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The new America First
By Ron Capshaw
As a historian studying and teaching the 20th century, I have often thanked my lucky stars that I was not alive during the Spanish Civil War. That conflict demanded some hard choices: support the Loyalists, in spite of the support of the Stalinists who took every opportunity to drain any democracy from the cause, or support the rebellion, backed by the Nazis. I hope I would have supported the Loyalists, but having learned about Stalinist behind-the-lines purges courtesy of Orwell and Dos Passos, I might have joined the neutrals -- a difficult position even stateside with Catholics screaming at liberals and Communists over the conflict. I would have then felt trapped between two extremes.
Such a dilemma is not thrust upon me by the September 11 attacks. The Left and Right have produced something far more sinister. There is no screaming across the aisles. Instead, elements of the Left and Right have joined together. Call them the new America Firsters...blame America first.
That the academic Left expresses these sentiments is not surprising. For years, as a graduate student, I have listened to tenured professors, nurtured by the money of the "evil, fascist American Empire," extol the virtues of anyone aligned against this country. Stalin. Castro. Mao. All are worthy of academic admiration as long as they are against this country. And all the evils of the 20th century are America's fault. America's encirclement of the Soviets provoked Stalin's repressive policies at home. America caused Pearl Harbor. America economically exploited Europe through the Marshall Plan. America caused Pol Pot. America caused the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. And now, having a seemingly inexhaustible desire for masochism, America caused the September 11th attack. A Rutgers professor: "we should be aware that, whatever it's proximate cause, its ultimate cause is the fascism of U.S. foreign policy over the past many decades." Dr. Edward Said, a tenured Columbia professor, blames the September 11th attack on a rightfully-earned US reputation among Middle East countries when he states that "the official US is synonymous with arrogant power."
All of the evil amoral equivocations of the sixties-for example, the United States is as bad as the Soviet Union-have now been surpassed by the academic left. American actions are worse than the September 11th attacks. Nation magazine writer Robert Fisk: this attack supposedly pales in comparison to "American missiles smashing into Palestinian homes"; David Reynolds who states that the United States has engaged in "the worst kind of terrorism" reveals something about the academic left that I have suspected for quite a while: that their stands are motivated not by a specific ideology so much as a knee-jerk anti-Americanism. How else does one explain their refusal to blame the fundamentalist terrorists, who, if they were American fundamentalists, would be attacked without question by these same academics?
And irony of ironies, they are joined by some figures on the right. In a statement after the attack, Jerry Falwell implicitly elevated the attackers to agents of God by representing the attack as God's vengeance on a sinful country. Recently, Dr. Laura Schlesinger praised the garb of Afghanistan women as an expression of decency and then contrasted it with the American women who "dress like whores." (Never mind that Afghanistan women's garb is not so much clothing as "chains" fastened on them by a misogynist regime that attempts to hide female individuality as something shameful; and never mind that her choice of description for American women sounds suspiciously like a Taliban spokesmen).
Both segments of Left and Right concur that something is desperately wrong with America. For the Left, the country is fascist; for the Right, it is secular. Both are sins in the eyes of these people. They differ in the areas they cast blame upon. But the sentiment is still the same: a kind of reflexive anti-Americanism.
Far different from 1938 when Right and Left attacked each other over the Spanish Civil War. In this conflict, they have joined together, knowingly or unknowingly.
This is Ron Capshaw's first contribution to Enter Stage Right.
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