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May 09, 2004

We Think Most Americans Are Named Jonathan Schwarz

The New York Times has a story today about George Bush's continuing unpopularity in Europe. But maybe things are different in Poland:

"Given that the Polish fate in Iraq is linked with President Bush and his policies, there are more sympathies on the Bush side," said Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a former European affairs minister who is running for the European Parliament. "We think he's been a decisive and courageous president."

One of the best things about the New York Times is that it's very polite. It's so polite it didn't ask if Saryusz-Wolski's statement is what, back in olden times, used to be called "true."

Are there "more sympathies on the Bush side" in Poland? I don't feel like investigating this in depth, since, unlike the person who wrote this article, I'm not being paid. But:

Poles overwhelmingly and increasingly oppose the involvement of their country's armed forces in the coalition stabilisation force in Iraq, according to a survey by the CBOS institute published Wednesday.

It found that 66 percent of the 993 people questioned were against any involvement, up from 60 percent in March, while 29 backed the presence of Polish units with the coalition forces, down from 36 percent last month.

Half of those interviewed wanted Polish forces pulled out of Iraq as soon as possible, while 43 percent were against.

Some polls suggest public support for Poland's role in Iraq has declined to 35%.

The NY Times was also polite enough not to ask who the "we" was in Saryusz-Wolski's statement, "We think he's been a decisive and courageous president." Maybe it was Saryusz-Wolski and his wife. I assume there's at least one other person in Poland who thinks George Bush has been a decisive and courageous president.

This is an example of one of my favorite forms of human behavior, and I would like to make it one of your favorite forms, too. It's this: believing that because you and people like you feel a certain way, everyone does.

Here's another (especially beautiful) example from the website "Instapundit": "The American South knows what it's like to lose a war, and to be occupied... the American South certainly didn't like being occupied. Reconstruction was very unpopular."

Yes, how true -- as all historians will tell you, freed slaves wouldn't stop complaining about how terrible it was to be occupied. The worst part about Reconstruction, former slaves felt, was that federal troops prevented them from being massacred on a large scale, and sometimes made it possible for them to vote. Oh, how they hated it. Many African Americans whine about it to this day.

In the same vein, this appeared in a Washington Post review of a Thomas Jefferson biography (not online). It was written by Joyce Appleby, a professor at UCLA:

Jefferson's authorship of the Declaration of Independence has long made his name a stand-in for democracy itself. But these days we are also aware that this champion of free speech, religious tolerance and the political participation of ordinary white men owned upward of 200 enslaved men, women and children.

Again, who exactly is this "we"? Perhaps white UCLA professors writing for the Washington Post just became aware Jefferson owned slaves. But I suspect many others, such as the slaves Jefferson owned, were aware that Jefferson owned slaves.

This is the amazing thing about human beings. On the one hand, Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) and Joyce Appleby are probably nice, smart people. On the other hand, they can make sweeping statements about "everyone" that casually eliminate much of humanity, leaving only people like themselves. Likewise, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski happily negates the existence of the Poles who don't agree with him. That they all did this unconsciously makes it all the more appalling, particularly in Reynolds' case.

Of course, I do the same kind of thing constantly. But I am neither nice nor smart.

Posted at May 9, 2004 08:58 AM | TrackBack