For those of you interested in the general topic – how Europeans see us – I’d like to suggest two articles. The first is Bruce Bawer’s “Hating America” in Hudson Review. We follow his mood swings, beginning as an amiable American abroad, moving into a more defensive mode, and then concluding with a thorough summary of current works on the topic. His last paragraph points not only to a major difference between Americans and Europeans, but also perhaps the greatest indicator of a divide between red and blue values—religion. Of course, as he notes, this is a good deal more complex than either the blue states or Europeans realize.
That some of America recognizes “human nature” and some of America (and much of Europe) does not is a theme we return to again and again (and will again and again). Of course, it is not that arguments are merely between Europeans and Americans, nor among each. We start from broadly differing definitions of what it means to be human.
In one of my earlier posts a comment was made (perceptive because it cut to what I meant better than I had), the comment addressed Sowell’s distinction between “constrained” and “unconstrained” thinking. [Yes, I apologize -thanks for fact checkers like Dr. Weevil] It seems to me that we might also describe that as between people who recognize human nature, with its frailties, and the tragic nature of our life versus those who see man as pure, unfettered will. The former has problems with abortion; the latter detests limits, even being tied to biology – arguing that sexuality is itself culturally defined. The former is going to see checks and balances as necessary; it is less likely to trust institutions defined by man. The latter finds utopian schemes attractive. Of course, the latter is idealistic, but it is also foolish and in the twentieth century such thinking has led to more than fragmented psyches, but also death camps. Well, you might say, that is painting with a broad brush. Yes, it is. We’ll leave the arguments for another day. Instead, I’ll give you the last paragraph of Bawer’s essay.