contrast, though she graduated from a prestigious university, Margaret Thatcher had to hire a speech coach to rid her of her "working-class accent" before she could be taken seriously – and eventually become prime minister of Great Britain.

What we consider irrelevant is believed by Europeans to be important – accent, religion or lack of it, social "class," and ethnic background. We do not dwell on history, even our own. To paraphrase Lincoln, we are less interested in where we have been than in where we are going.

Europeans spend much of their time looking backward. Perhaps that is why they so often fall into holes. In the past century they fell into some really deep ones – Nazism, fascism and communism. In so doing, they hurt not only themselves but also the whole world.

How many tens of millions were slaughtered worldwide by these "isms"? How much human misery have they produced – and still produce? How many future despots studied in Europe, or at least got their ideas from there? Recall Ayatollah Khomeini, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Chairman Mao.

The destructive influence of Europe continues to this day. Jew haters in the Middle East are printing and circulating Arabic translations of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," an anti-Semitic forgery by the Russian czar's secret police.

Even the "religious" fanatic bin Laden may be an example. True, he exhorts his followers to mass murder and suicide bombing with the resultant 72 virgins. But if you can get past that, you find a hatred of capitalism and Western culture that would make a communist or an anti-world trade activist proud.

Question: What do you get if you take Middle Eastern religious fanaticism, then add Nazi hatred of Jews, communist hatred of businessmen, and European contempt for America?

That is, what do you get if you take a religious zealot and add a dash of Hitler, a pinch of Stalin, and a spoonful of European "intellectual," then bake it in the desert sun?

Answer: Bin Laden and those like him.

I studied European history, even if it is filled with ethnic and religious strife. I appreciate beautiful cathedrals, even if they are almost empty of worshipers. I enjoy great art and music, even if almost all of it was created centuries ago. I love European history, because that is where Europe's greatness lies.

But the glory has departed. In fact, it's long gone. What remains is a hotbed of "isms" that vie with one another to be the most destructive. What remains is a place almost devoid of religion but still filled with bigotry. What remains is an area almost empty of Jews but still filled with anti-Semitism.

What remains is a place rich in museums and concert halls, but from which little art or music now originates. What remains is people who look down their noses at American culture, but whose current art and music are often poor imitations of it.

What remains is people who, unlike those who left for the New World, dwell in the past and are fainthearted about the future.

What remains is moral relativism, cowardice and indifference – cloaked in the mantle of nonviolence and objectivity. But sometimes the mantle slips, revealing what lies beneath. It is not a pretty sight.

What remains is people who are proud of their history, but who ignore the ugly parts of it. ("Centuries of anti-Semitism? Pogroms? The Holocaust? No problem, the Israelis are occupying the West Bank, so now we're even. Let's go burn a synagogue!")

What remains is history books filled with stories of brave soldiers who defeated powerful tyrants, but cities filled with living cowards who dare not confront two-bit dictators today. ("What, our oil may be cut off? Quick! Kiss the Saudis' behinds, and if necessary, their camels' behinds.")

What remains is people who talk endlessly of their "pride" and "honor," but who think only of their profit. ("Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction? Nonsense! We do business with him.")

What remains is cemeteries filled with American soldiers, airmen and Marines who died to rescue Europe twice, but people who ceaselessly condemn America for being too "militaristic." ("Gratitude? We don't need no stinking gratitude!")

When "intellectuals" moan that we are going against what the Europeans consider wise, we should be reassured that we are doing the right thing.

When foreign policy "experts" warn that we may have to go it alone, we should be grateful that we are not following in the footsteps of those who started two catastrophic world wars with their folly.

And when universities are filled with people who condemn our leaders, we should be proud that those who most resemble Europeans are against us. That is a good sign we are heading in the right direction.

America is the un-Europe. Our founders planned it that way, thank God. Two centuries of immigrants kept it that way, and so should we.

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My forebears came to America not only to live in America but also to get away from Europe. The same was true for millions of other families. Who, after all, decides to leave the homeland of his ancestors, probably never to return? Someone who is rich and successful?...
Wednesday, 08 May 2002 12:00 AM
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