Thursday, September 3, 2009

FOREIGNER - August 27, 2009

One of the difficult aspects of spending a lot of time in London is that I frequently find myself called upon to justify the actions of DC or else to join in condemnation of our government. The worst is when I am in sympathy with the basic orientation of the questioner but am conscious of what I take to be his oversimplifications. A great deal of what I hear is blanket assaults on what is taken to be flaws in the US character. Thus I often find that when the DC government has taken up demands by liberal foreign columnists to “do something” about a foreign situation and the actions of US are reflections of incidents in our history, then I try to draw the point that they cannot make that kind of a demand without taking responsibility for our doing it in a way that manifests our national history. Thus when Obama makes gestures or pronouncements in line with what he takes to be the understanding of US about what happened in the past, that must be expected of a leader in a nation which has been governed in the past by other men in accord with their understandings and a people that still thinks that way. An example concerns the statements of Obama based on US understandings of our history in Iran, where we and UK colluded in 1953 in overthrowing an elected government to install a military regime under the Shah, and other similar cases. Explaining US belief without subscribing to it can be taken as waffling. I t results in answering the kind of expressions like those of Rev. Wright last year. He had a position I understood, but not one I subscribed to, and I did not join in the general condemnation, nor did I attempt to justify it. It is even harder when I am abroad. It is also something like the position of soldiers who do not join in the official beliefs, but are in a situation where they are called upon to defend them, and do what they take to be their duty.

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