September 27, 2002

ANDREW SULLIVAN WONDERS why some people find American power so upsetting. I’ve wondered this myself. Here’s my theory.

During the Cold War there was a sort of yin/yang dichotomy. You were afraid of the Soviets, and with good reason. But — with their absurd formulaic prattle about the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, their campy socialist-realism art, their love affair with tractors, etc., plus the fact, obvious to all but the most usefully idiotic, that they were dirt-poor outside the military sphere — you couldn’t really feel inferior to them.

The United States, on the other hand, was rich, culturally ascendant, and dynamic. But while you could feel inferior to the United States, you weren’t really afraid of it.

Now some people who aren’t that fond of American values confront a country that is both culturally ascendant and militarily unmatched — and mad. Naturally, that’s upsetting to them. But stating the problem this way would focus on their own inadequacies. Easier just to compare Bush to Hitler.

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus thinks I’m wrong about this.

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