"Excessive, that’s the word. Any European can instantly spot us Americans by our excessiveness. I lived there for years, and I know."
The instructor had asked our discussion group to sum up America in a word, much as St. Paul once cast all Cretians as “liars and beasts.” An affluent-looking man in a jogging suit answered first, scorn in his voice: We are an excessive people.
Americans, he said, consume too much, talk too loud, presume more than we should. Others leveled similar criticisms. America is grossly materialistic. America is overly assertive.
Everyone’s assertiveness so far had been on the side of self-dislike. Aren’t we a generous people as well, the instructor prompted. Now voices chimed in from the other side. Americans are optimistic, innovative, resourceful, religious. We’re spirited and confident. We’re friendly.
Were the boosters entirely right? No. Did the critics have a point? Sure. But on that Sunday here in the land of liberty, the lap of plenty, I was troubled at the sourness toward our country expressed by some of my neighbors. I was struck by the hesitancy of others to admit their patriotic pride. I saw anti-Americanism, the virus from abroad, now infecting the homeland.
Anti-Americanism denies that the United States is a force for good in the world and a noble chapter in human history. It indicts our nation – and its people, you and me – for a dark litany of crimes, flaws, transgressions, and omissions. It ignores America’s virtues and magnifies our deficiencies. It abandons perspective, unleashing envy and ingratitude,
The anti-Americans are like spoiled children. They confuse imperfection with malice, resent what belongs to others, and condemn as abuse any refusal to indulge them – while petulantly demanding avoidance of consequences and continued enjoyment of unearned benefits.
This infantile mindset obviously serves the fanaticism of an Ahmadinejad in Iran, the opportunism of a Chavez in Venezuela, the cynicism of a Putin in Russia, or the chauvinism of a Chirac in France. But the United States is resourceful and generous enough to deal with all those. It helps that we know many of their own people admire America and would love to come here.
Whether we can survive the spread of anti-Americanism among Americans themselves is another question. Disavowal of our country’s fundamental goodness, blindness to the evidence of how many people she has liberally blessed for so long, denial of America’s worthiness to lead the world – these attitudes gaining among our elites do constitute a deadly virus.