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Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden

Will the USA Lose the
Idea of “the American?”

By Roland Poirier Martinsson

You are not an American if you threaten immigrants with iron bars.

Translated By Grace Olaison

3 December 2012

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Sweden - Svenska Dagbladet - Original Article (Swedish)

We do not applaud in church. Once at the St. Sebastian Catholic Church, in Sebastopol, California, a guest band played a hymn with such fervor that the congregation turned into an audience and broke into spontaneous applause. The priest, an Irishman of the old school, rose from his chair and roared, “No applause!” He subsequently explained that mass is addressed to God, and it was misdirected acclamation to celebrate its participants.

Nonetheless, one exception was allowed. It was Veterans Day a few weeks ago, a day on which military personnel who have served their country in war and peace are honored. The priest concluded the sermon by asking all the veterans to stand up. A total of 20 men and women rose, some so old that they probably served during World War II. It was impossible not to think of the demons that they live with. What horrors did they recall? Which dead friends did they miss? Which dead enemies could they remember?

This was after the election, which the Democrats won more convincingly than anyone had imagined. Three concerns have characterized the post-election debate:

First, will the Democrats and Republicans unite, in the short term, over measures to avert the fiscal cliff — growth inhibitory effects that will automatically come into effect in the next financial year if no compromise is reached on economic policy — and, in the long term, to address the budget deficit and national debt?

Secondly, what do the Republicans need to do to win again? Obviously emerging voter groups are not attracted by the right’s content or appearance.

Thirdly, has the traditional notion of "the American" disappeared in the U.S.? Has the people's thirst for freedom, pioneering spirit, courage and empowerment, their responsibility and Christianity, gone? Is the American electorate’s instinct now demanding more security from the state and jealously punishing success?

I have a conservative view of society. This means, among other things, that I think such changes take time. Cultures move like glaciers: Weather may change and fool us into believing that dramatic things are happening, but the climate is what it is — we wake up one day and note that nothing really happened; it was just a low pressure front.

American nationalism is unique, and though one can fill entire books discussing its characteristics, I think it can be summed up by two things. The people feel that they are part of a larger context, for which sacrifices are self-explanatory: It is more important to give to one’s country than to demand of it. The people are defined by their participation in the idea of their country: an exceptional society, open to all who submit to the idea of equal and fundamental freedoms. Such is the agreement. You are even an American if you are an immigrant; however, you are not an American if you threaten immigrants with iron bars.

The mass on Veterans Day ended with the traditional "America the Beautiful"; there wasn’t a dry eye present, and again there was applause. We'll see what happens in politics in the coming months. It is an open question as to whether the Republicans can rise to the occasion when the next election comes around. But the USA will remain the USA in the foreseeable future. The country will rise again. Centuries-old identity will not be deleted without further notice.



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