Monday, February 05, 2007

D.J. Tice: the syncopated drummer

Spot doesn't ordinarily read The Big Question at the Strib. Eric Black seems smart and well intentioned, but sometimes he's so damn earnest he makes Spot's teeth hurt. And then D.J. Tice got added to the mix, at first just a malign hermit crab, but now metathesizing into a fatal stain of sophomoric blather. And this guy is Katie's editor. God help us all.

Consider the latest tour de farce from D.J. Here's the lede:
Yes, as Eric said in his post last week , if Bush’s policies result in a lasting loss of America’s overseas credibility that would become a count against Bush’s historical reputation. Considered in itself, a loss of world support can’t be a good thing.

Yet everything depends, does it not, on whether foreign opinion is well-founded? Hardly anyone — future historian or contemporary citizen — would worry much about hostile foreign opinion if they believed that Bush’s policies were just and necessary. And those who judge Bush policy misguided and malignant would presumably go on believing so even if Indonesians and Finns disagreed.

So this can easily become another proxy argument - just another way of debating our own views of Bush.

Right, D.J. Say, D.J., do you know what people who march solely to their own syncopated drummer, who only look to their own gut for the truth, who only obey the voices in their own heads are called?

They are called psychopaths.

The world's greatest miseries have by and large been caused by characters who are in tune only with themselves. Consider just a few from the last century: Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot. Spot is sure they each thought foreign opinion was waaay off.

Only somebody possessing the basic human empathy of a mushroom would suggest that the world, yes the whole world, might be wrong, and we, especially the dim-witted, incurious George might be right. It is a proposition beyond laughable. Would that it were only the Indonesians and the Finns who disagreed with us.

D.J., do you really think the world is incapable of understanding the United States? We had the sympathy and support of the world after September 11, 2001. It is only when we became unhinged and began our titanic dissembling about Iraq that we began to lose that goodwill.

D.J. concludes his homily with a little ode to American exceptionalism:

In truth, though, America is different from the rest of the world, always has been, and always has inspired a bewildered mixture of admiration and contempt. In a 1924 essay called “The Strangeness of America,” English essayist G.K. Chesterton could write: “I really did feel as if I were on another planet when I was in the United States.” Elsewhere, he marveled that:
“If it comes to thinking, to questioning… [n]o people have done it less than the American people. The great mass of the American people remain, both for good and evil, stolidly, stubbornly, astoundingly conservative in their ideas.”

(G.K. Chesterson Collected Works, Volume XXXIII, pages 266, 380)

Spot suggests a little more contemporary commentator on the myth of American exceptionalism: the historian Howard Zinn:

The notion of American exceptionalism—that the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary—is not new. It started as early as 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when Governor John Winthrop uttered the words that centuries later would be quoted by Ronald Reagan. Winthrop called the Massachusetts Bay Colony a “city upon a hill.” Reagan embellished a little, calling it a “shining city on a hill.”

The idea of a city on a hill is heartwarming. It suggests what George Bush has spoken of: that the United States is a beacon of liberty and democracy. People can look to us and learn from and emulate us.

In reality, we have never been just a city on a hill. A few years after Governor Winthrop uttered his famous words, the people in the city on a hill moved out to massacre the Pequot Indians.

D.J., Spot says to knock off the sanctimonious and self-absorbed twaddle, read some foreign newspapers, and for God's sake, stop thinking that the US has some kind of moral authority.

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