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American Identity is Not Globalist

In a column this week for The Washington Post, Michael Gerson laments the passing, at least in his imagination, of a time when America was interested in helping and cooperating with other nations. “Why is our political moment not just pathetic but also traumatic?” writes Gerson. He goes on to claim the presidency of Donald J. Trump has destroyed something precious and unique about the American character. Gerson draws upon the history of America’s involvement in World War II, backed by some beautiful words from former presidents to show what he understands as the immaculate diplomacy of Truman, Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, and to call out what he deems the complete mess Trump is making.

Gerson writes that we have always understood there to be a “practical and moral role for America in the global defense of free governments and institutions,” and to a certain extent, I agree. But Gerson is wrong to suggest, as he does later in the article, that this moral role of America is now dismissed as “globalism.” To make matters worse, he argues Trump is “staggeringly ignorant,” “unfamiliar,” and “unmoved” by the brilliance and moral fortitude of his predecessors. Trump, asserts Gerson, sees America as “a nation like any other nation, defined by ethnicity and oriented toward narrow interests.”

Gerson’s words echo today’s establishment and patronizing leftist rhetoric of “this is not who we are.” His language is reactionary and based in emotionalism rather than logic and reason. They appear also to be inspired by what has become known as “virtue-signaling,”—a conspicuous morality that attacks the opponent as uncaring and cold-hearted without ever bothering to understand one’s opponent as he understands himself.

One of the major problems in Gerson’s article is that he either misunderstands or misrepresents what his opponents mean when they attack “globalism.” He writes that America is “the nation that liberated death camps, rebuilt our enemies, inspires dissidents, welcomes refugees, secures the peace on every contested frontier…this does not make us ‘globalists;’ it makes us Americans.” But opponents of globalism have not voiced absolute opposition to any of these things as a matter of principle. They have only argued that all of these very worthy activities must be secondary to the primary task of securing the liberty and security of our own people. If America is not safe and free, we can’t be a beacon of hope to anyone.

But Gerson’s purpose in the article is not to entertain fine distinctions. It is, rather, to attack and discredit Trump and his administration. To do that, Gerson has made a meaningless connection between globalism and America’s founding principles. Since Trump and his supporters do not follow the faulty ideas of globalism or consider that America has duties to the far corners of the world that take priority over those here at home, Gerson wants to suggest that something is off with them. Something is wanting and inhuman in them, he seems to imply. He does this by equating globalist ideas and policies with the very foundation of America and, in effect, he has indirectly called Trump, as well as his supporters, un-American.

He’s wrong in his conclusions and wrong on his facts. America’s founding principles are not based on a care and concern with the liberty and equality of all the peoples of the world. On the contrary, America was founded to secure the liberty and sovereignty of the American people. Our Declaration of Independence staked a claim on behalf of the American people, which is rooted in their universal human equality, but depends upon them to actualize it. This is everything that globalism is not.

The globalist mind desires destruction of borders, elimination of American exceptionalism, the instituting of “global citizenship,” and ultimately, the annihilation of differences among cultures. At its core, globalism is collectivist and driven solely by an overarching ideology that does not distinguish between universal oughts and particular political realities. It does not allow for individuality, and just like Gerson’s rhetorical appeal, it relies on evoking emotions based on a deeply false perception of what can be accomplished in the here and now.

Inadvertently, Gerson manages to pose an important question: What does it mean to be American? In order even to partially answer that question, we first have to affirm there is such a thing as an American identity and that it is something unique and distinct from other identities. “Being American” has to entail some difference between a citizen who belongs to another nation, or is an apostle of the foundational principles of another nation. If Gerson wishes to protect and preserve American identity, since Trump is supposedly eroding it, then a good start would be to not speak in favor of globalism.

But this is the name of the intellectual game today: contradiction. The more theoretical contradictions you pile up, the more confused the consumers of media will be. The people will have a harder time recognizing a false argument, and the resulting confusion will only be appear to be untangled by an appeal to emotion, which may result in anger or sympathy. It’s an interesting strategy for a guy who also likes to accuse Trump of demagoguery.

Whatever may be the outcome of these faux debates, it must be recognized and acknowledged that we are facing a collective crisis of language. Every word means something other than what it claims to mean, and Gerson’s attempt to equate American ideals with globalism is just the latest example. As consumers of media, it is up to us to be vigilant and skeptical of what we see and read. And we have every reason to expect that in politics, especially, there is a massive effort underfoot to confuse and dupe us about the meaning of America.

It is perfectly fine to disagree with Trump and his approach to diplomacy. Arguments about the wisdom or the lack of wisdom regarding a particular policy are legitimate and fair. But such disagreements and the arguments supporting them have to be grounded in real claims about the meaning of Americanism. Gerson’s argument falls flat because of its misrepresentation both of Trump and of the meaning of globalist ideology.

More than an attack on Trump, Gerson’s article is an example of shoddy research, weak argumentation, and just plain bad journalism.

12 replies
  1. vb
    vb says:

    I remember when we were supposed to be the shining city on the hill. Today we seem to project shutting down speakers at universities, accusing others of being transphobic, and supporting women like Sansour who push for sharia law. The shining city elements of our society have been covered in mud. We need to clean ourselves off and show all the decent people who help their neighbors, give to charities, and don’t act like victims.

  2. AtTheTable
    AtTheTable says:

    Nicely stated, Ms. Melonic. I think though, that a deeper critique of that thing you call ‘globalism’ is required if people truly are to be in the position of remaining ever vigilant. It is clear by now, that reality is different for globalists, and arguably can include a diversity of people, a plurality of opinions, and a healthy respect for differences. However this all remains within the globalist bubble, which is significant in terms of numbers if we use the standard 10% rule of thumb cited whenever discussions about wealth and disparity occur. Outside of this bubble of course, is a different reality, the reality that more closely approximates the world you write about.
    So, why is this distinction important? Because for 10% of the world’s population, roughly 700 million people, globalism as espoused by the current batch of globalists is a great deal. This is an ecosystem that will remain viable for a long, long time. The gap will increase of course between these globalists and the new international peasant class. It will be one thing to convince the 90% who do not make up this globalist world that what is being peddled by today’s establishment is dangerous. It will be quite another to win over enough of that establishment, where most of the authority will lie of course, to adjust the direction we all seem headed.
    Cheers

    • hamburgertoday2017
      hamburgertoday2017 says:

      Gerson’s ‘globalism’ is really a ruling class ideology. It really has nothing to do with respecting actual cultures, but, as Ms. Melonic points out, replacing those unique, actually-living cultures with the culture-annihilating ‘global’ culture, created, controlled and administered by a global ruling class. This is why all ‘culture-making’ institutions (in the US, at least) are bent on destroying any loyalty towards — or even understanding of — being an ‘American’.

      This is why the schools teach American history using Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States’ instead of Paul Johnson’s ‘A History of the American People’. Zinn’s ‘history’ is essentially an anti-American screed and makes no attempt to provide a balanced view and context for the events portrayed, whereas Johnson’s does. So why Zinn’s and not Johnson’s? Because the first step in brain-washing is to create active doubt where passive certainty once existed. This is a technique developed long ago by the Jesuits, but was wholeheartedly embraced by communists as part of their approach to ‘reeducation’.

      Gerson is not presenting an argument but engaged in propaganda. The goal of propaganda is not to cultivate understanding but to induce reaction. By bringing certain words in relation to each other to create an emotional response — ‘Trump’, ‘ignorance’, ‘narrow interests’ — the goal is induce a reaction to the word ‘Trump’ without truly understanding what why one is having that reaction.

      Thus, you meet people who despise Donald Trump but actually cannot explain why they do so other than to repeat words and phrases that they associate with ‘Trump’.

  3. countryboy1947
    countryboy1947 says:

    I learned more about American history, in high school in the early 1960’s than this fool has learned in his entire life.

    During my youth we were taught that America is UNIQUE as in the entire world no other nation has the freedom and opportunity Americans do.

    And it is still the greatest nation on the planet, despite this idiot trying to tear it down with his leftist ignorance of history!

  4. Monsieur Voltaire✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ
    Monsieur Voltaire✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ says:

    I still can’t come to grips with the fact that these spammy posts can’t be automatically deleted on such sites as this.

  5. hamburgertoday2017
    hamburgertoday2017 says:

    Ms. Melonic, as usual, does an excellent job of dissecting Gerson’s jeremiad.

    In rhetoric, an appeal to emotion can be used to emphasize the importance of an arguable point. However, if the rhetor is operating in good faith, they actually have to provide an argument for the point they wish to emphasize. What Ms. Melonic is pointing out the use of emotion to create the illusion of having a point and failing to make the necessary argument. Gerson is using emotion as ‘connective tissue’ for otherwise disparate and, as Ms. Melonic points out, contradictory positions. This is a sign of ‘bad faith’ in public communication.

    Gerson is also using another ‘bad faith’ rhetorical technique: When one cannot argue on the details, attempt to shift the argument to abstractions. Arguing via abstractions is not intrinsically bad, it’s what philosophers do all the time, but if a rhetor cannot use the phrase, ‘For example…’ and follow up with something concrete, they are simply avoiding the hard task of making an argument at all.

  6. sotto voce
    sotto voce says:

    So Gerson thinks Trump views America as a nation like any other, defined by ethnicity and narrow interests? Isn’t that exactly the way Obama described America, repeating his slander to our friends and allies as he circled the globe on his apology tours? He lectured us that greatness was a quality any country could claim. And like all good progressives, Obama was obsessed with ethnicity, convinced melanin confers virtue. His determination to dismantle America’s standing in the world was based on a flawed view of history and a belief that America doesn’t deserve to lead.

    • 1952rmdg
      1952rmdg says:

      Gerson, like HRC, thinks that most Americans are deplorable, and as Brett Stephens wrote in his NY Times op-ed last summer should be deported and replaced with 3rd world immigrants, whom Stephens and his crowd think will provide the quasi-slave labor to ensure that they enjoy comforts much like the elites in 3rd world countries – in other words, as Michael Lind wrote in his circa 1996 book, The Next American Nation, “you’ll either have a maid or be one”. What these idiot savants want is something resembling Brazil or Mexico, but they are much to stupid, self-deluded, and short-sighted to see the horrible costs, e.g., crime, social dysfunction, etc., that will be paid by most people, and even them, unless they are as wealthy a Michael Bloomberg.

  7. jstrong365
    jstrong365 says:

    Globalism. Definition by AG. “destruction of borders, elimination of American exceptionalism, the instituting of “global citizenship,” and ultimately, the annihilation of differences among cultures”

    If that is the definition, Micheal Gerson is an anti-globalist. He is a believer in American Exceptionalism. So this is a “crisis of language” as the author states. She picked out one word and said Gerson doesn’t know what it means.

    American exceptionalism is a doctrine that says we are uniquely positioned to lead the world. Gerson believes this administration is abandoning that role and ceding it to China. The author is silent on his critique. She may in fact reject the concept of American exceptionalism. Who knows

  8. bscook111
    bscook111 says:

    Gerson is simply another staff swamp creature, of exceedingly limited intellect, still wedded to a past of failed ideas and policies. Amercica was the global be-all end-all from 1942 through the demise of the Soviet Union, especially 42 through 50 or so. The rest of western civilization was on its lips, on its ass, or on her back in the case of France. America no longer has the overwhelming capacity for that role and the western world simply does not want it… not even the primary Anglo world. The world is becoming inexorably Hobbesian, Machiavellian, and more suited to Metternich or Napoleon than Obie and the Kumbaya. Trump gets it and is movign America to her safe place.

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