The myth of "decadent Americans"
I am currently watching a documentary series on Netflix. Entitled World War II in Colour, it goes over well-worn territory.
One thing which has struck me as I've been watching, however, is how both Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire viewed the United States: A nation of libidinous pleasure-seekers who had no stomach for a long war.
This is the same way Vladimir Putin and his allies around the world see us. The citizens of this country are lost in indolence and frippery, and are not going to stand against a rising tide of neo-fascism.
How wrong they were. How wrong they are.
Putin and his fellow-travelers in this country think that our embrace of things like marriage equality is an indication of our moral torpor, ready to be upstaged by a more vigorous people. Hitler and Tojo thought that our love of "Negro music" indicated that we were weak, soft, unable to stand against monolithic peoples.
We embrace marriage equality, equity between races, liberal values not because we're weak, but because we are stronger than they can imagine. A people which withdraws into reactionary sureties is a weak people. After its defeat in the Cold War, it's no surprise that Russia has retreated into dreams of a Great 'Rus, of a people divinely ordained by God to save the fallen. Most of us in America have no pretensions that God has chosen us out to be a special people; we just know that, however muddled our lives are here, we're far better off than a Russian people mired in modern-day serfdom.
Hitler and Tojo made their war plans based on a fallacy of American softness. Putin is likewise making his gambit for power on the premise that Americans won't fight back against the forces which want to unravel the country. As we've seen since Trump's inauguration, Putin has made a losing bet. The resistance against fascism and authoritarianism exploded on November 9. Millions of Americans have declared "Not in my name."
Much like "you don't get involved in a land war in Asia," another truism in geopolitics should be "you don't underestimate Americans". We're infuriating; but we can also surprise you.
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