1. Archive

A nation convinced of its superiority

Published Sep. 1, 2005

Re: Who wants to be an empire? June 29.

Despite their general lack of knowledge, most Americans are firmly convinced of their superiority to other nations because here we have such an abundance of things. Our good fortune in having a small population within a large, young and richly endowed land mass makes most of us well off _ materially.

There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, wealth and vacuity make many Americans arrogant innocents. When asked by a reporter to explain their popularity in the United States even though they were only mediocre musicians, one of the Beatles replied, "I dunno, I guess Americans like mediocre." This Beatle may have hit upon a truth. Americans like the mediocre because defensively, they want to believe that their own intellectual lacks are not significant, that their prosperity proves them right, that they do not have to know history or philosophy to validate their righteousness. They believe in sharp, clear distinction between evil and virtue, and they know beyond doubt that they are on the side of virtue.

These truths explain George Bush's popularity and our acceptance of contradictions. He is the epitome of our beliefs. How else can we explain wide acceptance of a president who threatens that he is going to make this nation _ the one with an atrocious educational system, the one with a dysfunctional health care system, the one with the most jailed criminals, the one that still performs executions, the one that has an infamous record on environmental protection, the one that is going very deeply into debt _ the nation that brings enlightenment to the world?

Graal Braun, Palm Harbor

America in flux

Re: Who wants to be an empire?

I disagree with the general sense of the article that America wants to remake the world in our own image. Do we want to see democracy spread across the Earth like Miracle-Gro on a garden? Yeah, sure. But the United States itself (as a friend of mine likes to remind us all) is a constitutional republic, not a purely democratic entity. Democracies take many forms and their citizens function and flourish in them. Yes, of course, I like my democracy best, just like the majority of British citizens like theirs best.

What the bulk of Americans are saying is that a viable political/economic system with a democratic base has proven to benefit its citizens to a much higher degree than other systems based on other means. So far, it's the best game in town. I don't believe most Americans have a "my way or the highway" attitude about democratic systems.

Are most Americans "brainwashed with a belief in their own virtues"? Personally, I've seen a tug-of-war in the American psyche since our Vietnam days that argues against that. The baby boom generation swung wide on the pendulum, taking the nation of our World War II parents from an essentially blind faith American dogma to the other extreme, absolute cynicism. To this day, a lot of that cynicism morphs into self-hatred.

I do think, however, that writer Graham Turner is seeing America in flux _ really still very raw after an event that hasn't been experienced on our territory since Pearl Harbor. It was definitely a wake-up call. Regardless of my agreement or disagreement, his article is reflective of that, enlightening and intriguing.

What is my American pride? What's my fear? My pride is in our diversity, our willingness to criticize ourselves and, yes, our feistiness. But my fear is wariness about America's stature. It's perfectly understandable to me that the global community is also anxious about it. The old saw about absolute power corrupting absolutely never rusts. It applies to us all, sooner or later. A British buddy who, when I spoke of that concern, said that, yes, it's true enough; but if there had to be only one superpower in the world, thankfully it's the United States. It was nice to hear, because as an American citizen, and a global one, I worry about that _ and hope.

Kathy L. Nappier, Clearwater

The terror surfaces

Re: Who wants to be an empire?

Graham Turner brought my terror to the surface with his oh-so-true article. Total, overweening power in the hands of such an overwhelmingly stupid nation would curdle my soul, if I had one. But it's curdling something in me: Is it a fear of what will happen to us when the bill comes due? The reaction of our culture when its warm, fuzzy, complacency blanket is ripped away? My own small guilty part in this perpetration of horror and death upon a world toward which I bear only good will?

This article vividly explains how the stupidity lies not only in our regime's masters, but in a majority of propagandized citizens. This is a new dark age into which the whole world has been tragically plunged.

Bud Tritschler, Clearwater

A view too pliable

Re: Constitution remains a living document, June 29.

Associate editor Martin Dyckman responded to the recent Supreme Court decision on the Texas sodomy case and artistically describes the politically liberal position on the meanings of words that should otherwise be fairly clear to anyone possessing an understanding of modern English: words such as constitution, liberty, justice.

To American liberals they mean whatever it is that liberals want them to mean.

Of course it might also suggest that liberals believe that our Constitution's framers, who acquired a rigorous education in the classics _ very familiar with Latin, Greek, Hebrew _ might not have fully understood the meanings of the English words they enshrined into our nation's original laws.

To Mr. Dyckman, the U.S. Constitution is a "living document." Of course I realize that Times editors didn't coin that phrase; some other group of liberals did. This belief suggests that legal documents are pliable, and thus should be easily modified to satisfy which ever immediate needs we may find in our present requirements, i.e., Roe vs. Wade, or other troublesome state laws that attempt to regulate moral behavior, and proper personal conduct.

I would love to turn this into a debate about Federalism, but we must first agree on what a constitution is, evidently.

The next time I discover that my mortgage terms or my insurance policies are too difficult to deal with, I think I'll bring my case before the bench and ask the judge to rule that my various contractual obligations are overly binding and impinge on my "lifestyle." Perhaps the judge will rule that my contracts are "living" documents.

Jim Parker, Tampa

One of the good guys

Re: On retirement, a quiet warrior would rather not, June 29.

Thanks for Howard Troxler's article on Jack Shreve, outstanding public servant. How else would we common folks know we had such a wonderful public servant?

Other headlines might give us the impression that they could be called Rangers or Pioneers!

Tom Dabney, St. Petersburg

An exaggerated death

Re: The death of the bass guitar, June 29.

I actually bought a White Stripes CD after hearing one of their more lively songs on MTV. Unfortunately it fell way short of expectations so I had it E-Bayed. I can't remember if it had a bass guitar or not, so I'll just take your word for it.

Naming five or six "bassless" bands that I'm sure most people aren't familiar with doesn't sound like any big trend. You must have thought disco was the death of the six-string electric guitar.

Most people I know like to hear a bass guitar and feel it's a significant part of most popular music. No respect for bass players? What, no memory of Jaco Pastorius or even Paul McCartney? I could go on and on, but I'm sure most of your readers are way ahead of me by now with thoughts of their own favorite bass players. I don't think too many polka bands have bass guitars. Could this be a sign? Please let us know.

Russ Kelley, Largo

Can you feel it?

Re: The death of the bass guitar.

The article in last Sunday's paper talked about how the modern rock musicians are no longer using the bass guitar. I recalled it, with amusement, while I sat in traffic waiting for the light to change, as my car windows shook and vibrated from the deep bass emanating from the young man's car behind me.

Perhaps he did not get the message.

R. Mark Higgins, St. Petersburg