Monday, November 27, 2006

Another Frenchman Who Doesn't Get It - And An American As Well

Francois Heisbourg, Director of the Foundation For Strategic Research in Paris, and onetime advisor to Francois Mitterand.
Europe defends a secular vision of the world. It does not separate matters of urgency from long-term considerations. The United States compensates for its shortsightedness, its tendency to improvise, with an altogether biblical assurance of its transcendent destiny.

The last clause shows the inability to understand. America does not believe that it has a transcendent destiny. We believe that certain ideas are right, and the right way to run a country. It is the ideas we believe are transcendent, not our plot of land, or the particular people who live here, or our collective DNA.

I am absolutely sure I am not the first person to point this out. I couldn't be. Therefore, this alternative explanation has long been available to European thinkers. Yet its meaning eludes many of them. Somehow they cannot believe that this is so - our protestations to the contrary, Americans must really believe that it is they themselves who are special. We like our ideas because they are ours, not because they are actually better.

Disagreeing with another culture's ideas is a perfectly honest and acceptable stance to take. But to not be able to understand suggests a deeper pathology, a refusal to apprehend an uncomfortable truth.

We had a similar situation over the weekend in which Congressman Charles Rangell stated that people volunteered for the military because they didn't have other good opportunities. It is not just that he misreads the data. He damns himself with his own words, declaring for all to hear "I have no idea what this duty, honor, country, patriotism is. Whatever enlistees say, that can't possibly be their real motivation. There must be something else."

Francois, Charles - thanks for pointing out what is beyond your comprehension.

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