A nation of ideas and ideals
: I spent last week vacationing in Williamsburg, soaking in history along with sunlight (thank you, God) and beer (ditto) and Busch Gardens water rides (a price of paternity).
Now it so happens that my son soon has to appear as Thomas Jefferson in a fourth-grade wax museum (no, I don’t know what that is; it sounds like a teacher’s clever way to get a little quiet — “Johnny, make like wax!”). Anyway, it was fortuitous that an ersatz Thomas Jefferson happened to be speaking to a large assemblage of citizens (and tourists) behind the Governor’s Palace the day we were there. My son stood at the feet of the great man and soaked up his ever word on a digital recorder. 1774 meets 2002.
I soaked up his words as well, for I found everything he had to say all the more relevant these days.
After the speech, while taking a walk with my son, I told him that now is a particularly good time for us to study our history, for we need to remind ourselves of what we’re defending as others attack us; we need to remember the ideas and ideals we stand for; we need to reaffirm our belief in America. I’m not usually quite that dull and pontifical a dad (or at least I hope I’m not), but I meant what I said, for that afternoon, I heard Thomas eloquently recite our democratic creed:
We believe in the right to free assembly and free speech.
We believe in the right of a people to elect their government.
We believe in the right of a people to self-determination.
We believe in freedom of religion.
We believe it is the responsibility of the majority to protect the rights of the minority.
We believe a government should represent its people.
We believe all people are created equal.
This is what we believe as Americans. This is what we as Americans brought to the world now more than two centuries ago. This is the touchstone of modern civilization. This is democracy.
Now look at the combatants in the Middle East. How many uphold the right of their people to elect their government? One. How many do not allow their citizens free assembly and free speech and freedom of religion? Too many. How many treat all their people as equal? Too few. How many are fighting against the right of the Jews and the Palestinians to self-determination? How many of these people are attacking us for these beliefs, these ideals and ideals?
Sorry to be so basic, so obvious, so fundamental. But I do think it is time to remind ourselves of these fundmentals. And I could tell that most or all of the 200-or-so citizen-tourists on that green lawn were inspired to hear Thomas Jefferson remind us of them, especially now
: Andrea Harris echoes the same sentiment, less sentimentally:
One effect of September 11th, on me anyway, was the immediate banishment from my psyche of any vestiges of the belief that there was something inherently wrong with being an American. Anyway, Opinion Journal is starting a new pro-Western Civilization column: The Western Front. Some might quibble: how much more pro-Western can the Wall Street Journal be? But not me.
That column at Opinion Journal begins with something that will warm the hearts of many a blogger: a slap at a journalism prof.
“The problem with America,” a college professor told me recently, “is that it can’t get over the idea that it is somehow special among nations.” His name is Robert Jensen and he teaches journalism at the University of Texas, Austin. He’s flat wrong. The problem with America and Western civilization in general is that it lost confidence in itself and started accepting relativist arguments….
The main purpose of this column will be to argue for rebuilding confidence in the West’s ideal of human freedom–spiritual, political and economic liberty….
Now it’s time for Western culture to stand up again. Worries about imperialism, especially cultural imperialism, should be cast off. Global free trade isn’t imperialistic; it’s the spread of a natural right, economic freedom. Demanding that a country respect its people’s basic rights isn’t imperialistic, and neither is standing for an unfettered media.
The column has its predictably shrill moments (trying to blame the media for a lack of pride in all Western civilization… oh, give it up, Journal). And we still need to guard against jingoism and blind nationalism and smug superiority. We are not better because we are American. It is our ideas and ideals that are better. Indeed, as the column ends:
Yet whatever its failures, the West is worth defending. Indeed, it is in rising above these shortcomings that give hope to the world, establish peace among men and spread freedom to lands that have known only tyranny. We hold these truths to be self-evident. Let’s start acting like it.
Tom would be proud.
: Via Matthew Haughey, an impressive new meeting of Alexa and Google: search for a site and find out what people who visit that site also visit and find the links and a traffic ranking. Try NickDenton.org. (I am apparently disadvantaged by switching urls to buzzmachine.com; it hasn’t scraped me for a bit under the new address.)
: The NY Post — with its cousin, the Weekly Standard — have a sizable package today demanding action on anthrax and arguing that it’s lazy of the feds to assume that this was a domestic attack. Here’s the Standard piece, plus a Podhoretz column taking on the FBI, plus a Post editorial:
Sadly, we have no answers this morning – just a growing conviction that Washington, and the FBI in particular, aren’t even asking questions.
The power of celebrity
: Here’s an observation Lileks and fellow parents of young ones will understand; others won’t.
Tonight, Nick Jr. had a special saying goodbye to Steve, the host of Blue’s Clues (he’s “going to college”) and saying hello to his “brother,” Joe, the new host of the show. It was an event in my 5-year-old’s life.
What’s amazing is that even young children now understand the power of celebrity.
This, too, is American.
Los Ahngeles in the summah
: It’s sad when a Californian — a Southern Californian, a Southern Californian politician — tries to act all continental cosmopolitan — and fails.
I was listening to NPR this afternoon report on the breakup of Los Angeles (potentially losing the Valley, the port, and Hollywood and leaving… what?) when the mayor complained that he didn’t want to see the city become just a bunch of enclaves.
But he didn’t say enclave. That is, he didn’t say en-CLAYVE or ahn-CLAYVE.
He said ahn-clahve.
It was a small moment. But I enjoyed it.
Rossi’s art show is on
: Details here.