Citizens of Nowhere

This piece in Commentary by Bruce Bawer (“The ‘Global Citizen’ Fraud”) deserves wide attention. Citizenship is out; patriotism is in disgrace; borders are passe. One Worldism and Global Citizenship are the order of the day. There are few greater threats to our freedom. Bawer writes:

On September 24, Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that “the future does not belong to the globalists. The future belongs to the patriots.” Four days later, as if in a rebuke to his assertion, the Great Lawn in New York’s Central Park was the site of the “Global Citizen Festival.” This event brought together “top artists, world leaders, and everyday activists to take action” (in the words of its website) and offered free tickets to “Global Citizens who take a series of actions to create lasting change around the world.” Those “actions” included writing tweets and signing petitions affirming their dedication to “changing the world.”

The concept of being a citizen of the world is not new; as Bawer points out, it goes back at least to Diogenes in the 4th century B.C. But its current version, behind which our elite institutions have uniformly lined up, is “vapid but dangerous.”

The concept of global citizenship now pervades our politics. During her 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton envisioned a Western hemisphere, and ultimately a world, without borders. Barack Obama, in reply to a question about American exceptionalism, said that, yes, he saw America as exceptional, but that people in other countries, too, saw their countries as exceptional. The last sentence of his Nobel Peace Prize citation contained the word “global” not once but twice: “The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that ‘Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.’” What U.S. president had ever been more global? A Kenyan father, an Indonesian boyhood: his bestselling autobiography conveyed his affection for both of those countries; it was the U.S. for which his feelings were ambivalent.

The concept of global citizenship also dominates our popular culture. In a 2018 book, Hollywood Heyday, David Fantle and Tom Johnson write about attending a 1981 church service with film director Frank Capra, then 93. To honor the recently released Tehran hostages, the recessional hymn was “America (My Country ’Tis of Thee).” All four verses, three of them obscure, were sung. Congregants were handed lyric sheets. Capra didn’t give his sheet so much as a glance. He knew every word of every verse by heart, and sang with emotion. What member of today’s Hollywood elite could do that? More typical of the attitude of movie people nowadays was a remark made during an onstage interview at the 2016 PEN World Voices Festival by screenwriter Richard Price. Asked about American identity, he replied: “I always feel like I live in the country of New York.” The interviewer replied: “Whenever I’m traveling and people ask if I’m American, I say I’m a New Yorker.” Price replied: “I always say I’m Canadian because I don’t know who I’m talking to.”

To the extent that Global Citizenship has content, it consists of the platitudes that dominate the American and Western European left. Bawer points out that the world is a more diverse place than One Worlders want to admit, and the values and practices of many countries are antithetical to ours. Bawer’s piece is long and deserves to be read in its entirety. This is his conclusion:

To a large extent, the project of global citizenship is about trying to replace the concrete with the abstract, about exchanging the real for the idealistic. It’s a matter of trying to talk Americans into rejecting the pragmatic and industrious patriotism that, yes, made America great, and pushing on them, instead, yet another pernicious utopian ideology of the sort that almost destroyed Europe in the 20th century. It’s a matter of endlessly talking up ideas for radical change on every level of society—from ecological measures that would bring down the world economy to a neurotic obsessiveness with hierarchies of group identity that threatens to destroy America’s social fabric—instead of implementing practical reforms that enjoy popular support and would improve everyone’s life. It’s a matter of trying to persuade ordinary citizens, in the name of some higher good—whether world peace or world health or protection of the planet’s environment—to relinquish their freedom and obey a small technocratic elite. In the final analysis, global citizenship is a dangerous dream, a threat to individual liberty, and an assault on American sovereignty—a menace not only to Americans but to all humanity, and one that should therefore be rejected unambiguously by all men and women of goodwill and at least a modicum of common sense.

Amen.

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