I promised I would write about impeachment, and I will, but first I would like to take a few moments to write about something that has long puzzled me, and which I think perhaps I now understand. It is this: Even in places like this blog, where almost everyone who comments is pretty much left of center, if not off in the weeds with me, whenever I or someone else says, for example, that it is a bad thing for the Russians to attempt to muck in our elections, there are readers who immediately and reflexively list some of the many ways in which America meddles in the internal affairs of other nations, up to and including overthrowing a democratically elected government and installing a friendly puppet, as in Iran.
Why do they do that? Are they suggesting that because America does it, it is all right for Russia to do it? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. I don’t think they believe that America’s doing something makes it right, as though America were the moral exemplar for humanity. Do they think this blog is read by true blue patriots who believe that America is a Beacon of Freedom, a City Shining on a Hill? That seems implausible. Do they perhaps think that I myself have bought into the standard story that America was founded on the Idea of Freedom and has been steadily bringing its public actions into conformity with that idea for two hundred years? I will do them the courtesy of assuming they know that I wrote a whole book attacking that myth.
So why do they do it? Here is what I think. Living in a country whose politicians, public intellectuals, scholars, pontificators and bloviators all accept and endlessly repeat these smug, self-congratulatory, manifestly false myths drives some people a little crazy. It causes them such mental pain that it is as though they were condemned to a level of Hell inhabited by demons who spend all their time scraping their fingernails across slate blackboards. They are in a perpetual fury, and simply cannot control themselves when they hear something that sounds as though it were yet another knee-jerk praise of America, regardless of who is speaking or writing.
Now, I understand what it is like to suffer from this condition. Its symptoms first appeared in me sixty years ago, and in one early attack of the fever, triggered by an agitated, fruitless argument about nuclear weapons with a young Zbigniev Bzrezinski, I wigged out, had an anxiety attack, and came to running as fast as I could down Massachusetts Avenue toward Harvard Square sweating profusely. Several Valium and a retreat into the higher reaches of pure theory were required to reclaim my equanimity. One of the indirect consequences of that attack was In Defense of Anarchism.
So I am going to ask a favor. Would those of you afflicted with this entirely understandable disorder just assume that in this space, all of that may be taken as given?