Ken Burns’ new series about World War II is off to a good start although his stately pace can often be somewhat sleep inducing. It’s one of those slightly bizarre situations where it’s worth your while to force yourself to stay awake.
Part of the first episode includes a run-down of what Americans were watching in the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor: they were watching three Axis powers, each of which considered its race superior to all others and each of which believed that its racial superiority justified its conquering lands and killing people. It occurred to me that those who love the Bushitler analogy, and who constantly liken America’s current war to some imperialist Nazi act of aggression are missing something very fundamental. Americans do have a superiority complex, but it’s not racial. Instead, we believe that our values are superior. But values, unlike race, are exportable. We don’t need to murder to prove our superiority. Our culture is what it is, and people who seek freedom inevitably drift in our direction.
In this regard, it’s worth comparing us to the Jihadists, who have taken a religion and elevated it to the same status as a race. They believe that they are so far superior to other people that it is totally okay to squash other people like flies, to murder them and their children, and to occupy their countries as if the native people were not there. There is no moral equivalence between them and us. In their outlook, they are precisely the same as the Nazis, and the World War II Japanese and Italians. And we, in the 20th and 21st Centuries, have never changed: our affirmative actions, when we’re not called upon to defend ourselves against attacks such as Pearl Harbor or 9/11, consist of exporting our freedom and our culture, and that is all.