George Bush’s Fault

September 1, 2008

A Frenchman criticizes the “irritable patriotism” of Americans:

There is nothing more annoying in the habits of life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans. A foreigner would indeed consent to praise much in their country; but he would want to be permitted to blame something, and this he is absolutely refused.

America is therefore a country of freedom where, in order not to wound anyone, the foreigner must not speak freely either of particular persons, or of the state, or of the governed, or of those who govern, or of public undertakings; or, finally, of anything one encounters except perhaps the climate and the soil; and still, one finds Americans ready to defend both as if they had helped to form them.

Dominic de Villepin? Jacque Chirac? John Kerry?

None of the above. This passage is from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, published in 1835 (Volume II in 1840). (I quote the Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop edition.)

It appears that the image of the self-assured, cocky American began just a little bit before George W. Bush became president.


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