Thursday, August 10, 2006

Americans will die for liberty

The post's title is also the title of an article published in The Telegraph today, written by British journalist Andrew Gimson. The article is short and sweet, making it very difficult to excerpt, but I'll try to find the highest of the high points.

Americans will die for liberty

The Americans are more old-fashioned than us, and what is equally admirable, they are not ashamed of being old-fashioned. They know Churchill was a great man, so they put his house on the map. There is a kind of Englishman to whom this sort of behaviour seems painfully unsophisticated.

We are inclined, in our snobbish way, to dismiss the Americans as a new and vulgar people, whose civilisation has hardly risen above the level of cowboys and Indians. Yet the United States of America is actually the oldest republic in the world, with a constitution that is one of the noblest works of man.

While Europe has engaged in the headlong and frankly rather immature pursuit of novelty - how many constitutions have the nations of Europe been through in this time? - the Americans have held to the ideals enunciated more than 200 years ago by their founding fathers.

The quiet solicitude that Americans show for the comfort of their visitors, and the tact with which they make one feel at home, can only be described as gentlemanly. These graceful manners, so often overlooked by brash European tourists, whisper the last enchantments of an earlier and more dignified age, when liberty was not confused with licence.

Again some Europeans will give an unkind smile. All this sounds so Puritan, so naïve and so self-righteous. We cannot help feeling that the Americans ought to have been able to settle their quarrel (the Civil War) without killing each other, and, while we cannot defend the institution of slavery, we wonder whether the North had the right to impose its will by force.

These are vain quibbles. The North went to war and was victorious.

The Americans are prepared to use force in pursuit of what they regard as noble aims. It is yet another respect in which they are rather old-fashioned. They are patriots who venerate their nation and their flag.

The idea has somehow gained currency in Britain that America is an essentially peaceful nation. Quite how this notion took root, I do not know. Perhaps we were unduly impressed by the protesters against the Vietnam war.

It is an idea that cannot survive a visit to the National Museum of American History in Washington, where one is informed that the "price of freedom" is over and over again paid in blood.

But when the Americans speak of freedom, we should not imagine, in our cynical and worldly-wise way, that they are merely using that word as a cloak for realpolitik. They are not above realpolitik, but they also mean what they say.

These formidable people think freedom is so valuable that it is worth dying for.
You really need to read it all. The Telegraph offers its readers the opportunity to make comments on many of the newspaper's articles. I sent The Telegraph a comment. I wrote,

Thank you.

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