Monday, July 01, 2002

I really liked this letter to the editors of the Globe and Mail (Thursday, July 4, 2002) from Donald Grayston, director of the Institute of the Humanities, Simon Fraser University. It touches on an idea I've been to try to express for some time now:

Your editorial about American resistance to the ICC's Jurisdiction (President Bush Against the World -- July 3) is compelling as far as it goes, but it doesn't go deep enough.

The American stance says, in effect, that the United States is not a nation like other nations, and, in a number of senses, this is correct. It is more powerful and richer than any other nation, and more rides on its decisions than on those of any other nation -- but these are all matters of degree.

The real reason for U.S. intransigence on the ICC is that the U.S. feels itself to be a sacred nation, the Holy Land of the new world, "one nation under God." For those wh feel so, it would not just be bad politics to permit U.S. service personnel to be tried by the ICC, if it ever came to that; it would also be sacrilege (as were the attacks of Sept. 11).

Canada, of course, is not a sacred nation is this sense. And so an act of terrorism in Canada would be a tragedy, a disaster, a matter of intense concern - but not an act of sacrilege; because however profound our patriotism or national feeling, it is different in kind from that of our neighbours. Until this is recognized, the obstiancy and isolationalism of the U.S. will not be fully understood.

The United States as a 'sacred nation' is an idea that I haven't seen fleshed out in the American mainstream media. Sure, on the web you can find reminders that the Puritans of New England weren't in some way not that dissimilar to the Taliban and papers like the Village Voice point out that in some ways they still share a fundamental conservatism, but that's about all I've found on the topic.

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