how the world sees america

Love Americans, Hate America?

hate_america_love_americans.jpg
Forget America. What about Americans?

Over the last three months, I asked scores of people how they see America, and one answer came back to me again and again:

“I love the American people, but hate their government.”

A barber in London, a doctor in New Delhi, and a drag queen in Lahore said those words thousands of miles apart.

Should Americans be comforted by their answer?

In a live online discussion at the launch of Part One, columnist David Ignatius said the following:

I've heard "I like America, it's your policies I don't like" so many times that I have become almost numbed by it. When I was in Tehran last year, I went to Friday prayers at Tehran University, where thousands of people were chanting "Death to America." Leaving the service, I stopped one of the worshipers, identified myself as an American journalist, and asked what I should think about this "Death to America" stuff. "We don't want to kill Americans," this person said, "We just don't like your policies." Why did I not find this reassuring?

When I hear this, I push deeper by asking, “Well, is America a democracy, and if so then don’t the wishes of U.S. citizens, to some extent, get reflected in the government they choose?” The three types of answers that come back to me are far more revealing than where we began:

1) Americans are Victims. As Peter Underwood, a houseboat owner in England, said, “Americans aren’t actually free to elect their government; they are being ruled by an elite.”

2) Americans are Villains. Theater students in Lahore decided, “Well I suppose Americans are to blame too; they're just as selfish as their government.”

3) Americans are Uninformed. Looking at me instead of the road, my Keralite driver Reji Shokla said, “You Americans don’t pay attention to the rest of the world; you don’t understand what you have done to us.”

In answer one, Peter Underwood paints Americans as the pawns of a ruling cabal. So long "Beacon of Democracy" and "City on a Hill." Answer two claims we’re proponents of a callous government, so the distinction between the U.S. state and it's people collapses. (Polls show this happening). Case three, however, offers room for change.

In an oft-cited essay, Public Diplomacy: America Is Job No. 1, Bruce Stokes argues that compared to other countries, Americans are largely unaware of the rest of the world and the views of foreign publics. He says that as a result we rarely factor international public perceptions into what we say and do, from the us-versus-them rhetoric we applaud at a campaign rally to the unilateral stance we reward at the voting booth.

Of course some things America must do to protect itself might inevitably be unpopular abroad. That's fine, Stokes says, but right now Americans wouldn’t really know how to weigh foreign perceptions when making big decisions because their awareness of the world, its history, and its people is scant. But thankfully, to the extent this is true, it’s something we citizens can remedy ourselves.

There are plenty of chances for direct dialogue these days between Americans and the world. The web certainly helps. This site hopes to contribute. And there are plenty of good reasons to participate: It can enlighten us, excite us, elevate our political debates at home, and keep us human in foreign eyes.

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Comments (53)

Till:

Hey Amar,

I applaud your endurance to listen to us foreigners and I applaud you personally because you care about your country.

This is a great blog, I hope more people read it.

Till (from Berlin)

Amy:

Amar,

Public opinion outside the U.S. is so critcally important to creating effective foreign policy that we used it as one of the 10 metrics to measure U.S. success - or lack thereof - to date in the "war on terror." We found that U.S. foreign policy is percevied throughout the Muslim world as an aggressive, hostile and destabilizing force, which explains the common "love Americans, hate American policies" paradox. Kudos to you for bringing this issue out of the shadows. Despite what Mrs. Cheney says, American interests are tied up with what happens in the rest of the world. If you have time during your travels, you can read the report, "Are We Winning? Measuring Progress in the Struggle Against Violent Jihadism," here: http://americansecurityproject.org/issues/reports/are_we_winning

Keep up the good work abd safe travels.

Marc in South Korea:

This site is great. I am American, but I have lived abroad for many years. More Americans need to realize that global views of America are complex, nuanced and based largely in a sense of history. History is something most Americans don't really understand, and not even because we don't have much of it. The reason most Americans are bored by history and ignorant of it, is because public schools whitewash our history to support the myth that America is a perfectly open, free and egalitarian society that is on a flawless track of progress and has never done anything bad without the best intentions at heart. Geographically, America does not have any powerful neighbors of significant historical and cultural differences. Mexico is financially weak, and Canada is culturally very similar to America. So, it is very easy for American's to think of the rest of the world as a single second-class mob. And it is easy to dismiss conflict with our policies as jealousy. Most Americans believe that we were attacked on 9/11 because they are jealous of our freedoms. As Bin Laden himself said "if I was jealous of freedom, why didn't we attack Sweden?"

In the places where America is hated, it is usually because of very specific actions of coercion or aggression, often unknown to most Americans, against their people and their government. For example, South Korea was told to join the "coalition of the willing" to invade Iraq. They declined, because it was massively unpopular. Donald Rumsfeld then threatened to withdraw America's troops from South Korea if they didn't, leaving South Korea open to invasion from North Korea. South Korea then joined the invasion, in spite of the wishes of its people and government, because of a very hostile threat from the US government. The so-called "coalition of the willing" was made up of countries that had been threatened or coerced into joining in spite of massive public disapproval.

Cristina:

To Roderick W Stillwell:

Well, I might just say that even myself, American from the South, did not know these details about the WWII..I mean about Germany declaring war on US and not the opposite.

We always saw many WWI war movies...but parents used to stick in front the screen to watch all those elaborate documentaries, over and over again...Yet, I never knew this detail! confess that I was ignorant of most dates you cited, particularly how long it took to US to join the battle. Is this "forgetful" detail made on purpose, in order to solidify the American Myth?

I knew a little better on the US interference in South America by the time dictatorships were flourishing around here...with the US knowledge and consent.

In any case, I have the opinion that we should try to act in order to avoid a day with the after. It not because of any weapons race, it is because I believe if there is no piece on earth, our lives will be endangered...Unfortunately, chances are that the US has made its largest contribution ever to this fate...and I go back to Indian driver's answer that was one of the points less negatives out of the three Bakshi pointed out: It is wise answer. So true and so simple! and return to my first comment then. If no lesson is drawn from it, nothing, no clever journalistic endeavour, nothing will be of any help either to US or to the rest of the world, because chances are that more blunders are yet to come.

Though I know how much contempt and consent US has displayed with the dictatorships in LA, I think that that time is gone. MY challenge and the the challenges of my descendants are bigger, more dangerous, more demanding in terms of making us bury the past in order to fight for the future.

It would be a dream if the US could become a real partner with the world's future and common challenges. But that will only happen if they stop living in denial, which is very difficult to happen, but we should hope. As you said, certain values, beliefs and principles are part of an ingrained culture i a one-right-way-of living: the American way.


A poster said that I meant well for America. Indeed! Why? There are other challenges=gs ahead, much more serious. There will e a day when we will miss debating just about regional wars. The day when there would be a battle for drinking water, water for plantations, to feed animals, to provide energy, to move industries, to irrigate crops....Besides, I cannot build on other's disgrace. I cant build anything worth my ideals by wishing that my neighbours suffer the shame that he might have caused me himself!It is my principle in life, it is attitude in life.

I am 100% against the war and 1000% against those warmongers who act backstage it, to decide later on which side to take, where is set the best advantage. These guys who still think this way have not realised yet that in future attitudes like that will only raise the stakes and create more (not less)instability. I must take for granted that some people are slow to wake up for the truth, like typical nasty cowards (some of them dressed up as world leaders)and "flaming joes"...I liked the term.

I like what Churchill said: "If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future"...very timing still! Perhaps now more than ever.

The world is a mess...let us put it together. Is not the US only...sorry Americans...but the world, not lonely you....s mess. Thanks to you? Yes, perhaps...certainly. But the sake up has being a violent one and can turn nastier each time...so let us WAKE UP FOR THE 21ST century!

Roderick W Stillwell:

I'm taking some extra time this Sunday to review Mr. Bakshi's entire 'project', as it were.

As is often the case, I observe that intelligent and commendable journalistic endeavors such as Amar's act like magnets to reactionary, puerile hysterics who become the first responders (aka: 'knee-jerks'), intruding a pre-emptive muck of ill-tempered prejudice, 'ad-hominem' attacks and what passes (to them) as 'opinions', -- albeit characteristicly wanting of the substance necessary to qualify as such.

Although I wouldn't flatter such responders by presuming they possess the ability to form intent, 'flaming trolls' do discourage many who would otherwise make productive use of their time and benefit from intelligent pursuit of information, ideas and understanding.

These 'flaming joes' should be made aware that the impression they leave of themselves is that they don't get, because they don't deserve, any respect in their personal lives; ...either.

One of the most often cited 'knee-jerk opinions' that marks a divergence between the way Americans view themselves and the way they are seen by people in other countries, is: "They don't appreciate what we [the US] did for them during the Second World War." This is usually delivered with no small amount of acrimony and disdain.

Very few have forgotten. American sacrifices at Monte Cassino, Anzio; the Battle of the Bulge,-- thousands of airmen shot down, imprisoned, maimed or perished over France and Germany. The list is as extensive as it is impressive and worthy of praise. Yet one in twenty adult Americans can name 3 battles in the European Theatre off the top of their head. It's not the Europeans or Allies that forget. They live with it every day.

The sad, pathetic truth is, it's Americans who have forgotten; --forgotten everything except the the likes of propaganda films made to celebrate Patton's self-glorifying 'caboosing' into this city or that; --'caboosing' in the sense that he was usually a good 20 km out of range of enemy ordinance until it was safe for Frank Capra's retinue to scout ahead and set up for his next 'photo-op'.

One in a hundred Americans know the proper designation of the army Patton led; -- a ratio that roughly reflects the number of Americans who were paying attention during George C. Scott's rendering in "Patton", the movie. (JFTR; it was the Third Army)

Where the divergence of views is most striking, and most galling to non-Americans in general, derives from the events that preceded the deployment of American forces in the War against the Axis Powers.

Let's review.

Aug 25, 1939
- Britain and Poland sign a Mutual Assistance Treaty.

Sept 1, 1939 - Nazis invade Poland.

Sept 3, 1939 - Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand declare war on Germany.

Sept 5, 1939 - United States proclaims neutrality; German troops cross the Vistula River in Poland.

Sept 10, 1939 - Canada declares war on Germany; Battle of the Atlantic begins.

July 1, 1940 - German U-boats attack [Canadian] merchant ships in the Atlantic

July 10, 1940 - Battle of Britain begins.

March 11, 1941 - President Roosevelt signs the Lend-Lease Act.

June 14, 1941 - United States freezes German and Italian assets in America

July 26, 1941 - Roosevelt freezes Japanese assets in United States and suspends relations.

Aug 1, 1941 - United States announces an oil embargo against aggressor states.

Aug 14, 1941 - Roosevelt and Churchill announce the Atlantic Charter.

Dec 7, 1941 - Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor; Hitler issues the Night and Fog decree.

Dec 8, 1941 - United States and Britain declare war on Japan.

Dec 11, 1941 - Germany declares war on the United States.

What's not "forgotten", and what is "appreciated" by many (like Canadians, you know, the ones Americans are so primed to accuse of not being good friends) is the different response to the invasion of Poland made by Britain and Canada and the response of the US. Britain and Canada declared war on Germany within 24 hours. The US "proclaimed neutrality". What buds!

Roosevelt's 'neutrality' manifested as American Industry indenturing Britain by supplying arms, oil, electronics, dry goods and groceries;... on credit. Same time, giants such as Phillips, Dupont, Shell, GE were trafficking with Axis confederates by way of hedging their bets on the outcome. Exploitation by Americans of those who took the initiative to stem the spread of Fascism in Europe, who suffered untoled sacrifice in consequence, did not so bespeak a national character of virtuous compassion as it did one of economic opportunism.

America was making a killing, after its own fashion; and was proud of it. The perception was, America was not disposed to forsake this glorious opportunity to stuff corporate coffers, at least not voluntarily, until;... yes, until: GERMANY DECLARED WAR ON THE US.

I 'screamed' this last bit because most Americans I've met are under the conviction that the US declared war on Germany. I don't know where this missperception originated; --perhaps from some mistaken notion about the US seizing German and Italian assets 22 months after the war began. "Isolationism" evidently didn't mean the US couldn't grab anything it could lay its hands on; and get away with it. But the perception that the US vaulted in to WW II to save the world from the horrors of Naziism is ingrained. Challenging this false perception is almost guaranteed to start a losing argument. "A man convinced against his will, holds the same opinion still." as the saying goes.

By what reasoning do Americans feel they can claim to be "good friends" to Canadians, or the British, or the French, based on their performance in WWII? The US hung us all out to dry for 2 years and 3 months and only came into the fray kicking at the goads when Germany left them no choice by declaring war on them?

Contrast this with what happened when Japan attacked Pear Harbor; -- a remote quasi-American ‘get-away’ in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 99.9% of the world’s population couldn’t have found it in Rand McNally with a magnifying glass.

When Hitler trampled Czechoslovakia and Poland, when it overran Belgium, Holland, and France, all vital nations with centuries of history and importance to the Western World, there was no cosmic proclamation from 'The Hill' about, “A day… that shall live… in infamy.” But damage to a tiny, quasi-American port on a nearly invisible island was instantly magnified to blasphemy; as if the very foundations of Righteousness and Divine Creation had been shaken.

Nevertheless, in less than 24 hours of the attack, Britain and Canada declared war on Japan!! They (we) didn’t wait 27 months to see how we might ghoulishly work our American friends’ calamity to our economic advantage.

When Americans feel the condescending urge to oblige the rest of the Western World to remember and appreciate what it did for them in WW II, it might be politic for them to temper their expectations with the "appreciation" that the World just might "remember" a lot more than they do. We (with the possible exception of me) just don't see the point in making ourselves obnoxious about it.

Perhaps the second most galling 'opinion' that identifies the inveterate "flaming joe" is: "who cares?




CRIPPLED_CREEK@YAHOO.COM:

i am an american i love america i hate our broken irresponsible unaccountable governement ,
i am multi disbled left onthe road over 7 years
allthe programs and no safe and accesible housing near a university in california?

allthe alws and policy about civil and human rights and needs have been reuduced to a joke book.

EVEN AMANY OF THE CHURCHES HAVE BEEN PREACHING GREED IS GOOD GODS REWARD MORE TO INSURE ACORPORATE ANND 2 CLASS SOCIETY .

WE THE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN THE THREE MONKEYS

TIME TO TAKE THE BLINDERS MUZZLE AND EARPLUGS OFF.
SPEAK UP AND SPEAK OUT.

AND THE ENTIRE WORLD IS MORE THAN WELCOME TO JOIN US

im for ObamA only one doesnt owe so many can't make the chAnges.
to get the USA back in america.!!!!

gods can save your soul,
we need Obama to save the USA

YEA!
SORRY ABOUT HTE DYSLEXIA.

CRIPPLED CREEK:

SORRY ABOUT THE DYSLEXIA

CRIPPLED_CREEK@YAHOO.COM:

i am an american i love america i hate our broken irresponsible unaccountable governement ,
i am multi disbled left onthe road over 7 years
allthe programs and no safe and accesible housing near a university in california?

allthe alws and policy about civil and human rights and needs have been reuduced to a joke book.

EVEN AMANY OF THE CHURCHES HAVE BEEN PREACHING GREED IS GOOD GODS REWARD MORE TO INSURE ACORPORATE ANND 2 CLASS SOCIETY .

WE THE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN THE THREE MONKEYS

TIME TO TAKE THE BLINDERS MUZZLE AND EARPLUGS OFF.
SPEAK UP AND SPEAK OUT.

AND THE ENTIRE WORLD IS MORE THAN WELCOME TO JOIN US

im for ObamA only one doesnt owe so many can't make the chAnges.
to get the USA back in america.!!!!

gods can save your soul,
we need Obama to save the USA

YEA!

I told you so:

I told you so...this might be the most obvious thing to say, but that is what it is.

Does anyone still remember the WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION? I cant recall any speech or the slightest mention to democracy A REASON FOR THE WAR, GOING IT ALONE, against the UN(now conveniently the US is forcing UN back into Iraq in order to take on bigger burden (what US call euphemistically "role")...

America was not hated, I think it never was really. But not a single living human being will respect and admire a compulsive liar and that is exactly as the US is seen: a country guided by liars, of the worst kind. In many ways, our leaders represent who we are out there...whether one likes it or not. It is indisputable truth.

They speak for us, decide in our name.

US despised the world and went it alone, the bring'em on thing. Now, is feeling what it is being despised too, but it worst for them now because they got demoralised and it is a helpless feeling as they voted for Bush...this time with no controversy....Canadians and other peoples are avenged now...if it ever work as consolation, which I dont believe. First, because we follow our heart, but also listen to the reason's voice...something that Americans so used to idolise their leaders, esp[especially the president are for long used to. second, because we should seek peace, but is harder than to seek war!!!! Much harder!

but we are better than that. We are different! We have always been! That is what save us from madness.

Anonymous:

JLR:

'Quelle suprise'!

The Greenback lost more that half a cent relative to the Canuck Buck just in the time it took me to write yesterday's comment. The ER has been so volatile this week, I opted to err on the side of caution.

Thank you for taking the time to grind through my rather tedious comment. And thank you for referring to me as one of your “dear neighbours and friends to the north”. We like to think of ourselves as a “rather pleasant bunch”.

This might be the right time to reflect on a little recent history of CAN/US relations with a focus on “Bashing”.

When then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien responded 'in camera' to Bush's request to participate in the invasion of Iraq, he advised Bush that he didn't have evidence that would "convince a judge of the municipal court in Shawinigan."

The response to Canada's decision to demur from the war from ACME's pundits included:
Pat Robertson's explosive despising of Canadians as “cowards” and “ingrates”. He railed on over several broadcasts implying that 911 Terrorists came in to the US from Canada, and labelling the country “Canuckistan”, and “... a haven for terrorists”. None of the 911 bunch ever set foot on Canadian soil. All were in possession of duly processed US official documentation. And as anyone who has travelled outside the US and returned knows, those coming in don't pass through Canadian Customs & Immigration. Screening is the sole responsibility of US Officials.

Despite receiving letters from the Canadian Government pointing out his slanderous and entirely false accusations and innuendos, Mr. Robertson has never acknowledged, much less apologized, for his statements.

Ann Coulter had much of a similarly uninformed, but equally combustive nature to say as well. She argued on air with a senior journalist from Canada, asserting that Canada had joined the US in the Vietnam War. She was dead wrong; of course. And he politely told her so. Nonplussed, she went right on to accuse her colleague of not knowing Canadian History! He invited her on air to come to Canada for another interview. She declined with saccharin condescension. She prefers to demonstrate her fearless dedication to the truth by accusing others of being ignorant cowards while maintaining a very safe distance with virtually no risk of exposure. She dismissed her esteemed Canadian colleague with: “[Canadians] better hope the United States does not roll over one and crush them. ...”.

Then there was Bill O'reilly saying; "Canada may deserve a cold US shoulder" and calling Canadians 'morons” and a string of other unflattering epithets ornamented with language graciously 'bleeped' by our local providers.

--- and Tucker Carlson with his “. [Canada] ...is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada."

A Pew Global Attitudes Survey taken not long after these character assassinations showed that only 18% of Americans considered Canada a friendly neighbour.

At ground level, this contempt was experienced first hand by many Canadians travelling to the US. There were several reports in the Vancouver, BC media about Canadians shoppers in Seattle, Bellingham and Blaine WA having their cars keyed, egged and left with hateful messages on windshields. Some reported being spat on and verbally abused even with their kids in tow. Things got ugly. “Cross” Border Shopping took on a very different meaning that for some Canadians, including my neighbours, persits today. Items stamped “Made in USA” or labelled as such in the supermarkets are still likely to get passed over by customers given a choice. The sale of California wines in Vancouver took a very big hit, and recent figures show that they have not recovered to pre-2002 levels.

The change in the exchange rate is luring many Canadians back. Fiscal pragmatism goes a long way even for disgruntled Canucks. What is not forgotten however, is the perception of how fast American sentiments can be turned against “dear neighbours and friends to the north” merely on 'trumped up' charges. More significantly, there will be an enduring perception that most of the American public can be fooled “all of the time”, and not care to do anything about it.

The "grit & gristle" that the American Media used to boast is a faded memory; the stuff of B&W movies.

WRT Mr. Bakshi's quest for perceptions of America(ns) from abroad, I think it's safe to say that most people have lost respect for the people of the US.

If any man were to abuse his children the way Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have abused the 'Children' of America, that man would have got lynched on the handiest limb of the sturdiest tree on the block. Instead, Americans tolerate the abuse and are content to bide until it pleases the 'perps' to move out of the neighbourhood. To do the right thing would take a communal sense of moral outrage; and guts.

JRLR:

Roderick W Stillwell writes: "... in 2000, the Canadian Dollar was converting at $0.61 US. Today, it is floating around $1.01 US."

Roderick, should you wish your grandsons to be on good terms with our dear neighbours and friends to the north, you'd better point out that today, the Canadian Dollar was floating around $1.03767US...

Besides, don't you think we should give Canadian tourists every encouragement to visit the US? Theirs is lucrative business, after all, and they're a rather pleasant bunch of folks, aren't they?...

Roderick W Stillwell:

MIKE S:

I'd only plead guilty to "Bashing" if these "other countries" professed to be founded upon, to believe in, to follow, and to promulgate the ideals inherent in the articles I cited; --but were in point of historical fact, a living testimony to the contrary.

I cited "hypocricy" to allude to a 'Zeitgeist' that pervades America at this time in history;-- a disassociated abstention that countenances inflicting great and terrible destruction on other sovereign nations based upon nothing more than suborned testimony that they *might*
pose a real and immediate threat and that it is therefor just, even imperative, in the interest of national security to effect a regime change.

Bush took no such interest in the plight of Rwandans or Sudanese. Yet their need for compassionate intervention exceeded anything imaginable in Iraq by several orders of magnitude. But they had no oil. There was nothing 'in it' for America.

The pretext of advancing "Democracy" and "Freedom" was, and is, mere affectation and rhetoric. As Alan Greenspan wrote in "The Age of Turbulence; Adventures in a New World":
"I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." Mr. Greenspan wasn't "bashing"; he was illuminating a truth.

Rendered in the 'lingo' of his Home State, what Bush was/is about is, 'cattle(oil)rustling', 'claim jumping', and 'dry-gulching' at the Iraqi Ranch, and 'four-flushing' the American public into backing his bet.

The Iraqi people were, and ARE still, depreciated by Americans; --like so many mangey sheep herders, sod-busters, wet-backs and other lesser 'provocateurs' who made violent retaliation obligatory by inserting fences between their livestock and the range cattle barons felt was theirs by divine right; unencumbered and in perpetuity.

It is the countenancing of the abrogation of the dignity of other people that indicts Americans. And the tolerance of it that convicts the the Fourth Estate, "ACME" (American Corporate Media Establishment) of complicity and dereliction of duty.

The test of hypocrisy hasn't changed in thousands of years. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." America has resources at its disposal, resources it squanders wholesale on itself, that would save peoples of many nation from starvation, from disease, from poverty, from oppressions of all sorts. The spirit of the PNAC 'manifesto', the "President's National Security Strategy" and many more extant texts and documents, makes it clear America's rendering of
the Golden Rule is: "What's mine is mine; what's yours is subject to our interpretation".

Perhaps the most illuminating outpouring of hypocrisy of recent weeks derives from the contumely rained upon Ahmadinejad at Columbia U.
All of the recriminations levied against him by the incensed mob of self-righteous bruiters applies, to a greater extent, to Bush.

And to add irony to insult, the efforts of the US to constrain the Iranian economy overlooks the fact that the US economy is in far, far worse shape than Iran's. It's just that ACME has kept exposition and discussion of the current exposure of the US to national bankruptcy well out of the public consciousness.

In a nutshell, the US has been "cooking the books" to such an extent that it will make Enron look like a case of "The dog ate my homework".

As of this writing, every US citizen is in hock to the tune of $169,565. Every full-time wage earner living (legally) in the US is sitting on an accrued (undisclosed) liability of $407,609 above and beyond what they know about their domestic finances.

Also at this time of writing, the Greenback has lost approximately 40% of its purchasing power abroad since the Bush Admin took the reins.
E.g., in 2000, the Canadian Dollar was converting at $0.61 US. Today, it is floating around $1.01 US. The fact that this is NOT front and center in ACME is a pretty good indication that the truth is not being communicated effectively to the American public; --else there would not be the continual bruiting about how the economy is growing.

The service charge on the National Debt, using an "OOTA" interest rate of 6%, works out to $2038 per month; a charge the hapless wage earner doesn't get to see or challenge.

The deferment of the applicable service charge is made possible by the fact the the US is continuing to borrow $2 billion a day; --effectively converting credit to cash to maintain the illusion of growing economy.

If any reader wishes to contemplate the pervasiveness of this Great Deception, go to "National Debt Clocks and Savings Clocks"
http://zfacts.com/p/461.html
There you will see the purported ND, as per the Treasury Department, at $9 trillion; give or take.
The actual National Debt however, is just now passing $50 trillion.
see:
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548
December 14, 2005
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE STATEMENT
p. 28
"Including these items, the federal government’s fiscal exposures now total more than $46 trillion, up from about $20 trillion in 2000. This translates into a burden of about $156,000 per American or approximately $375,000 per full-time worker, up from $72,000 and $165,000 respectively, in 2000. These amounts do not include future costs resulting from Hurricane Katrina or the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Continuing on this unsustainable path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security."
David M. Walker
Comptroller General of the United States

The significance of this 'disastrophe' can be further seen in a snip from a Paper presented at the AEA-NAEFA Joint Session way back in January 2004. Pay special attention to the fact that this paper of 2004 is drawing conclusion based upon a $5 trillion deficit; whereas we now know it has ballooned to 10 times that.
http://www.brookings.edu/dybdocroot/views/papers/orszag/20040105.pdf

I. Introduction
> The U.S. federal budget is on an unsustainable path. In the absence of significant policy
> changes, federal government deficits are expected to total around *$5* trillion over the next
> decade. Such deficits will cause U.S. government debt, relative to GDP, to rise significantly.
> Thereafter, as the baby boomers increasingly reach retirement age and claim Social Security and
> Medicare benefits, government deficits and debt are likely to grow even more sharply. The scale
> of the nation’s projected budgetary imbalances is now so large that the risk of severe adverse
> consequences must be taken very seriously, although it is impossible to predict when such
> consequences may occur.
...This omission
> is understandable and appropriate in the context of deficits that are small and temporary; it is
> increasingly untenable, however, in an environment with deficits that are large and permanent.
> Substantial ongoing deficits may severely and adversely affect expectations and confidence,
> which in turn can generate a self-reinforcing negative cycle among the underlying fiscal deficit,..."

Perhaps Mr. Bakshi might cut from the pack and distinguish himself by applying his expertise in investigative journalism by exposing a deception that is even bigger than the War in Iraq, than Social Security, than Medical and Educational underfunding, than infrastructure degradation... It's going to come out by'n bye anyway.
It's just a question of who's going to start the "thread" ...and when.

No Mike; I'm not bashing, much less am I gloating. I'm heartsick to see what has happened and deeply concerned about what awaits my grandsons now entering their teens.

My question is; when is America going to stop trading on its own mythology and get real?

This Admin needs to be impeached. It needs to be
deposed and tendered to The Hague. By'n bye, Americans will come to see the wisdom of doing this. I can only hope they see it before the culprits are out of office and out of reach; ... and what righteous dignity properly attaches to
Americans is beyond redemption.

"l'esprit d'escalier" can be a real bummer.

mike s:

RW STILLWELL

Fine words: "What the World longs to see is America living up to, verily manifesting, its Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights --the "Charters of Freedom"; ...documents that suggest a spirit that is as close to being divinely inspired and invested with hope as mankind is likely to come up with on its own"

Yet you say failure to live up to these ideals is "hypocricy, overweening self-righteousness,
and abject parochialism." Sounds like "America Bashing" to me.

No? Well, do you use these terms to describe other countries that don't live up to these ideals? Or do they get a pass by not declaring them?

Cristina (Food for thought):

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived, and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic."
John F. Kennedy

"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err."
Mahatma Gandhi


"Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe, by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes -- goodwill among men and peace on earth."
Albert Einstein
-----------------------------------------

When I started occasionally posting here, I thought to myself: this site is meant to be global, it is meant to hear what we too(non-Americans) have to say or can say without being dismissed or relegated exactly because we may not know the US...But then I was a little shocked with some comments that were very dismissive or been ridiculed(probably, I guess, they are US citizens) whatever stand non-American might have. This was sad to notice. We read, we think, we get informed and preferably well-informed as much as possible, from a diversity of sources. So, the conclusion, is that it enables us to reason on issues posted here. I hope and I suppose that is the case...not often, but then that is not often the case for the American audience either. We should therefore expect a certain equilibrium regarding this premise: that someone might know better and therefore is able to speak authoritatively. This is misleading and there is no gain, but losers on both sides.

I was giving up of this, though I dont give up easily. some would call it persistence, others stubborness. So, I get back here..now and then.

The sad thing is that the very reason behind this site purpose seemed to be in check. Had it not been that the objective was to search for view points from different audiences, different peoples and therefore culture, values, beliefs? It did not made sense to me that suddenly the opinion from abroad was not counting really, because we were not in America to know the facts on the ground. Suffering and experience has no address, nor official language, race, religion. It does not require any degree, not a social status.

The chance is here and it is now to try and change, to speak out and let others speak their minds too because the infallible way to know as we are known is allowing others to actually say what they think and not try to guide their tongues and hearts in the process. That has hard bite in the dialogue process, because when we are not heard, there is a tendency to stop listening to what the other is saying...then the misunderstandings cement their place and after is hard to break it. American is suffering? Yes, but so are we, so is everybody. The first step now, I believe, is to listen one another; but do so with the ears that listen!


JRLR:

CRISTINA,

In the present context, I particularly liked Einstein's and Plato's (reminded me of Lao Tzu writing against "cleverness" at the head of the State). I also enjoyed Ruskin's, of course...

Seems to me "small contributions" to the common good go much further than big contributions to human suffering, decadence and extinction, Cristina. That may explain why I have kept coming back, lately, to this one from Chris Hedges ("War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning"): "There are times when the only victory possible is to remain human." That is what Chuang Tsu (and others amongst the greatest humanists) kept on repeating: "Better retire and preserve one's integrity than become utterly corrupt amongst usurpers." ("On Kings Who Abdicated")

RODERICK W STILLWELL (October 18, 2007 12:37 PM),

Roderick, I wish I had written what you wrote: "What the World longs to see is America living up to, verily manifesting, its Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights --the "Charters of Freedom"; ...documents that suggest a spirit that is as close to being divinely inspired and invested with hope as mankind is likely to come up with on its own... This isn't "America Bashing"; its an attempt to tell the country that it needs help and that the best remedies are already in its own medicine cabinet."

roderick w stillwell :

Amar;

Excellent piece. Keep it up.

There are several sound comments; and a few... not so much.

The more reactionary responders, those who are still invested in the notion that criticism of American Foreign Policy is tantamount to heresy, might reflect on a simple analogy.

Up here north of the 49th, there are anti-drunk driving promos, the hook line being: "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." Anyone who has tried to inveigh upon a belligerent drunk to accept a drive home from your party from a caring sober friend, knows that the gesture is just as likely to fetch bad language and a punch in the snoot as it is to achieve compliance.

KURTMUDGEON wrote:
"To be better ahem, "citizens of the world" should we be more
like the French? The Russians? The Chinese? The Flemish?
Or perhaps the Syrians?"

Not at all. What the World longs to see is America living up to, verily manifesting, its Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights --the "Charters of Freedom"; ...documents that suggest a spirit that is as close to being divinely inspired and invested with hope as mankind is likely to come up with on its own.

It's hypocricy, overweening self-righteousness,
and abject parochialism that irritate the other
peoples of the Earth. This 'dry-drunk' mentality is evident to anyone who has read the literature, checked the media and/or been exposed to the people of other countries. That the American public would countenance an Administration that subscribes to the PNAC Document, the President's National Security Strategy of March 16, 2006 [1], the institutionalization of, and routine use of, Presidential "Signing Statements", the subversion of FISA, is proof positive of an inchoate ideology contemptuous of the letter and spirit of those inspired founding documents; ... contemptuous of democracy, the sovereignty of other nations, and most significantly, basic human rights.

It is absurd for this Admin to arrogate to itself the mission of spreading democracy to other countries when it has systematically undermined and subverted it at home. Only those impaired by prolonged substance abuse and lashing out in denial fail to see it. This isn't "America Bashing"; its an attempt to tell the country that it needs help and that the best remedies are already in its own medicine cabinet.

[1] http://boundarybaymorningsteamer.blogspot.com/2007/10/presidents-national-security-strategy.html

Cristina (Food for thought):

"Peace if possible, but truth at any rate."
Martin Luther (1483-1546)

"A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

"Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause."
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

"Tell a person they are brave and you help them become so."
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

"Men shrink less from offending one who inspires love than one who inspires fear."
Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

"Remember, no human condition is ever permanent. Then you will not be overjoyed in good fortune nor too scornful in misfortune."
Socrates (BC 469-BC 399)

"Things do not change, we do."
Henry David Thoreau

"It is a dangerous thing to reform anyone".
Oscar Wilde

"Ignorance of all things is an evil neither terrible nor excessive, nor yet the greatest of all; but great cleverness and much learning, if they be accompanied by a bad training, are a much greater misfortune."
Plato (BC 427-BC 347)

"That is never too often repeated, which is never sufficiently learned."
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

"Daring is not safe against daring men."
Ovid (BC 43-AD 18)

"When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package."
John Ruskin (1819-1900)

"Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly will acquire the skill to do difficult things easily."
Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

"Patience is the support of weakness; impatience the ruin of strength"
Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832)

"We cannot solve a problem by using the same reasoning that created it".
Albert Einstein

---------------------------------------

Reading is my bread, it helps me make sense of the world I am living in. I am not Cartesian or a quotation-guided person. Hopefully I think for myself, but with reading this task is much more facilitated.

Thank you JRLR for your comments on my posts, though I feel that they are just a small contribution. My fear is that if America really doesn't change its mind (one of the quotes fer to it) it wont be able to change anything else, not now, with all that has happened in recent years. Here is the danger. You dont need to look toward Middle East...just look to South America. I am sure you will know what I am trying to say.

JRLR:

Jacques writes: "I thought, ten years ago at least that anti Americanism what a wonderful substitute to anti-Semitism...It had the same psychological and political characteristics and uses... Later, I listened a German Journalist telling that same idea at ARTE the French6German TV sender... I was very proud and happy to see that I was not ALONE.."

Jacques, I have a lot of respect for people at ARTE.

Nevertheless, I find your "rapprochement" between anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism most amusing.

I can easily visualize poor little David (chosen by God) made into a scapegoat -- A SYMBOL of something terribly real, in our time! -- but the image of endearing bully Goliath as a scapegoat simply cannot enter my mind.

I know very well you are not alone... so I must try harder, I presume. I will, I promise.

JRLR:

Cristina

God be blessed, there are two after all (please refer to my note to Celsus)!...

You're making me blush this morning, Cristina.

I am so happy that note came from you. I always enjoy reading your posts. I find much substance, originality, sensitivity, humanity and courage in what you write, Cristina. You mean well for America.

I shall forward your comments to group members. I have no doubt they will appreciate.

Thanks a million, Cristina. You're very kind.


JRLR:

The Celsus,

Thank you for your kind words. I knew I had opponents, but did not know I had a fan... I rather like the feeling, you know? I would not mind havng two or three of those... even if they were to dare sometimes disagree with me on essential issues... Hasn't the Buddha insisted each and everyone of us be one's own light?

Thanks again, The Celsus. Wishing you all the best.

Caspar, Continental European:

Hm, why does the world not like Americans? For several reasons. Americans - and I am sorry for the generalization, are really unaware of their historical responsibility of so many human rights violations, murders and crimes against humanity committed by their various governments. Not only the most recent like Abu Ghreib and Guantanamo, or the famous ones like My Lai or the numerous support of horrible dictators all around the world, foremost though in Latin America. Your troops are deployed all over the world where there sometimes misbehave badly - like raping little Japanese girls in Okinawa or the like. And then the tourists... Just the fact that Americans think they can see Europe in 2 weeks is an insult to our long and complex history. I have met some travelers from the US that told me, they had traveled through all of Europe, but actually left out the UK, France and Germany... so arguably the three most influential countries of this continent. I am aware that Americans have shorter holidays then we do. And I am aware of the fact, that this last argument surely seems like European snobbery. But for crying out loud! That is just what cements the picture of the loud uneducated American. Which is often just a mere prejudice, but still...
Anyway. Other facts... You voted for Bush! And he only really seemed to drop in opinion polls, when more and more of your soldiers died in Iraq. And we all sympathize with you here. I am truly sorry for your grieve. But it was your decision. Even if you didn't elect Bush the first time in 2000, America made it's choice and RE-elected him! So, deal with it no.
I spoke to a Georgian Woman - and I mean the country in the Caucasus, not your state - who much rather stayed under Russian domination than under American influence, because she expressed her fear of cultural domination by America, something that the Russians didn't do in hundreds of years of hegemony over Georgia.
This engulfment of American cultural Darwinism and the fear of loosing the foundations of our national identities promote Anti-Americanism. As sad as this is! And I have lived in the States. Several times. And in different States. I love the States. I just wished, you wake up and see the world.
And please, it is more that the black or white - with-or-against-us picture. That is just really childish.

kurtmudgeon:

To be better ahem, "citizens of the world" should we be more
like the French? The Russians? The Chinese? The Flemish?
Or perhaps the Syrians?

Tell me, how can we be, sob, better people?
Or a better government?

Shall we contribute more proportionately
to the cost of the UN (that would be less dollars)

Perhaps if we sent less food and medicine to needy
countries around the world.

Maybew if we disarmed, and left each country to spend
it's revenues to keep peace around the world.

The sad truth is, the world looks up to us as much as
some of us look up to ourselves. Did I say up?l I meant down.

Cristina:

To JRLR - October 17, 2007 10:07 PM

I would like to congratulate you and your study group. The result is brilliant, candid, open, objective and what is more INTELLIGENT!

I do agree with your group's conclusions and suggestions.

Congratulations for your brilliant and intelligent contribution! I may not and I am not certainly as clever poster, but I feel alright when I read the other posts, sometimes even awkward wording of some questions posed by this site. Thai is why I am taking such a time to congratulate you and your group so enthusiastically.

Cristina:

“You Americans don’t pay attention to the rest of the world; you don’t understand what you have done to us".

However, the greatest truths, the sounder ones, the great lessons come from simple people when they get heard, and when of course, they get a chance to speak out.

In another news site, I've just an article that could well sound like a plea to get US back on the leading front of the world, either for its past achievements or for what it may symbolise to Americans themselves and to the world. But to "reclaim" such a high moral ground as Edwards writes it will take as long as it took to lose it. The so-called re-engagement may take years and risk finding the world in new shoes. SO, it might be too late. That is my fear.

After this simple, direct answer by this Indian driver, I became concerned with what this re-engagement might mean. The prefix re means repetition. Do the US and the world need more of the same again?????

Then, if this re-engagement underlines the idea of repetition, then US would have learned nothing so far and risk spending time and enegy in "reclaiming" what is no longer wanted or appropriate. If you dont change your minds...forget it. Forget this Indian driver's answer.

The site: http://www.nytimes.com/cfr/world/20070901faessay_v86n5_edwards.html?ref=americas

Jacques:

I thought, ten years ago at least that anti Americanism what a wonderful substitute to anti-Semitism...It had the same psychological and political characteristics and uses...
Later, I listened a German Journalist telling that same idea at ARTE the French6German TV sender...
I was very proud and happy to see that I was not ALONE...Since, the idea ran and I think that Bush's breakdown next year will Not Change a Iota to that psychotic/hysterical passion nor to the US Washington Policy of which the purpose is to deserve the Americans' interests as any Government generally does...(Even if it is a "little more" for the dominating class’s interests.
Bush is a fantastic scape goat as he is REALLY unable and made a war without the US "knowledge" we were used to, during and after the WW II....
People don't know and don't want to know (!!!) what is America and Americans; as they did and do with the Jews and others selected scape goats...
Comfortable ignorance is not to be fought easily...
Good luck America.!!!

Vic van Meter:

To tell you the truth, the best connection that I have to beef is that it's America's biggest and best export that doesn't run on jet fuel, smokeless powder, or Bush Jr.'s say-so. Not beef necessarily, but food in general. We export a lot, it's cheap here.

And I like steak...I grilled not too long ago and I think I'll grill again this weekend.

Still, not to get too far off topic, I can see where the 'uninformed' part can get in the way most. To be honest, from where I sit here in America, I really have no idea how the government in Iran works.

Not how it's SUPPOSED to work, because no government has lived up to its lofty expectations in probably the history of mankind, but how it really works. Most Iranians in the street probably don't know what effect the electoral college has in keeping our two-party system effective unless they investigated the 2000 election pretty well. They don't likely know why the Justice Department politicization may have hurt voters rights if that is what it came to. They probably don't really know why we can't solve our logjam with Bush even though, technically, he isn't supposed to be able to bully around the other two branches because of checks and balances (two words repeated over and over in every post-Colonial history class I've ever taken).

Likewise, I can't say I honestly know what actually drives the Iranian government. Although conspiracy theories abound (it's run by the religious elite and Ahmedinejad is a puppet, it's run by the National Guard, it's run from beneath the crust of the Earth by space-people fearing the return of Elvis) I honestly couldn't tell you the day to day issues of what's making the government in Iran tick any more than an average Iranian could tell me how ours really runs. The hiccup with Bush here is intense, but no different than a hundred domestic matters the average Iranian could probably drop on my noggin that I've never heard of before.

So yes, we're afraid. It looks like we're run by super-rich, elite, Protestant, war-mongering white men. And there's some truth to that, not as much as a lot of people say it does, but there's truth to it. It looks an awful lot like Iran is run by fundamentalist Islamic, free-press hating, American-flag burning, faceless, dour, opportunist clergy. And there's probably some truth to that. But I'm pretty sure that we're not as crazy as the other thinks.

We just happened to both sneeze at the same time and butted heads. You can't really complain about needing an airway, you can just recognize the clash, apologize to one another, and be on your way. Unfortunately, America lately has some kind of sinus problem, and we seem to be sneezing all over everyone. There are drugs for that. We need to clean out our gunk.

Meh, fifty years from now we might be standing side-by-side with Iran against Saudi oppression if that's what's convenient. And all us citizens will still be sitting here trying to figure out what exactly is happening.

Nicolas :

Indeed, I also hear the same exact words just about anywhere around the globe; "Love America, Hate the gouvernment" In the eyes of billions of people, America remains the land of hope, success, and endless opportunities. But the political system has many issues and our current Bush president is rejected by Americans but also citizens of the world. Yet, just about anyone would be willing to incorporate in their summer trip a "voyage" in the USA. They'll love America only if they visit the popular agglomerations... I don't believe they would be keen on visiting the nation's country part.

Anna:

you are right about Americans watching celebrities rather than learning about the world that the American government is helping to create, for better or for worse. I have to wonder if the media deliberately numbs the American minds with mindless comedies and celebrity voyeurism. America is an island on the other side of the world but what if they knew how much they are really dependent on the rest of the world--remove all the 'made in china' products, all the 3rd world products, and watch them wake up to their dependencies and limitations.

Amar C. Bakshi:

JRLR, thanks for that review, for watching the YouTube clip and sharing it with your group! It sounds like a fascinating bunch of people from around the world.

The YouTube clip was fun to do. It was for Vivian Salama's class at Rutgers, but I'm going to make a habit out of doing these call-ins with professors and classes regularly - doing one with Daoud Kuttab in Princeton soon, and will try organize some more.

I'm going to put a call to professors interested here soon:

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/america/2007/01/stay_in_touch_with_amar.html

In the meanwhile, thank you very much for this careful documentation of your meeting, and for your really genuine and remarkable comments with your suggestions for Part II. They meant a great deal to me, and I am taking my time responding so I do so with Zen...

Amar C. Bakshi:

Vic, loved the analogy with fear of cloned beef! Fear of what one sees but doesn't know the inner workings of. The other thing that comes up a lot when you look at global perceptions of the U.S is a vast well of conspiracy theories which people across the political spectrum have written on from Daniel Pipes on. It's this idea that what you don't understand but can feel can harm you. Do you have any special connection to beef?

The Celsus:

JRLR, I am a fan of yours! Though I sometimes disagree with the your views, you definitely make these discussions richer!

Amar C. Bakshi:

A Handle, I'd be the first to say this is no science. Go here for that:

What I would say is regarding your point on Americans being opposed to their gov, the phenomena of anti-Americanism is thoroughly new. Early 80s were another peak time, though less polling. Global favorability does not always move in line with domestic favorability. But it'd be interesting for Pew to pursue those trends.

You get the big numbers you seem to be looking for from polls. What you get here are stories that give you a human face on some of the numbers you see. Every day a different voice, a different POV. And this week, you get mine, as I prepare to travel. Just so you know what you're getting in for here....http://people-press.org/

Amar C. Bakshi:

Andre, you raise two questions:
1) how can anyone pretend to know a mass like America? 2) why should they anyway?

On one, books that try to encapsulate America usually obscure more than they illuminate, agreed, but with some very notable exceptions. And regardless, impossibility of knowing shouldn't leave one feeling that any attempt to get a better sense is not worth while. Also, general perceptions are usually informed by very tangible experiences of seeing, reading, hearing or experiencing something form that different place. This project does not attempt to say what America is or isn't but to show the variety of viewpoints and show readers where they come from.

On the second point, this can be useful for a variety of reasons. I'll name a few: a) what Americans reward at the voting booth has consequences abroad; harsh rhetoric on the campaign trail (including a comment from Obama about unilaterally striking Al Qaeda in Pakistan) can raise the stakes to great levels abroad. Turkey now is an example. So American actions affect the world. And recently Americans are increasingly seeing that we can't use geography or size to escape what actors around the world may do to us: for good, trade, education etc. or for ill, terrorism, constraining our policies etc.

But at root, lack of knowledge can breed fear, distrust, hatred, that might rightfully be targeted at fanatical few, but can too easily be stereotyped to cover many more than necessary. That type of fear and hatred worsens our own lives as well. Glad you visited this site, and I hope people with your POV do: who argue it doesn't matter what the world thinks. Glad you're here arguing that point out. Much appreciated.

A Handle:

Mr. Bakshi

Hello again ... we discussed this stuff tangentially yesterday and lo! here you are with the same material in a new column.

This reminds me of the many television and radio "news" stories we hear - a network (include PBS and NPR) will purport to tell us what the Chinese or the Indians or indeed, people from Cleveland (Clevelandese or Clevelandians?) think by interviewing two or three random (of course, we know that they are not so random since the three possible views - yes, no, maybe or I don't know - are presented).

We must not fall into the trap of assuming that these random interviews and anecdotal piffle (there's that word again) comments actually tell us anything serious about America or the world.

What we do know is that at least 50% of Americans oppose the policies of the current Administration. If one takes the President's favorable rating into account, perhaps only 29-32% support his policies.

Is it any surprise that foreigners should be expressing disdain about our policies? And does this tell us anything more than that foreigners don't like our foreign policy?

I think there is a great danger that what you are doing is just junk science masquerading as insight. OTOH, it allows you to write columns and get responses!

cheerz...

JRLR:

Amar, today I presented your “Love Americans, Hate America?” and your YouTube talk to our Multicultural Study Group: some twenty professionals, immigrants originally from Vietnam, Palestine, Chile, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, etc. The goal we pursue is: better integration and mutual understanding through dialogue.

I put the question to them: “Are Americans victims, villains or uninformed?”

I thought you might like to know what the consensus was:

1. The group agreed Americans were all of the above: victims, villains, and uninformed.

2. Americans were victims, insofar as they were caught in a two party plutocratic system in which they had very little say on most important national issues, more particularly those relative to US foreign policy. Everybody admitted to being amazed that the US government, calling itself “democratic”, could so easily go against the will of a majority of Americans, as in Iraq, and simply “stay the course”, as the expression goes. Most in the group were also deeply disturbed by the infringement on citizens’ civil rights and privacy, as well as on democratic institutions, in the name of national security. On this score, comparisons to other autocratic regimes around the world were not particularly flattering.

3. Americans were villains, insofar as they participated willingly (or were complicit) in anything that could be called “abuse of power”, “lies and deception” (including at international forums), “unjust wars”, “war crimes and crimes against humanity”, use of illegal weapons (more particularly of depleted uranium), etc. That included people in the arms industry, all varieties of hitmen, jackals, military personnel, mercenaries/contractors, etc. Some members insisted that some were villains by not doing the right thing, as much as others were villains in virtue of their acting in a humanly unacceptable manner.

4. Americans were uninformed, insofar as they lived under a media system that favoured “manufactured consent” and marginalized dissent by every means possible. That left the bulk of Americans generally uninformed or insufficiently informed. Most participants burst out laughing at the suggestion that not only Americans, in general, but highly educated Americans as well, could be so easily deceived into believing their own propaganda. “How could 58 million plus Americans have given that person a second mandate?”, many asked. But, as was pointed out, when did Americans hear the truth from the horse’s mouth, whenever an issue was really hot? For instance, who, in the American media, had spoken on behalf of Iraq, in the period preceding the American invasion? The group was also unanimous in finding very telling the fact that while some are already talking about WWIII, in relation to Iran, President Ahmadinejad’s recent speeches, both at the UN and at Columbia, not only were not adequately reported, let alone discussed in American media, but even the President’s right to speak at Columbia was challenged. “With such an attitude, how can anyone possibly hope to be adequately informed?”, it was asked.

5. The group concluded that America being a democracy is not a yes or no issue; but a matter of degree. That is to say: the more autocratic the regime, the less democratic America is, or is becoming, as could be seen, more particularly, in recent years.

6. Do people therefore “love Americans yet hate America”? The group felt that what people generally meant, by that, in their respective country of origin, was: a) that they rather liked Americans, based on the people they had met, known, heard about, and on the image American culture carried abroad; b) that they felt rather compassionate towards Americans, insofar as those “rather nice people” were both victims of their political system and insufficiently informed; c) that they of course could never support those American villains bearing any responsibility in such conflicts as: Vietnam, Palestine, Chile (some emphasized: “most of Latin America”), etc., and more recently Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, etc.. The group was unanimous: in those instances, people would have shown the same degree of contempt for any country that would have behaved, internationally, the way America did.

7. Should Americans find that reassuring? Of course not! “I love Americans yet hate America” only means the root cause of people’s resentment towards America is not American individuals, insofar as they are victims and uninformed. The root cause of people’s resentment is what American villains do in America’s name. In any given context where those people might become the victims of those villains, it is therefore to be expected they will take to the streets, with calls of “Death to America!”…which might soon include some American villains as well… and, inevitably, as villains themselves would say, some “collateral victims”...

8. The group thought “Love Americans, Hate America?” was an excellent entry point for How the World Sees America, Part II: “clear”, “concise”, “well structured” and “thought-provoking”. The YouTube presentation got elogious comments as well: “excellent flow”, “impressive eye contact”, “empathic speaker”, “no nonsense attitude”, “very credible”.

Vic van Meter:

Irony lives. The same reasons we may be uninformed about countries half a world away is the same reason they don't know much about ours. And no, it has nothing to do with headline news. The information is out there to get if you aren't taking CNN as the gospel.

I know this isn't going to make much sense to some people when I say it, but these reactions have a lot in common with cloned beef.

You see, in America, food is one of our largest and best-kept economic pillars. So you'd think that, when cloning came about, cloning the best cows for breeding purposes, if not for actual beef and milking, would have come naturally. I mean, it's really just an extension of the breeding game already going on in the cattle breeding business. We already do in-vitro, split embryo, and other such scientific practices on our stock. The FDA even did its own tests and discovered that there is no noticeable difference between cloned and naturally raised beefs!

And yet the FDA shut it down. Right now, ranchers have been asked to keep their cloned or clone-produced stock off the market even though there's no real physical reason why. The reasons are all psychological. Cloning brings up an image in our heads that plays tricks with our perceptions. Nobody quite knows why you shouldn't clone COWS (humans are a completely different story in this part of the world, at least), but the FDA and most government organizations are certainly barring the practice mostly based on the shaky feeling that something is wrong.

Apply that to a country you've never visited half a world away. All of your neighbors talk, buy products, watch movies and news, and eventually a consensus emerges about what exactly it is across the Atlantic Ocean. I don't know any more about Iran than most well-informed Iranians know about America. We have coalesced our views and built a perception of reality that, then, the media tends to conform to. Policies are built on public perception. In that case, things such as the Iranian hostage takeover changed the way Americans think about ALL Iranians at large. Also the way America backs Israel informs Iranians about America.

We don't see other pieces of policy, just those that directly affect us. In fact, Iran doesn't hate all of America's policies, just the ones they've heard of in their area. I'm sure freedom to practice Islam in America isn't looked down on in Iran, but it's certainly one of our policies. I'm actually pretty sure most Iranians would agree with a lot of our global policies. They just don't like those affecting Iran or most of the Middle East. And vise-versa.

Thus we're enemies. They're terrorists and they'd like to kill us. All people with inept leaders chosen by a conservative, religious base with no regard for domestic accountability and relying on foreign entanglements to provide them with context and meaning. I mean, Iranians and Americans have a lot in common in that respect.

Scott M:

A bumper sticker I saw sums it up, kinda. "I love my country but I don't trust my government."

I suspect that a great many of those abroad (i.e. people other than Americans) feel the same way and therefore that emotion is reflected in their attitudes and answers to questions.

Hell, I don't trust my government so why should anyone else.

Wendy Rauf:

I went to Pakistan to conduct research of journalists...and ended up living there for two years. The question I heard EVERDAY at least once was "why do you guys hate us?" Your blog reflects your experiences, and that's great, but either you only met a few people (which I doubt) or you're choosing to only focus on the same comments by those few. It's not only America or Americans who act the described way....throughout history it's ALWAYS the strongest, richest, and/or the bravest who do what they want, when they want, how they want. Rome did it, the Huns did it, the Persians did it, the British did it....I could go on. It's human nature, right, wrong or indifferent. Class-ism,Racism and Sexism (to name a few) is how it's manifested in this country as well. I'm not here to bash my country, or defend it...because it's got its faults as well as it's good points.....just like ANYWHERE in the world...because it's made up of human beings. A world where a majority of the population ANYWHERE just wants to eat, sleep, and find a way to live daily. Who really knows about the actual policies of any country enough to hate that country??? No one....

Andre from DC:

What do a transvestite in Lahore, a barber in London, and a doctor in New Delhi know about Americans? Virtually nothing. What they've been told, what they see in the press, and anecdotal impressions from good/bad/indifferent experiences they've had with individual Americans. They haven't a clue who we are.

Bakshi, you don't have a clue who Americans are. How many miners in Wyoming do you know? Commercial fishermen in California? School teachers in Appalachia? Marines at LeJeune? Get the point?

We're 300 million people occupying a continent. By the end of the century we'll be 500 million. No one has the ability to know this mass of humanity with all its hopes, hates, and appetites. There isn't an impression anyone can form of "Americans" that is accurate.

And let's call a spade a spade. The people who say they like Americans but dislike the American government are trying to create a false impression. They don't like Americans. They hate who they think we are. And to be frank, I feel the same way about them.

Do you really care what the "Europeans" think, Bakshi? I don't. Would it have really mattered to an African-American in 1939 if Hitler had conquered and kept Western Europe? No.

Should kid at Eastern High School in DC care if India and Pakistan fight a nuclear war? Why would he care? Oh yeah! He might be able to get a job as cab driver.

RAT-The:

Mr. Bakshi-What is comes down to is HOW do THEY get their perceptions of what we and our country are? I find myself asking: How do I know anything about China, Iran, Russia, or even Venezuela?

I have met their People. I can honestly say the ones I met impressed me as Normal! Intelligent, non-Raving idiologaly stable sorts!-Except Brits(Joke!).

Then, I consider the FACT the rest I saw portayed in Movies and on Television. Both mediums are only there to put out what somebody PAID to have there!

When I consider that unlike Bollywood, MOST people actually do keep up with Hollywood, I shudder to think about the impression they have of us! I would tend to view us as White Morons, and idiots. And all the others as Gay, crazy, murderous or evil! We do not present much of a good side-Even the shows that try-Wind up condemning us-Dances with wolves! for example!

Our Government-I could agree with them! They are the best anyone can buy though-for everyone on this planet! It does get a little ridiculous to worry about having 20,000,000, Invasorios running around, when China has already bought too many of our Reps!

Maybe, we should appeal to China to tell their Reps. to get rid of the Invasorios, so American Wages will go back up, and allow Chinese goods to be more competitive! I bet if the Chinese masters of the American Electorate knew the detrimental effects all the wage destroying, and poverty creating Invasorios were causing as far as keeping our competitiveness there, they would demand a change pronto!

Hey, Kennedy, Pelosi, Bush-get those illegals out, get your prices back up there, and keep China RICH! We paid you to do the right thing!

Yeah, I hate our Government too!

Sandy Matthews:

Think Carroll is dead on. British comedian Eddy Izzard's act in US often ridicules us for not even knowing our own history let alone anyone else's. And we are so intent on seeing ourselves as good, we hide, even from ourselves, the harm we do.

Jung would call this the Shadow side of our national psyche, and as in one's personal psyche, if it is not acknowledged and dealt with, it will continue to cause internal breakdown, disaffectation and depression. And in a take-off on Dr. Phil, "How's that workin' for us?"

Sandy Matthews:

Think Carroll is dead on. British comedian Eddy Izzard's act in US often ridicules us for not even knowing our own history let alone anyone else's. And we are so intent on seeing ourselves as good, we hide, even from ourselves, the harm we do.

Jung would call this the Shadow side of our national psyche, and as in one's personal psyche, if it is not acknowledged and dealt with, it will continue to cause internal breakdown, disaffectation and depression. And in a take-off on Dr. Phil, "How's that workin' for us?"

Ed Feeney:

The repugs neo-cons philosophy of act like a "superpower" which really means to "act unilaterally" isn't lost on the rest of the world. Im sure other countries took offence to our pulling out of every treaty we were party too. We always sighted "our national interest". Hell the neo-cons would've prefered that we pulled out of the UN until they realized they could use the Organization to their benefit. For an organization they hated they sure didn't mind enforcing its Resolutions. The rest of the world saw exactly what I did. Bush in front of the UN assembly not looking for a consensus or asking anything. He quite simply was telling the world what we were gonna do and if your on board thats fine if your not thats fine too. I rmember right before the war the neo-cons were trying to discourage a Coilitian because they in know way wanted to share the running of the war. They prefered to fight it just ourselves. Hell the only reason Bush went back a second time to the UN was because Blair asked him to. He needed the war sold more to get more support at home. Bushs mind was made up long before his visits to the UN. The rest of the world hated the idea of that war but the US had to act for our national security. So we went out on our own with just about everything and acted with reckless abandonment. Why shouldn't the world hate us, we seem to act with no regard to anyone else. Plus Ive always heard the 2nd option here where the Amer people are blamed and not just our govern. I heard that they gave the people the benefit of the doubt on Bushs 1st election (thinking it was probably stolen) But when he won the re-election they did start blaming Amers because he was undisputedly voted in. I don't blame them for putting it on Amers. I did too. And to this day I always say that Americans got exactly what they deserved.

Mark from Lewiston ID:

I am a Democrat, and in Idaho that maakes me a flaming Liberal. I believe that people are the key to success to change our view of the world as we view it. The people must accept that we are not liked because of our incompentent President also because of his viewpoint that Americans must lower their standards to those of the majority of the world. I subscribe to the viewpoint that America should strive to help bring the rest of the world up to and equal and better to the the rest of the world. Our model of Government may not be the best but it has worked. I hope the Governments of India and China are listening because we can openly critize Government.

Mark from Lewiston ID:

I am a Democrat, and in Idaho that maakes me a flaming Liberal. I believe that people are the key to success to change our view of the world as we view it. The people must accept that we are not liked because of our incompentent President also because of his viewpoint that Americans must lower their standards to those of the majority of the world. I subscribe to the viewpoint that America should strive to help bring the rest of the world up to and equal and better to the the rest of the world. Our model of Government may not be the best but it has worked. I hope the Governments of India and China are listening because we can openly critize Government.

alex:

with the demise of a common foe(Communism) and our
unwavering support of Israel, of course we lose alot of support. I woudnt worry too much about global
popularity contests. Our major competitors are totalitarian regimes like Russia, China. Funny how in our churches/places of worship we dont chant "death to Iran" yet the Iranians who do this see nothing wrong and we ask ourselves whats wrong with us ? Its such a crazy world.

cj:

I think Carrol is right. We as a country rely to heavily on headlines that are given to us instead of seeking some shred of the truth in other international news sources.BBC, for example is an excellent source. Unfortunatly, as indiviuals international relations don't really hit us in the face on a daily basis. We need to encourage people in our lives to stop relying on American media and hear other world viewpoints.

I also hate how because you criticise this country that you're deemed unpatriotic , or an Ememy of Freedom. I love where I live, but I hate certain policies. I work in D.C. and am surrounded by people trying to make changes. Some good, some bad, some unthinkable. We should welcome critisism and countering views.
That is what makes America what it was intended to be. If we freely give away the rights that scores have fought and died for, I say that is unpatriotic.

Amar C. Bakshi:

I'm talking about my project here over YouTube for a class about international journalism. Take a look if you're interested:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97eKnT8Dn8s

Joe in Tampa:

I recommend our gov't close all our military cemeteries located in foreign countries. Have those American heros re-buried in the United States. Screw those ungrateful foreign zeros.
How quickly they forget.

Carrol Peterson:

Our heavy reliance on television "headline" news is partly to blame for our ignorance. We are more informed about Britney Spears, et. al. than about most other governments. Much of our twenty-four hour television news turns into celebrity gossip and we learn far too little about the effects on foreign countries of our business and military interests. I suppose what makes this continue is the distance most voters feel between them and our government. Is our country too unwieldy for representative democracy to work as something more than a commercial marketplace? I sometimes think so.

Stan Burdein:

World doesn't like us. But why?

Amar C Bakshi:

Hi Mike, thought you might like to see where it came from. I'm not sure why you take it the whole site only presents anti-American viewpoints. If you look down the list of the past eight or so posts, or through much of India, it doesn't really hold. But I am happy to hear your point of view on this here or at amar.bakshi[at]washingtonpost.com. Best wishes.

Mike:

"There are plenty of chances for direct dialogue these days between Americans and the world."

A dialogue contains at least two viewpoints. What this site does is lecture by only seeking out those people who truly dislike America.

BTW: Thanks for the burning flag picture. Looks like the one you chose for your header graphic. Quite fond if it, aren't you?

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