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April 07, 2008



This seems a little bit of an exaggeration. After all, in the US you can publish books on Kant and Spinoza at fancy universities. Your families aren't sent to concentration camps when you criticise your government, your government doesn't execute children and apostates, and your kids aren't being raped and hacked up by government sponsored, machete wielding militias. Now that would be "monstrously wrongful and stupid". You might feel some shame about hunting the Taliban, but imagine how those who suffer from such regimes feel.

In any case, if the situation is so terrible, you could escape with no shame. American professors are the best, and there's place for them at the many fine universities outside the US.

Self-criticism is good. America deserves quite a bit of criticism anyhow. But you guys have a lot to feel proud about too. So come off it.


Yes, indeed, America should feel proud, it's not as bad as Nazi Germany or Rwanda during the genocide. That is something to be proud of, sure is. Thanks for that reminder.


Yes, ... I'm sure that's what the first commenter meant ... that we should be proud that we're not as bad as Nazi Germany. Just like you should be proud of your outstanding capacities for comprehension and reasoning. Glad to see that the critics of the closed-minded are still keeping open minds ...


The US is not merely "not as bad" as these regimes. You might not fully comprehend the enormity of the crimes committed by the Nazis or in Rwanda. Might I recommend Philip Gourevitch's "We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families"? Note that I wasn't only referring to past atrocities. The crimes I described are currently being perpetrated by numerous regimes, and there are other horrors committed throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe and South America.

Of course, the US shouldn't feel proud because "it's not as bad as" such regimes. You should be proud because of your prosperity, progress, freedoms, civil liberties and human rights.

Anyhow, once again, you could leave the US, and take up very respectable positions in fine universities, or you could go live in developing countries and contribute to education there. I come from a developing country, and can tell you how vital this is.

And there are billions of us who would be more than willing to take up your places in the US.


What the first commenter said and what he 'meant' may be two different things. Professor Wood did not say that he preferred to live elsewhere, he said that this has been a morally shameful time in the US. T's comments are, as a result, completely irrelevant.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Wood's observation that "the historical roots of what has happened are sunk deep in political trends of the previous century, and I fear these trends will not be reversed soon or easily," is on target, especially to a careful reader of Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2002). As Thoreau well understood, silence, inaction, self-deception, states of denial and so forth are not sufficient to ethically acquit one for complicity or acquiescence in crimes done in one's name by the government.

The treatment of the Native Americans, the history of slavery, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Allied bombing of Germany, the bombing of Laos, Cambodia and South and North Vietnman, to select a few conspicuous items from the catalogue of horrors, are all evidence that this nation, on occasion, can act with the worst of them, even if some of these actions were ostensibly committed in the name of legitimate or otherwise worthwhile political ends. Of course this does not in any diminish or detract from the Constitution's avowed commitment to democratic ideals, principles, and methods as enshrined, for instance, in the Preamble and Bill of Rights, but it does make it plain that there's often a alarming if not yawning abyss between what ought to be the case and what in fact is the case. Indeed, there's no cause here for self-congratulatory chest-thumping or patriotic flag-waving.


Why is that criticism of the U.S. is always met with the response "Go live somewhere else"?


To T+X:

The simple answer is that the U.S. is a place, and generally, when people are unhappy with the place they're in, they move elsewhere. Of course, the problem is that people on both sides of these sorts of debates confuse "criticism of the U.S." with "criticism of Bush" or "criticism of some political party," etc. Hate George Bush all you want, but I hardly see how any of his decisions are indicative of some fundamentally *American* problem.

Given the sort of caricature that many anti-Americans (or at least, those who smack of anti-Americanism) paint, you'd have to think that the billions of people all over the world who would give an arm or a leg to live in this country are somehow irrational in their preference of the U.S. to their own country. After all, why move from one tyrannical cesspool to another? (Of course, when the only things you own are the outfit you're wearing and a half-eaten granola bar that some missionary left for you 2 years ago, I guess packing wouldn't be much of a hassle.)


To T+1:

"What the first commenter said and what he 'meant' may be two different things. Professor Wood did not say that he preferred to live elsewhere, he said that this has been a morally shameful time in the US."

Right. Then original commenter said that Woods' comments about the shame of being an American struck him as "a little bit of an exaggeration," and his words about there being many things for Americans "to feel proud about" were meant to highlight the perceived exaggeration. I fail to see how that is "irrelevant." You might disagree with him, of course, but responding to X by saying that X might be a little exaggerated is hardly to miss the point.


First, is it really true that people who are unhappy with a place tend to leave? I am not sure. But I am more sure that there is no moral imperative to leave a place with which one finds fault. Some of us think that doing things to improve a place, rather than leaving, is morally admirable.

Second, Wood was not attacking a place. He was attacking the state; that is, an agent which does things. It is perfectly consistent to say that I like the place, and the citizens, but detest many of the things the government does.

Third, the people who want to come to the U.S.: presumably they might wish to come because they like the place, and not the government. But, they might also wish to come here because we tend to give much more weight to the interests of people within our borders than people outside of our borders. So, they'd rather not be considered collateral damage in the war on terror, to give one example. This preference is consistent with judging the U.S. government to be morally depraved.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

We might want to distinguish the state from the government, as I think Wood was critiquing the latter and not the former.


Wood - insane, deranged, but so so fun!

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Please spare us such drivel: Allen Wood is an excellent philosopher, whether writing on Kant or Hegel or Marx.


Which drivel? The substantive comments about world affairs and how we ought to engage such serious matters?

What does it matter if Wood is an excellent philosopher--"T"'s point still stands. Please address the point.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

The "drivel" was in reference to the abusive ad hominem comment about Wood being "insane, deranged." Please pay attention.


I think the anti-Americanism gets a little bit ridiculous sometimes, but it's better than the "shrug your shoulders" nonchalance that most Americans possess about our foreign and domestic policy. "If you don't like it get out" is not a valid argument for anything!

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