Why don’t Americans like internationalism?

Last night Chris Matthews, the commentator famous for getting a tingle in his leg when Obama speaks, hosted a panel discussion reviewing Obama’s first year in office. The panel cover the spectrum of opinion one would expect on NBC, ranging from overall approval to adoration. I did sense that the obsequiously worshipful category was a bit weak, perhaps due to the bitter realities the past year served up.

One point stumped the panel. All agreed that American are unusually welcoming to foreigners visiting the US. One much-traveled panelist claimed that Americans were clearly the most welcoming in the world. The conundrum, then, it why Americans have not been notably impressed with Obama’s efforts to curry favor with the international community. I’m here to help explain the mystery.

What does it takes to be a full-fledged American? If you apply to become a citizen of Japan, an inspection team comes to your house and checks your refrigerator. True Japanese eat Japanese food, which definitely includes miso and noodles, and definitely does not include Pop Tarts or Wheaties. Americans do not much care about such artifacts of culture. What it comes down to is that what Americans look for and expect of those in their tribe is a love of freedom, and not much more.

Visitors to the US have a prima facia love of freedom simple by the fact that they are traveling here. People who travel are not at home being cared for, they have some gumption to do something. That is enough of a display of independence to gain points.

Obama had a father from Kenyan and was raised mostly in Indonesia. Americans did not hold that against him in the election. Origins have little to do with Americanism. Obama’s attractiveness as a candidate had much to with his drive to succeed and his wonderful rhetoric about making the country successful. Remember hope and change? People assumed that the direction of change was towards making the country more prosperous, more free, and better at defeating terrorism — simple things. Obama’s actual idea was to change America to make it more like other countries.

Obama’s message on internationalism has been that we ought to take our place in the world as an equal with all the other countries. Obama speaks out aginst Iran getting nuclear weapons, and he urges fellow nations to act jointly to do something about it. If they don’t act, well, we did our best to exercise leadership, but that’s the way it is.

Freedom protesters in Iran are viewed favorably by Obama, in due time and with the due caution that they should not expect any help from America.

Obama’s overseas speeches always apologize and always provide a message of cooperation without pressing any issue beyond what the rest of the world, the rest of the world being mainly Europe, approves.

What liberals, notably Mathews and his panel, cannot comprehend is the enduring American love of freedom. Liberals believe that a certain concern with freedom is important, so long as it is restricted to a small list of social issues and there is no concern with economic freedom. However, liberals draw the line at willfully imposing or irresponsibly encouraging freedom in other nations. Any encouragement is viewed as irresponsible.

Liberals interpret the American interest in freedom as an interest in world domination. Not at all. What Americans expect are that our freedoms be protected and that America be an unapologetic spokesman for freedom on the world stage. What binds Americans is not country of birth or a large set of cultural traditions. It is unapologetic advocacy of freedom, and the enterprise to act on the belief. The concept eludes Mr. Matthews panel.

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