Blind hatred makes people irrational. When you suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome, you are likely to take the opposite view to the President on pretty much every issue, because surely he’s never right. But this automatic contrariness can lead to some absurdities like this meme circulating in various similar forms on social media at the moment:
Yes, America is only 243 years old, but by the same token Italy is only 138.
In any case, if you’re rolling your eyes at Trump’s statement – and thinking that the Italian interpreter is too – you’re missing the point, which is that countries like the United States and Italy )and Great Britain and Australia and Germany and Poland and Spain and Slovenia and so on) do indeed share a cultural and political heritage dating back to ancient Rome and even further back in time. It’s called the Western civilisation. You might hate it, but you’re still in it.
I made a similar point by way of a comment on a post by one of my dear Facebook friends, who is my political polar opposite but a great man regardless, which prompted this response from the friend’s friend: “Good lord, he [i.e. me] has gotta be kidding? The lengths some folks will go to excuse the idiotic dribble escaping from the breathing hole of the orange blob is astounding.”
Except, of course, it’s not an idiotic dribble but an observation, which should be entirely uncontentious to anyone possessing even an ounce of historical literacy. Or as I replied in turn: “In case you haven’t noticed you live in one of many societies around the world where everything from religion and philosophy, through law and institutions, to art and architecture is partly from Jerusalem, partly from Athens, partly from Rome and partly from the ‘barbarians’, be their Celts, Slavs or Teutons. Which part of that fact are you failing to comprehend?”
Behold the wokest riposte: “I share a common cultural heritage with all creatures that possess and make use of thumbs and/or other opposable digits. Including the Romans.”
No, my friend; as a human being you share the concept of culture, but as an Anglo Australian, you are extremely unlikely to share a common cultural heritage with the Han Chinese, the !Kung bushmen, the Aztecs, the Yemenis or one of the Siberian tribes like the Samoyeds.
To observe that does not deny a common humanity or makes any judgments about the worth or importance of any particular culture. But knowledge, as opposed to feels, is about making sense of the world. That we’re all one big family is a statement that might make you feel warm inside but like other high-level generalisations it has got zero descriptive or explanatory value. It certainly doesn’t trump (pun intended) a specific – and correct – historical observation.
If Trump – or Obama or Scott Morrison or Hillary Clinton – saying that 2 + 2 = 4 makes you automatically deny the maths because your bete noire simply cannot be correct, you might want to take a deep breath or two and reflect on your approach to life. You’re broken. Don’t be that person.
Instead, here’s to the shared cultural and political heritage between Italy and the United States dating back to ancient Rome – including the idea of a republic, a Senate, neo-classical architecture, political oratory, the thousands of words derived from Latin and – of course — a highway system.
Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where this piece also appears.
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