Thursday, March 25, 2010

American Expatriates at Home

It seems at least one other besides myself is moved to comment on the Left's penchant for Europhilia. (Or is that Euromania?) At any rate, the difference between those Americans who feel a strong natural kinship with Europe and those whose devotion to all things European is of another order altogether is telling.

I was stationed in England for a little over three years in the mid-1980s. A wonderful experience. Both my children were born there in fact. But while the experience was great, it was also instructive as it served to confirm virtually everything I was later to learn more formally about the differences in political culture between Anglo-America and the Continent, as well as between the U.S. and Great Britain.

While the distinctions are several, the relevant one here is deference to the state. The European reflex towards compliance is noticed immediately by the average American, or at least by the average American who volunteers to serve in the armed forces and happens to be posted in Europe. What makes it so obvious is that this deference is operative even in otherwise small matters. One anecdote may serve to illustrate.

In Great Britain, like here, one had to pay an annual tax/registration fee in order to operate your car. The shorthand for the fee was the "MOT", for Ministry of Transportation. As we Americans would say, no big deal. But for the British it was a big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that they could become agitated about it. If your windshield sticker showed you were overdue, they would not only notice it, but also point it out to you, and even become upset when you would with nothing more than a shrug of your shoulders promise to get around to it when you had a chance. This behavior on their part was so noticeable that among my squadron-mates it became the source for humor. We would joke that were there a five-car pile-up on the dual carriageway (interstate highway), the police, rather than attending to the dead and wounded among the piles of twisted metal, would first inspect the surviving windshields to ensure the MOT was indeed paid up.

For me, as an American, this difference between Americans and Europeans, that is, our less than reflexive deference to the state, is more than simply noteworthy, it is also a genuine source of pride. And I'll wager I'm not alone. Therefore, among the many other things wrong with this new health-care law, is that it violates this aspect of the American character and the political culture that springs from it.

The difference also explains why so many on the Left wish America were more like Europe.

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