Wednesday, April 05, 2006

There is a certain feeling that is evoked when you say to people you are going to Washington DC. There is a certain feeling that is evoked when you are here. Am I an "almost citizen" on my way to visit the imperial capital of the world? To pay tribute to our rulers who defend us from the barbarian hordes at the gates? Or am I travelling into the citadel of the enemy of humanity, the evil empire that launches wars and invades countries because it cannot accept the existence of the different. Or am I going home: going to the state which was built from the revolutionary principles of Tom Paine and the country that twice in the 20th century came to the rescue of European democracy. The state that now seeks to spread democracy and the values of liberalism across the globe - by force if necessary? The country in which I now sit, enjoying the most amazing cherry blossoms I have ever seen, is more misunderstood and misrepresented than any other country on earth.

The anti-American left and right in Europe needs the US to be the Antichrist. We have reached the point at which there are no objective conditions, demonstration of facts or even sustained actions that would shake the conviction that everything the US does is cynical and everything it says double-faced. And yet, as everyone who has ever met an American or travelled in America knows, there is no one America. America is pluralism as a system of life and government. And I do not mean consumerism or lifestyle choice, though you will find more tolerated diversity in the big cities of the US than in those of Europe - for all our condescending European sophistication. Nor do I mean manners. The Americans have better manners, more day to day kindness and civic respect that any European country I know, except perhaps Denmark.
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