For as long as I can remember, there’ve always been America-haters. There’s at least a half-dozen who will comment on my columns, alone, who have a distinct distaste for our southern neighbour.
America-hating has a pretty broad spectrum. It ranges from the mild, garden variety dislike all the way to a delusional belief that reflects a poor grasp of history and a weak understanding of how rare and fragile our own pleasant little democracy really is.
As I’ve said before, America is our sister country. Along with Australia and New Zealand, she is a fellow offspring of the British Empire. With luck, India will join us in that elite club of mature democracies sometime this century. India is a long ways along that road, but there are still obstacles and pitfalls along the way. The very least we can do is pray they succeed. Every day.
Right now, there are many who are cheerleading the open revolt in Egypt, along with simmering revolts elsewhere in the Arab world. There’s no shortage of Westerners who will applaud the end of Hosni Mubarak’s rule in Egypt as a good thing, simply on the basis that it will signal the end of another dictator propped up by the Americans.
Yes, it is true on both accounts. Mubarak is a dictator propped up by American aid, and you can be certain that life under such dictatorships is no bowl of cherries.
The great, unasked question here is: What next?
It’s too easy to forget that there was no simple, single step from Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth II, and right now, Mubarak is not a whole lot different from ol’ Henry the beheader.
We are who we are because of history and those who played their parts. We are also who we are because of those who grasped history as they played their parts.
Sir Thomas More, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke loom large in our history, as do villains such as the aforementioned Henry, or King Charles I or Richard III. Then there’s Oliver Cromwell, who is simultaneously viewed as one of England’s greatest heroes and one of her greatest villains, depending on your own ancestry.
English literature has played its own role in bringing us to here and now. Chaucer, Scott, and Tennyson all put in oars and rowed, as did Thomas Jefferson and Mark Twain on our southern border.
Every week and every day for centuries, the right things happened on the way to the 21st century for the English speaking people.
Some were accidents, and some weren’t.
Napoleon lost, the Kaiser and Hitler lost, the Ottomans were driven back from the gates of Vienna, the Spanish fleet encountered Lord Nelson.
To our great good fortune, all of these events went our way when they could have easily gone the other.
As a direct result, if you are living in a country that enjoys the rule of law and the attendant civil rights and liberties that come with that, you are also likely to be living in a country that’s the product of the Anglosphere.
This is vital to remember if we’re tempted to cheer someone such as Mubarak out of office.
The only country in the Middle East that offers her citizens Western-style freedoms is right next door to Egypt, and pressure and influence of the Anglosphere has been vital in making Israel and Egypt peaceable neighbors.
If that influence disappears, another influence may slip in to fill the void, and that influence may not be quite so amenable to Western ideals.
Again, it’s easy to cheer for the end of American influence. But if not America, whose leadership would you prefer? No one in Europe is stepping up to the plate here.
Other than America, the three most powerful nations on earth, in terms of influence wielded beyond their borders, are China, Russia and Iran.
All three are tremendously troubled nations, seething with internal resentments that are the product of decades of repression.
Egypt’s middle class is eclipsed by her vast numbers of illiterate poor. We can hope and pray that whatever power structure replaces Mubarak might keep Egypt slowly progressing towards where we were a couple of hundred years ago.
Only by remaining under the influence of the Anglosphere will that happen. The loss of American influence will be a tragedy, because if not America, who, exactly will fill that void?
Three choices. None good.
Bill Greenwood is a local freelance columnist.