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   American Isolationism

Perspective:

American Isolationism

by John V. Brain
The producers of "Baywatch" have no hidden agenda to subvert the principles of Islamic fundamentalism, but no matter; their depiction of bronzed hunks cavorting with cute babes in the near-buff is seen as a ploy of the Great Satan.

Isolationism has long been a characteristic of the American state of mind, either as official policy or a subliminal substratum that outcrops from time to time as "America First" or "Fortress America" movements. So many immigrants have come to these shores to escape persecution and find here a haven, if not a heaven, where they can mind their own business and distance themselves from the wrangling of nations, that insularity is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. It took two world wars and "leadership of the free world" to undermine this mindsetăwhich Vietnam largely restored. America's horror of quagmires remains as its residue.

Though ideologically opposed to imperialism, America has in all innocence evolved an economic and cultural empire which now dominates the world. Americans have no burning zeal to spread Coke and McDonalds throughout the cosmos, but the profit motive has done just that. Ditto American movies, TV shows, and pop music. The producers of "Baywatch" have no hidden agenda to subvert the principles of Islamic fundamentalism, but no matter; their depiction of bronzed hunks cavorting with cute babes in the near-buff is seen as a ploy of the Great Satan. Americans do their thing, and the world follows, like children following the Pied Piper. The dominance of America today lies not in its democratic ideal (so often flawed in practice) or in its sophisticated weaponry, but in its export of consumerism worldwide.

Recently the Administration has invited the Ad Council, which gave us Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog, to craft an ad campaign to persuade the world to love America, but this may require a power of persuasion more akin to religious conversion or communist brainwashing than the 30-second commercial. PR campaigns are based on the RACE Formula: Research, Action, Communication, and Evaluation, and the most important of these is Action.

"Action" means lay the egg before you cackle, fix it first, actually do something impressive before launching a worldwide media blitz to prove that God really does bless America. And for America to change its ways to impress Islamic fundamentalists, we should have to abandon Israel, quit their holy places, renounce middle eastern oil, snub all the U.S.-friendly despots, muzzle "Baywatch" et al., and embrace Shariah. Or just drop dead. Realistically, my fellow Americans, that ain't gonna happen.

Our only alternative is to do all we can to maintain the consensus against terrorism (so far holding among the saner nations), target lethal enemies abroad as surgically as possible, and concentrate on protecting our homeland from suicidal crazies.

We have been suddenly made aware how vulnerable our open society is to an enemy within, our hospitality to immigrants telling tales of persecution. We are amazed that attackers with murder in their hearts could live for years in this welcoming country, as employees, colleagues, neighbors, shopping in the supermarket, working out in the health club, only to leave one day to hijack a jet and fly it into the World Trade Center chanting "God is Great" and "Death to America." It's beyond beliefăit's beyond our belief. And it's likely beyond the ability of the Ad Council to restrain them with images of America the Good.

So, say the other nations of the world, now you know. Welcome to the club. World terrorism today means that everyone is at risk, although the risk may be statistically small, much less than the risk of a car accident or contracting a fatal disease. Many of us still smoke, screw around, skydive or bungee jump for fun, and tell ourselves these risks are acceptable. The prudent carry condoms and insurance.

Life has changed for Americans because America was cocooned from evil. No bombs in WW II; no napalm in the Vietnam War. Henry Kissinger was on our side, God help us.

But now we're returning to normal. The enemy is inside the gates, somewhere, but life goes on. Isolationism is a dream, terrorism a nightmare that must be lived with.


Belvedere Square resident John Brain, a native of England, teaches public relations and writing at Towson University.


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This story was published on March 2, 2002.
  
MARCH 2002
LOCAL NEWS
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ART & ENTERTAINMENT
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SPEAKING OUT
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NEWS MEDIA CRITIQUE
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NATION & WORLD
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CITIZENS REFERENCE: BLUE CROSS PRIVATIZATION ISSUES
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FROM OTHER SITES
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