The American contradiction

Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none

-Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826.
American people create abundant wealth. So, they are prosperous and happy. It is only because they are economically freer than many nations on earth. In consequence, that makes them politically freer. What makes all that possible is their declaration of independence, constitution, bill of rights, and their independent courts, which promptly ensure the continuance of rule of law, which in turn help a free media to exist, and it is this combination that guarantees personal freedoms to American people: to do whatever they like to do, of course, under the state and federal laws. Despite their state’s encroachments on their freedoms especially after 9/11, they are free to pursue economic, political, social, intellectual, philosophical, moral, spiritual, aesthetic enterprises, or whatever they like to seek.

In sum, it is their love for personal freedom that characterises and distinguishes them from other people. In that they are unique. That should make them enviable to all other nations that lack this ultra-care for personal freedom. But this does not form the gist of America. It is something else.

Let me narrate a personal experience to elaborate on that point.

In Washington D.C. where the fate of smaller nations is written, what fascinated me most was the National Archives. It displays some original pages and initial facsimiles of the American Charters of Freedom, i.e. Declaration of Independence, US Constitution, and Bill of Rights. It also displays an original copy of the Magna Carta (1297): the document which foretold the spirit of the Charters of Freedoms.

All these documents have been placed in a building of highest grandeur in a way so that natural light is available therein. In order to protect (or to prolong) the life of these documents, artificial light has been avoided. Flash photography is not allowed either. That is fantastic! But that is American also! These documents are worth a museum, and they have rightly been archived. I do not know if these documents are available in another building located a few miles away from the National Archives, i.e. White House. I do not know if George W. Bush, Jr. has ever read them. I do not know, either, if any congressman or senator has ever gone through them and understood them well. What I do know is that American government and especially its foreign policy has entirely drifted from what those documents signify and what they stand for.

Also, in the same building are displayed many a quote of the American founding fathers and other notables which belie what America means today to the world outside America. Not only in the National Archives, but in other places such as Jefferson Memorial all the quotes expose the reality of the present-day America. Here it needs not to go into the details of those quotes, since the principle of personal freedom is sufficient to make the point. Practically, this principle manifests itself in a negative assertion, rather than in a positive one as it appears to be. It may be worded thus: ‘You are free to do whatever you like until and unless you do not encroach on my freedoms.’ That is really an achievement of American society and government! I am all praise for that.

However, it is not the whole story. You talk to American people what is going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan; in the first instance, they are just oblivious of it. Or at best, they will offer a personal apology: ‘Oh that is what I can do! I am sorry for that!’ That does not help much to dispel the impression that more or less American society is like an island in a world deeply involved in many such conflicts for which the responsibility rests on the American government. My argument focuses on that blatant contradiction.

No doubt, we can retreat to a hermitage, and live there in peace we wish to be in. But we can never be in such a retreat after harming others. Maybe we are forgiven once or twice. In case we continue harming other people, and presume that we will be safe in our retreat, that’s our forgetfulness, to use a euphemism. We need to know we are going to be chased, and paid in the same coin. In other words, if we think that rule A is only valid for us, and for other people there is another rule B, we are living in a contradiction. We know well we cannot live long in a contradiction. Someone is going to explode that contradiction. We are in the midst of that explosion.

So, the sort of a principled foreign policy of American government towards other people that “you are not free to do whatever you like whether you encroach on my freedoms or not’ contradicts its sort of a principled internal policy towards its own people that ‘you are free to do whatever you like until and unless you do not encroach on my freedoms.’ The point of argument rests on the understanding that just like American people, every people on earth need a constitution that ensures them their inalienable personal freedoms, independent courts that take care of rule of law for them, and a constitutional democratic government to represent them. Sure, it is no privilege of American people only. Naturally, it is no privilege of American government to deprive other people of these necessities. Or for that matter, no nation or people can be allowed this privilege such as former Soviet Union tried its hand on against which American government fought both the cold and hot wars so passionately to secure freedom and human rights for the people in distress.

In this regard, no excuses, pretexts or expediencies can make for any allowance. It needs to be realised that 9/11 belongs to a class of effects; it’s no part of the list of causes. Moreover, whatever the war against terror requires never means abandoning the principles. How come that Pakistani people do not need a constitutional government, independent judiciary, rule of law only because their government has made their country a frontline ally of US government in the war against terror. Only because a dictator, who has trashed the Constitution, sent all the superior court judges home to keep himself in power, and made the country a fiefdom of the elites of Pakistan, pleases the US government, Pakistani people should have nothing of the sorts.

This is just outrageous: kill one people to save others and for nothing. The saner Americans must realise that they are not going to win this war against terrorism. Beyond envy, religious fanaticism, historical animosity against US, there is something very real underneath it. It is that blatant contradiction. It needs to be addressed urgently, and until and unless it is addressed to with an open mind and heart, nothing is going to make any difference.

It is for both American people and government to realise that though American people create abundant wealth, but of course they are not going to create this wealth continuously if this is going to be spent on such useless wars. It may go on for another ten, twenty or at most fifty years that such wealth is available to American government, but in the end, as has been happening in history, such wars will drain all the resources and energies of the American people. This is how empires meet their fall. Wars and such whimsical wars without addressing the core issues resemble death wish.

That’s the issue. In order to survive both as an epitome and an emblem of personal freedom for all the people on this earth, American people need to rejuvenate their government with the fountainhead of Charters of Freedom. They need to go back to the basics. They need to rediscover those principles contained in the documents which have been archived. They need a refresher in their founding fathers’ teachings. They need to let there be equally valid principles for all the people on this earth. They need to make their government to win hearts of the people, not the heads of their government. That’s the only way to save America and not let it meet the tragic end of an empire.

Note: This article was completed in July 2008.

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