Sunday, November 21, 2004

Freedom Of Speech

One of the things many people love about America is it’s freedoms, especially the freedom of any Michael Moore-on to step out and speak his mind no matter how uninformed or foolish his positions may be. Last week, both Keith Stern and John W. Vorder Bruegge replied to a letter I wrote. While they are welcome to their opinions, they are not welcome to their own facts. Facts are not like shades of color. We can quibble over the hue of a color or the interpretation of a fact, but the fact itself is either true or false. In educated discussion we deal with the true facts and leave the false ones aside. The claims made by both Stern and Bruegge are so rife with falsity that it begs the question of where they get their information. I take the trouble to provide sources to bolster my opinions. Moreover, the source should be reliable, responsible, and factual. I took the time to respond point-for-point to their opinions at my web-blog; you can find them at (Bruegge) http://jmstettner.blogspot.com/2004/11/reply-from-bruegge.html and (Stern) http://jmstettner.blogspot.com/2004/11/reply-from-stern.html.

My parents taught me to read-behind-the-text, to parse what a newsperson is actually saying. They also taught me to get my news from a variety of sources then merge them into a cohesive, fuller understanding of events. An excellent case in point is the recent flurry surrounding Colin Powell. Barry Schweid (AP News) wrote a piece on Nov. 19 that he titled “Powell States Preference for Diplomacy” which, in today’s parlance, reinforces the notion that he opposed war in Iraq and favored further diplomacy. That canard has been fostered and nurtured by the mass media and just couldn’t be further from the truth. In his first sentence Schweid makes his case: “Powell is acknowledging differences with others in the Bush administration and suggesting the disputes centered on his preference for diplomacy over force to resolve problems.” Please note the word “suggesting” which suggests to me that this point is an inference drawn by the reporter rather than an actual quote from Powell. A few lines down, Schwied quotes Powell more directly: “But if we can avoid the use of military force with diplomacy, through a political action, that is what we should try to do, and that is what President Bush tried to do...I have supported him in that effort.” The real story is not Powell’s preference for diplomacy, who’s not for diplomacy? The real story is that 12+ years of diplomacy failed and Powell supported the option to go to war, as he laid out in his UN address.

It’s all in how you read or listen to the news. Do you passively absorb what they give you or do you aggressively question it, masticating it till you really have a handle on it? During the election and it’s lead up we heard a lot of talk about our “allies”. That description never seemed to apply to England, Poland, Australia, Spain, and the host of other countries allied with us against Saddam Hussein’s regime. The people who whimpered about our “allies” (and still do) never enumerate them. To do so would expose the ridiculous nature of the claim. The “allies” they refer to are, of course, France, Germany, and Russia. Given the recent disclosures and discoveries, I just have to laugh at anyone still giving lip service to this claim. We know that highly-placed government officials of these countries were receiving bribes in the form of cash and oil to oppose the US. It is also clear that these same allies had been selling all manner of weapons to Iraq. The weapons were prohibited and the sales illegal which they knew because they had signed agreements that made them so. Weapons like the Roland-2 SAM made in France on May 11, 2002, sold to Iraq, and used to shoot down AF Major Jim Ewald on April 8, 2003. In addition, we know that highly-positioned functionaries within the UN, including Kofi Annan’s son (and possibly Annan himself) were also reaping profits from Oil-For-Food. So much for old friends and alliances.

Nov. 18 was the opening of the Clinton Library. That morning, I happened to be at an appointment with a lady from Switzerland who had her TV tuned to CNBC’s Chris Matthews. He and some talking heads were cooing over the “rock star” President and (taking their cue from the library’s treatment of the subject) trying to outdo each other rewriting the history of Clinton’s impeachment. The insufferable stroking prompted this otherwise gracious and stately lady to comment on how far “the current administration” has wandered and how Americans need to remember that without Europe “you wouldn’t be here, there would be no America, it wouldn’t have been discovered..” I was floored but propriety kept me from responding. This says it all to me, though. Our “allies”, the cultured and urbane of Europe (and Canada) look down on Americans. I am not one of those who proudly proclaims, “without America the Europeans would all be speaking German,” but there’s a limit. I guess I missed the part where Switzerland discovered anything. I didn’t miss the part where the Swiss provided an income to the Nazi war machine by trading in Jewish gold. Spoils the Swiss to date have still not fully admitted to nor returned. It’s just more revisionist history. Europe ‘discovered’ the ‘new world’ and what did they do with it? They raped, pillaged, robbed, and ruined it. You could ask the Aztecs or Incas, if they weren’t all dead. Lest we forget, it was Prince Henry of Portugal who modernized the African slave trade in Europe and it was Sir Francis Drake of England who delivered the first African slaves to North America. The Pilgrims were, as were many early colonists and most immigrants, escaping from Europe. The Americans cast out the Europeans when we removed their oppressive yoke.

There is an American culture that is the antithesis of European culture and the Europeans and American elitists just don’t get it. Zhu Dake, a Chinese author, wrote, “unashamedly this American government turns its back on the traditional western values of Europe.” “...the face of official America resembles that of a bureaucrat in Brezhnev’s Kremlin, lacklustre, self-righteous, unfeeling and uneducated,” writes Vladimir Sorokin of Russia. Liberation, a French newspaper, editorialized, “the Texan’s conservative values are also those of a large majority of Americans.” Le Monde printed, “...America has become more conservative, more religious and more unilateralist.” Germany’s Die Zeit, I think said it best, “The Americans have become more traditionalist, religious, moralistic, and patriotic.” And they think this is a bad thing. Of course, in Italy you have the best-selling erotic biography of the 15-year old girl who’s had more sex with more partners than most people I know combined (soon to be on sale here in the states).

America did destroy the culture of the Native Americans and we did keep blacks in slavery and deny them civil rights, but what happened here for less than 300 years doesn’t hold a candle to the mess the Europeans left us and still leave us. It is a fact that we sent our people to die twice to free them from German tyranny. Despite our faults, Americans have freed and aided more of the world’s people than all other countries combined and we did it in a tenth of the time Europe had dominance over the world.

While I was talking with the lady from Switzerland, Europe was making news. “We should not import a retarded political Islamic society to our country,” Geert Wilders of the Netherlands said. The European Union justice and interior ministers joined to press for an integration requirement for immigrants, demanding they learn the language and adopt “European values”. “It’s not like we are against immigration,” says Rita Verdonk, Dutch immigration minister. “If you want to live in the Netherlands, you have to adhere to our rules.” Franco Frattini, EU justice and home affairs commissioner, said, “We can’t imagine an immigration policy that focuses only on the prevention of illegal immigration, without considering the integration of those who want to enter a European country.” Immigration to Europe has been falling for decades and recent studies show Europe has a negative population growth. And they tell us Americans are intolerant, arrogant, and bigoted.

The most newsworthy part of the EU Immigration story is that it wasn’t a story here. It got almost no press at all. Why not? Perhaps because all those media people, intelligentsia, and elites won’t besmirch the idyllic vision we have of cultured Europe. An arrogant, intolerant and bigoted Europe doesn’t fit their profile, so they don’t tell us. There really is an US and a them. There is a reason we have religious tolerance in this country and the Europeans only talk about it. There is a reason we have a moral ethos and the Europeans have not. I am not anti-Europe, in fact, I adore European history. It is hypocrisy and ignorance that I abhor. The kind of hypocrisy that allows France to continue quietly flexing it’s military might in the Ivory Coast, it’s former colony, while decrying US imperialism elsewhere in the world. The kind of ignorance that believes Juan Williams, Mara Liason, and the rest of NPR report the news rather than present their agenda. The First Ammendment provides for the “Freedom of the Press” but implicit in it, as with all our “Freedoms”, is the requirement to use that freedom responsibly.

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