Barone on Blame America First

Monday, March 19, 2007
Michael Barone has another fine article up on who we are and who we are not:

The default assumption predisposes them to believe that if there is slaughter in Darfur, it is our fault; if there are IEDs in Iraq, it is our fault; if peasants in Latin America are living in squalor, it is our fault; if there are climate changes that have any bad effect on anybody, it is our fault.

What they have been denied in their higher education is an accurate view of history and America's place in it. Many adults actively seek what they have been missing: witness the robust sales of books on the Founding Fathers. Witness, also, the robust sales of British historian Andrew Roberts's splendid "History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900."

Roberts points out almost all the advances of freedom in the 20th century have been made by the English-speaking peoples -- Americans especially, but British, as well, and also (here his account will be unfamiliar to most American readers) Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders. And he recalls what held and holds them together by quoting a speech Winston Churchill gave in 1943 at Harvard: "Law, language, literature -- these are considerable factors. Common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice and above all a love of personal freedom ... these are the common conceptions on both sides of the ocean among the English-speaking peoples."

Churchill recorded these things in his four-volume history of the English-speaking peoples up to 1900: the development of the common law, guarantees of freedom, representative government, independent courts.

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