What is America? Place or Idea?
by rich kolker, Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 05:05:27 AM EDT
I am puzzled.
I am puzzled that people I know, who seem otherwise well informed and reasonable don't see what I see when I look at Iraq, when I look at George W. Bush, when I look at the state of the United States, its government, and its role in the world.
It's not education, because many of them are as well educated as I. It's not age, or region, or religion (although all those are contributing factors.)
I am circling in on the idea that where we part company, ultimately, is in our view of the United States. They see it as a place, and I see it as an idea.
If you think of the United States as a place, 50 states and a few odd territories mostly on the continent of North America, with about 250 million residents, limited but bountiful resources, then an attack on that place becomes of primary importance, worth almost anything to defend against or fight back to prevent recurrence. The Bush administration and neo-con wing of the Republican Party plays to "America as Place" to justify its actions: war in Afghanistan, Patriot Act, war in Iraq, holding people without either status as a criminal or a prisoner of war. All are justified as part of protecting "America as a place."
On the other hand, if you, as I do, see the United States as an idea, then these actions become not only unjustified but counter to protecting our country. United States as idea believes that wherever Americans live by the principles and laws of our nation, beginning with those ideas embodied in our Constitution and reflected in the Declaration of Independence, that place is America, whether those people are in Kansas or on the Moon. To the extent that anyone acts contrary to those ideas, or works to prevent Americans from living by those principles, those are the enemies of our nation, no matter whether they live in a cave in Afghanistan or a condo in New York City or government owned housing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.