America must remain strong, instructor says
That “America must remain strong,” as argued by Matt White in his column in Monday’s Daily Kent Stater (09/17/07), is a truism that is as popular in political debate as it is in college writing. What motivates this truism is the belief that global complexities are reducible to a genuinely “American” perspective. White, as many students in the college writing classroom, eagerly mistakes American interests for global needs, a mistake rooted in a compromised sense of history. That “America must remain strong” is as true as it is historical.
The “appeasement” of “evil” has not been “misguided,” as White wants us to believe, but calculated. Even the great pragmatist Churchill kept schmoozing with “evil,” as long as he deemed it useful: “I have always said that if Great Britain were defeated in war, I hoped we should find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among the nations.” While some of us teaching in the humanities might succeed in convincing students that the rhetoric of “evil” is contextual, we usually fail to relay to what extent this rhetoric encapsulates “us.” That “America must remain strong” is as true as it is rhetorical.
It is precisely the (rhetorical) difference between “us” and “them” that corrupts our (here: strictly American) assessment of who and what might turn “evil” under certain circumstances. While confusing the attacker with the attacked might get you into a country, it will hardly stabilize the place beyond this very confusion. A list of “terrorist-style attacks,” as the one presented by White, must include both the historical and rhetorical contexts that might have triggered the “attacks” in the first place. That “America must remain strong” is as true as it is “evil” in certain contexts; hence, that
“America must remain strong” is as true as it is contextual.
Doctoral candidate and an English instructor