Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Don't tread on me

I am not an aggressive guy. I am a college professor who lives a pretty dull life in genteel surroundings. I am not a fan of contact sports like boxing or football or hockey. I do not hunt or shoot. True, I am fond of action movies, but even there excessive violence can turn me off.

Americans, of course, are known historically for combativeness. We are stirred by patriotic slogans like "Don't tread on me" and "Live free or die". One of the reasons that the Civil War was so long and so bloody was that Americans were fighting Americans. Our icon is the cowboy, whose six-shooter is for killing snakes and bad men.

So am I just some sort of decadent. post-American effete academic snob?

This post at the Diplomad tells about a movement in the EU, in the wake of the Prince Harry furor, to ban Nazi symbols throughout Europe. When I read it, my hackles were definitely raised.

Nazis -- sure, I hate those guys. But this is bigger than Nazis. It is pretty clear that a lot of Europeans just don't comprehend the whole free-speech thing. The Brits and the Canadians are better, but even they go wobbly from time to time. Don't they get it? Don't they understand that a government that can outlaw stupid speech to promote peace and harmony can also outlaw important speech for less admirable reasons? Don't they see that this is exactly the difference between being servants of the state and citizens whom the state must serve? Or maybe they do understand; they just think that the state should be in charge of the people. Well, who the heck do these guys think they are? I'd like to see them try that sort of crud on this side of the pond! Idiots. Weasels. Makes me glad we cut the cord in 1776.

Hmmm. Seems I may have some American DNA after all. This is interesting. Because if that sort of underlying reflex is still alive in an decadent effete academic snob like me, then it remains a powerful force, no matter what the chattering classes say.

"American" is not an ethnicity, not a genetic identity. It never has been, really, and is less so as the decades go on. It is a memetic identity, a set of learned instincts that are transmitted from generation to generation. And the most powerful of these has to do with freedom, and with our indomitable willingness to defend it.

Update: Edited to soften language somewhat. Hmmm. My hackles were raised.


Blogger Prof. W. said...

Are you really decadent and effete? All the things you cite (no fan of contact sports, do not hunt, etc.) apply to me as well but I think of myself as lazy but never effete. I may be decadent but I am hoping the anti-leprosy pills take care of that.

While I am making stray comments - one should keep in mind a little noted benefit of free speech: it allows you to more easily see who the idiots are. A fine example of the information being transmitted is not the information that is received. I think it may be useful for the Brits to know that Harry really is a bit of a berk.

Another example of this aspect of free speech was provided just minutes ago by Senator Boxer, Democrat from California. Sure, you might argue that she should not be allowed to waste the valuable time of Condoleeza Rice by complaining that people "have seen terrible things in Iraq." (Of course the good senator does not tell us why it is okay for Iraqis to see terrible tings there (as long as they are committed by Saddam) but it is unconscionable that Americans should be exposed to such things.) But by allowing Boxer to speak her mind ( or whatever body part induces speech in that person ) we can clearly see what a sand-poundingly stupid ankle- biter that our good frinds in California have representing them. Of course, there is also the comic relief provided by such speech.

2:01 PM  

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