baltimoresun.com

« Take it all off | Main | Joke of the week: "The Headache" »

I wonder why they hate America so

No, I am not talking about Muslim fundamentalists. I think I know why some of them hate America. We are a secular society that has embraced values contrary to theirs, and like the imperial powers of history, we have troops garrisoned among them.

Rather, I wonder why so many Americans appear to hate America—not because we have expanded our military reach around the globe, but because we are a secular society that allows people to embrace values they don’t like: multiculturalism, gay rights, feminism, science. It’s odd that they should dislike and fear Muslim fundamentalists, with whom they seem to have a good deal in common.

I briefly tuned in to a radio interview with Patrick Buchanan the other day. He has a new book out, Suicide of a Superpower, and he was talking in that reasonable-sounding light tenor about his alarm that white Christian people are losing control.* And though I am not using him as a template for conservatives or suggesting that anyone who is not a liberal Democrat is racist (I’m talking to you, Gary Kirchherr**), I see that he is tapping into a widespread anxiety.

For demographic reasons, America is becoming more multicultural. It won’t be long before African-Americans and Americans of Hispanic descent will outnumber white Americans. Younger Americans are more tolerant of homosexuality than older Americans, as reflecting in polling that shows gradually increasing support for gay marriage. Add economic anxiety as people lose jobs or their houses or their retirement funds or all three because of forces over which individual have no control, and you have people feeling threatened and nervous.

This, Karen Armstrong argues in The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, is a common thread among fundamentalists in all three of the great monotheistic traditions. Modern scientific, secular society is difficult for them to accommodate into more traditional beliefs, and their reaction is to embrace extreme forms of those beliefs. Tolerance, like multiculturalism, becomes a fighting word.

I would like to see some ground for optimism in things like the changing attitudes toward homosexuality. If more people could see, as I have seen, gay couples in long-term committed relationships—some that have lasted longer than my marriage—they might cease feeling threatened. Or in the profound disgust the public has developed for the current Congress—both posturing, ineffective parties in it. And there are those demographic trends, so deplored by Patrick Buchanan, and so promising.

My sister found my grandmother’s recipe for corn pone (not the corn pone of Mississippi or Tennessee, I think, but a denser, sweeter cornbread that she baked in a bundt pan), and I plan to taste it again soon. The Hamilton Tavern recently introduced a pork belly banh mi (itself a multicultural artifact, blending French and Vietnamese traditions) of which I am inordinately fond. I love and honor the foods my grandmother cooked in Kentucky in my childhood, but I’m not prepared to forgo the delights I’ve discovered as an adult.

This humble example should help to explain to you why I would not care to live in Patrick Buchanan’s whitebread Elysium.

 

*In his own weird way, Mr. Buchanan is an Originalist. The Founders, after all, were almost exclusively white male Protestant property owners, and they thought that the country ought to be run by white male Protestant property owners. But the White Protestant Ascendancy eventually came around to admitting Catholics, and even some Jews, to the club. May we hope for further expansion?

**Mr. Kirchherr is a fellow editor, and we share many views on editing but differ politically. I write this librul pap, and he makes sharp retorts. I doubt that we will ever agree politically, but when I write here I have to think more carefully about what I say and its implications, so that I write more precisely. Awareness of the gravitational pull of opposing views is one of the things that help to pull people into balance.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 8:30 AM | | Comments (7)
        

Comments

I especially like that last sentence; it resonates with the sort of gravitas our Founding Fathers probably had in mind.

Roughly half of people who told the 2000 census that they were Hispanic also said they were white. (Almost all the rest said their race was "other.") I don't know what happened in 2010, but it isn't obvious that Americans who say they are white will be a minority any time soon. And Asians are already grouped with whites for many purposes (to their disadvantage, sometimes, as in college admissions). There is, I think, a status of "honorary makes-no-difference" available for people of any race who want to claim it (a point Joe Biden made about Barack Obama before he joined the ticket).

Woo, Embarrassing Hed Typo.

If white Christians are losing control, all I can say is, it's about time. I type this while holding my grandson on my lap, who is three and neither white nor Christian. Perhaps when he grows up that will matter less. Also, control isn't all it's cracked up to be. In Theodore Sturgeon's wonderful story "The Nail and the Oracle", a general asks the Oracle (a computer program) "If I eliminate the president, what can I do to assure personal control?" The Oracle replies, "Don't eat a bite till your execution."

And fundies hate their counterparts in other religions because such groups always hate heretics much more than mere pagans, Christianity being a Jewish heresy and Islam a Christian heresy in origin. Sometimes they make tactical alliances, as Jewish and Christian fundies have done over Israel, but that's all.


JEM: Typo fixed. Maybe it's time someone took away my car keys.


I'm not quite sure that the nation's fundamentalist Christian 'faction', or their closely ideologically aligned politically conservative far-right brethren actually "hate America", per se, but these seemingly intransigent folk, in the face of our increasingly secularist, multicultural, multiethnic, and pro-science/ technology leaning evolving 21st century American society, appear to be desperately, w/ a most self-righteous conviction, cleaving to a vision of a bygone, predominantly Christian, white, and often intolerant-of-minorities'-rights-and-personal-freedoms kind of myopic America.

(Whew! I think I was channeling the long-winded Garrison Keillor on that one. Is there an editor in the house? Boy, was that a rhetorical question, or what? HA!)

Clearly, America has had its share of shameful episodes of mass fear, and loathing of The Other-----a sociological aberration known as xenophobia----- from the outward hate directed at early Eastern European Jewish immigrants to our U.S. shores, to the animas leveled at impoverished Irish Catholic newcomers to our eastern seaboard, particularly in New England; and in most recent memory, the official forced detainment of thousands of Japanese U.S. citizens in remote internment camps during World War II.

Whenever our nation experiences challenging economic times----our current fiscal malaise from the 2008 market downturn onward, as a fresh case in point---- many self-labelled true-blue native-born Americans often seek out convenient, vulnerable, highly visible (or even imagined) scapegoats in their midst, to in a sense project their worst fears, pent up anger, frustration and resentment, feeling that the America-of-old, that they loved and cherished, is fast disappearing, eclipsed by a new foreign, alien specter. Somebody out there is to blame for the sorry state of affairs in this country. It's got to be THEM! No?

The likes of political pundit/ failed conservative politician Pat Buchanan, and put-my-foot-in-my-mouth-yet-again TV evangelist, Pat Robertson, continue to preach to their respective narrow-minded choirs, spewing their Rightist rancor and fundamentalist gibberish, further muddying the increasingly fetid waters of public discourse, while abetting the continuing marked polarization of the American polity.

But enough soap-boxing for now.

Prof. McI., I echo your views on the changing attitudes re/ homosexuality in America, and the seeming gradual, more positive turn, of late. Sadly, the more sexually promiscuous, generally younger minority of gay folk 'out' there perhaps get more undo media attention than those many relationship-committed, monogamous gay and lesbian couples who have shared their lives for decades, leading, in the main, most upstanding, loving, productive, dare I say 'normal,' lives.

Thankfully attitudes are changing in this regard, as particularly our younger generation of Americans appear much more open and understanding in areas of sexual preference than their elders re/ acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights and lifestyles.

As Lady Gaga (one of my favs) is wont to say...... "I was born this way."

ALEX

P.S.:

Caught a very eye-opening TV network news piece earlier this week on a most dire situation facing a major apple grower in Washington state.

With the first Fall frost soon approaching, and this apple grower/ entrepreneur having over half his bumper crop of apples still hanging from his trees, he is hard-pressed to find willing folks to pick his soon-to-be-frozen, and potentially spoiled fruit.

In years past, like many commercial Washington apple growers, he had primarily depended on his crew of seasonal 'undocumented' workers from Mexico, or Central America, to do the labor intensive picking of his apple crop. But w/ the buckling down of the Feds I.C.E. (immigration department) on itinerant illegal seasonal migrant workers, and his former Latino foreign laborers not willing to risk possible arrest and deportation, this particular guy was facing an imminent major crop failure, and devastating financial hit come the first sub-freezing spell, w/ the possible folding of his once-thriving family business which had been highly profitable for decades.

Apparently, he did aggressively advertise for local pickers, paying well above the state minimum wage out of sheer desperation. And yet very few native-born Americans were willing to sign on, and engage in the intensive backbreaking work where a quota of some three tons of apples are expected to be hand-picked on any given day, per worker.

So much for the once highly vaunted American work ethic.

re the preceding comment on the labor crisis in Washington state: It's a very similar situation in Alabama, which has recently adroitly shot itself in the foot by instituting a strict no-illegal-immigrants labor law. Result: There are virtually no "hard-working Americans" willing to do the back-breaking agricultural work that the migrant Mexicans have always done so willingly, and so well. The United Farm Workers for some time have had a standing offer on this website that I find to be brilliant: www.takeourjobs.org ... it speaks volumes for all who claim that "illegal aliens" are destroying our economy. The situation is obviously exactly the opposite.


Bruce,

Picking up paw-paws, put 'em in a basket.
Picking up paw-paws, put 'em in a basket.
Picking up paw-paws, put 'em in a basket.
Way down yonder in the (Alabamy)* paw-paw patch.

Well it appears this year's crop of Alabama paw-paws might be in jeopardy......... "Alex, i'll take "Fed Guest Worker Program" for $2000." (Groan)

Indeed, Bruce, I read about that recent bone-headed move by the Alabama legislature.

Clearly old habits die hard in the tradition-bound Deep South------once a bastion of the pre-Civil War, slaved-based plantation economy. Of course employing seasonal illegal farm laborers from Mexico and Central America at less than the minimum wage, providing little, if any social welfare benefits for said workers (in essence, modern day slavery), was perfectly kosher for decades until I.C.E., in their infinite wisdom felt that it was high time to majorly stem the human tide of these seasonal undocumented stoop laborers invading our borders, w/ the Alabama State Legislature following in lock-step accord w/ the Feds' most recent official labor clamp down.

Apparently, for most red-blooded, able-bodied Americans, working in the bountiful produce fields and orchards of this great nation, being exposed to the vagaries of the elements and getting true grit under their precious fingernails, while being offered what most would regard as a paltry hourly wage, is just totally beneath their station in life. And yet many of these same hard-labor averse folk vociferously complain that "those damn Mexican illegals are taking all our American jobs." Right.

For the diehard anti-illegal immigration camp, any suggestion of an officially legislated government seasonal guest worker program for 'foreign' laborers smacks of a slippery slope scenario leading to that dreaded possibility of blanket amnesty for those thousands of undocumented individuals already residing on U.S. soil.

I submit that if regular able-bodied, unemployed American citizens are unwilling to take those arduous, back-breaking, physically demanding hands-on farm labor jobs that hundreds of willing-and-able Mexicans, Guatamalans, or El Salvadorans are more than happy, and most competent to perform, then from a purely pragmatic perspective it would seem like the adoption of a guest worker system is the only reasonable, economically viable solution to the current agricultural labor deficit dilemma.

Otherwise, if nothing is done, once economically thriving farms and orchards across this country will be forced out of business, and into bankruptcy w/ their valuable produce virtually rotting on the vine, and withering in the fields, w/ nary a cotton-pickin' stoop worker in sight.

Cesar Chavez must be tossing in his grave these days.

¡Ay, caramba!

*I added the "Alabamy" bit to the old paw-paw refrain.

ALEX

If the Yeatsian Mcintyre/Kircherr center should ever be reached, please put a bullet in my brain, left or right. I prefer the fight.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
Baltimore Sun Facebook page
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected