“A liberal,” Robert Frost said, “is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” I’ve debated many liberals who clearly took sides…in favor of any antagonist the US might oppose. Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, described this as the worldview of the “blame America first” crowd. The reflex is often acquired young.
I encountered it vividly some years back helping judge a school civics competition as a Colorado lawmaker. For part of their project, students from an affluent Denver suburb shared an “updated” Pledge of Allegiance:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag—because the Supreme Court doesn’t enforce the First Amendment—of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands—an imperial power that swept the native inhabitants off their land—one nation under God—because the Supreme Court still doesn’t enforce the First Amendment, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all white, male, heterosexual, upper middleclass property owners.”
The reader finished. The students and I eyed each other, as my mind raced for a way to dissent without being a stiff, Republican scold.
“I can feel your aspirations and good will. You see injustices and challenges in your world, and you want to fix them. You see wrongs and you want to right them. I hope you’ll be able to do that. But before you decide your society deserves your condemnation, would you consider a couple things?
“Consider that the United States, with its free enterprise, for-profit system, produces more food, more clothing, more shelter, and a higher standard of living for more people than any other system, anywhere on earth, anytime on earth. Consider that in our country, poor people suffer the problems of obesity far more than of hunger. Cell phones, air conditioning, and cable TV are ubiquitous.
[Ugh! Shawn! Do they know “ubiquitous?!”]
“Maybe material stuff and prosperity isn’t your thing. Maybe you’re more concerned about social justice. Yes