Sunday, June 01, 2008

The "Anti-Europe"

I have never been fond of popularity polls nor I do care one bit what the rest of the world thinks of the United States.

With that in mind, here is an interesting post from Canadian blogger Ghost of a flea:

"The Telegraph observes European anti-Americanism, describes America as a force for good and somehow concludes Americans need to project a better image in Europe. Americans - most likely inbound from Instapundit - respond in the comments. One of my favourites.

I'm always slightly amused by these inane popularity polls. Anyone who knows just a bit of the history of this country knows that our forefathers thought very little of Europeans. Europeans were considered as corrupt and effeminate (little has changed in 232 years). America was by design the "anti-Europe." The fact that Europeans hate us today means we are doing something right. John Adams must be smiling in heaven."

And some additional musings from USS Clueless:
"(Europe) looks across the water and sees a nation made up of immigrants from all over the world, but especially and mainly immigrants from Europe. Thus he expects us to be just like them.

Yes, the majority of Americans are descended from European immigrants. But those who came here were not the same as those who stayed behind. It was the slum dwellers who came; the "huddled masses yearning to be free". It was the Irish tired of being starved, who abandoned Ireland and moved to a richer place, so that now there are more Irish living in the United States than in Ireland. It was the Dissenters, those whose religions subjected them to legal discrimination in England. It was the Jews, tired of pogroms. It was the Poles, the Czechs, the Italians, the Spaniards, the Swedes. It was Russians and Bulgarians and Greeks and Turks and Georgians. It was the peasants, abandoning the strict class structure of Europe which held them on the ground. It was the city dwellers, who worked 14 hour days in the mills for a pittance, until they died from brown lung. It was the racial minorities, who were routinely oppressed there, and even exterminated. And it was mostly the poor, the underclass, those who felt they were condemned to a life of misery, who seized the opportunity for a better chance and a new life.

They abandoned everything. They left behind family and friends; everything they had ever known. They took a few poor belongings, sold everything else to pay for the steamship ticket. They crossed the ocean and left that all behind; they came to America and started over. They came through Ellis Island, and became Americans. Many of them even left their names behind and took new ones, the better to fit in.

The United States is made up of people whose ancestors hated Europe. They came here to get away from what Europe stood for; they came here because they wanted something different. And they were resolved not to let this nation become another Europe, because they'd seen the worst Europe had to offer.

They left a place which was socially stratified, which had a caste system, and in the US vowed there would be no such system. They left a place full of dictators and tyrannical monarchs, and built a nation where the government answers to the people and can be peacefully ousted by free and fair elections. They left a place where the government told them how to worship, and came to a place where the people told the government to keep its hands out of religion. They left a place where news and history was whatever the government said it was, and came to a place where there was a right of free speech and free press, where a man could criticize the government without disappearing afterwards.

Some of them revolted against European domination and created a nation built on a different philosophy. Others came later and joined it because they liked what it stood for. The most patriotic Americans have always been its first generation immigrants.

They wanted a place where they could work, and succeed, and keep what they had earned; and not have it taken from them for their own good by a paternalistic government.
The people who came here brought with them what was good about the cultures they came from, but they also left a lot behind that which wasn't worth having. The pieces they kept then merged together into a rich and flavorful stew, a true melting pot.

The resulting culture of the United States is emergent. It is more than the sum of its parts, and it is not like any of its parts. The United States is not "New Europe". It isn't immature Europe, which will eventually mature and become just like the old country. The United States is something completely new. We are a foreign country. In a very real sense we are the anti-Europe. And we value other things than Europe does. Those who liked how Europe handled things stayed there. Those who thought it stunk came here.

These differences are not a temporary aberration which will be corrected with time. The United States isn't going to become more like Europe as time goes on; if anything, it will diverge as its culture is yet again modified by an influx of new immigrants, this time from the South and West.

Each generation in America is strengthened by a new flow of immigrants. Now that flow is from Latin America, and Korea, and Japan, and the Philippines, and India, and Viet Nam, and China, and Taiwan; they will bring with them the best of their nations, and they will leave behind the worst, and America will change again. It will change for the better. And it will become even less like Europe. In fifty years, more than half the population of the United States will not be of European descent.

It is no wonder that the Europeans are bewildered by the US, and vaguely frustrated. They expect the US to be New Germany, or New France, or New England. But even New England isn't actually; Boston is not New London, and New Hampshire isn't Hampshire recreated on American soil. New York bears no resemblance to York. New Jersey is nothing like Jersey. Those are only names; the reality is that America is now alien.

As long as Europe tries to see the United States as an outgrowth of European culture spawned in the New World, as long as it looks in the mirror when it thinks it looks west, it will continue to be confused by us as we keep acting in ways they cannot explain."

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