Americanism and Globalism: Joined at the Hip
Is globalism an inherently anti-American concept? Nothing could be further from the truth.
November 13, 2009
Mention the word "global," and a surprising number of Americans immediately become apprehensive. Why does that word make them uncomfortable?
In part, this is a reflection of what, at least between the two coasts, is still a remarkably insular nation. Only four in ten American citizens hold passports that enables them to travel to other continents.
Others consider globalism a form of liberal elitism or, worse, as a leftist attempt to circumvent traditional American values (whatever those may be). True conspiracy theorists see it as undermining the United States itself (via the United Nations, black helicopters, immigrants, etc.).
Yet again others, see globalism as encouraging uniform global responses to issues, which supposedly undermines more decentralized approaches and stifles experimentation.
In whatever variant these almost uniformly conservative worries manifest themselves, what they see at the core of any "globalist" approach is an implicit threat to American leadership. More fundamentally, their underlying logic is to see the words "American" and "global" as polar opposites.
That juxtaposition flies in the face of the entire American experience from its founding moments onward. Nobody with any knowledge of history can deny the country’s identity and economy has been forged by a powerful confluence of immigrants from around the world.
The most global society on earth
Foreigners looking at the United States are often most impressed by the fact that the country has the most global society on earth.
What is especially astonishing about the U.S. conservatives' perspective of globalism is the implied lack of legitimacy, if not outright categorical rejection, of any foreign influences on American life.
Argentina may have its Italians, France its North Africans, Germany its Turks, England its Indians and Pakistanis and Canada’s Vancouver its Chinese. But no country has such a powerful cross-national combination of talents, desires, styles and tastes as does the United States.
This is not to deny that, as a counterbalancing force, there have always been strong conformist pressures in American society. the inevitable price of forming something unitary out of the many. But to reject the rest of the world and to see it as a threat to “Americanism” betrays a remarkable lack of self-confidence.
This response is particularly unfortunate for another reason. For the past 40-50 years, ever since the glory days of the post-World War II 1950s, many countries around the world, at different stages and intervals, have remade themselves in America’s image and performance, economic, cultural or social.
This emulation of the United States was generally undertaken by other countries in an effort to become a materially better off nation. Other motives included being more welcoming of foreigners and their talents or aiming at a more bottom-line-oriented, business-minded society.
Blending whatever seemed crucial to adopt from the United States, these nations — from Europe to Asia — worked in this manner to adapt to the American example in order to overcome longstanding traditions and cultural resistance, whether on the part of their people, their politicians or both.
The fact of the matter is that, to an appreciable degree, much of the world has become “Americanized.”
Globalism is not a one-way street
The current problem in the United States arises from the apparent belief on the part of the U.S. conservative “anti-globalists” that global learning and exchanges are a one-way street — that the rest of the world is there to learn and America is there to teach.
As a result, we now live in an era when the United States is suffering from paying insufficient attention to the models and solutions offered up and tested by other nations. This leads to a corresponding failure to investigate in an open-minded fashion what these “foreign” models may offer in terms of solutions that can be applied at home.
Viewed in that light, the concept of globalism is by no means an effort to undermine the United States. To the contrary, it is the opposite — as it has the potential to bring out the best in the United States and remind it of its own, very globalist roots.
The concept of globalism is by no means an effort to undermine the United States.
Globalism has the potential to bring out the best in the U.S. and remind it of its own global roots.
U.S. "anti-globalists" think global exchange is a one-way street with the world there to learn from America.
Foreigners looking at the U.S. are often most impressed that the country has the most global society on earth.
Seeing the words "American" and "global" as polar opposites flies in the face of the entire American experience from its founding moments onward.