Monday, July 03, 2006

America: A Little Perspective

My family went to England this year on vacation (or "on holiday" as they would say, except it wasn't any holiday, it was just spring break), and it seemed to me that the reaction to us as Americans was different. Normally Eurpopeans are polite about their opinions, and when they detect you're an American (which is to say, as soon as they see you) they are careful not to assume the worst. But that's changing.

Today AmericaBlog links us to a survey conducted over there, about how they view us.
People in Britain view the United States as a vulgar, crime-ridden society obsessed with money and led by an incompetent president whose Iraq policy is failing, according to a newspaper poll.

The United States is no longer a symbol of hope to Britain and the British no longer have confidence in their transatlantic cousins to lead global affairs, according to the poll published in The Daily Telegraph. Britons tire of cruel, vulgar US: poll

Some results:
  • 77 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that the US is "a beacon of hope for the world".
  • 12 percent of Britons trust them to act wisely on the global stage. This is half the number who had faith in the Vietnam-scarred White House of 1975.
  • 83 percent of those questioned said that the United States doesn't care what the rest of the world thinks.
  • With much of the worst criticism aimed at the US adminstration, the poll showed that 70 percent of Britons like Americans a lot or a little.
  • More than two-thirds who offered an opinion said America is essentially an imperial power seeking world domination.
  • 1% consider Bush a "great leader" against 77 percent who deemed him a "pretty poor" or "terrible" leader.
  • 81 per cent of those who took a view said President George W Bush hypocritically championed democracy as a cover for the pursuit of American self-interests.

In answer to other questions, a majority of the Britons questions described Americans as uncaring, divided by class, awash in violent crime, vulgar, preoccupied with money, ignorant of the outside world, racially divided, uncultured and in the most overwhelming result (90 percent of respondents) dominated by big business.

And remember, these are our friends.

The sad thing happened in 2004. In 2000, after a close election, George Bush emerged the winner. Well, we won't go there, he ended up getting the victory. The world got to know him a little bit, especially after 9/11 and after he started pretending we had to attack Iraq, and then after he actually did lead an attack on that country. The world could forgive us for electing the guy in 2000 because it was close, and because we didn't really know how bad it was going to be.

But in 2004, we gave up every excuse. Again, say what you will about the election, about Diebold and Ohio and everything else, enough people voted for the guy to at least make it plausible that he won. That's when the rest of the world realized that America hadn't been tricked, we actually wanted to be vulgar pigs on the world stage.

Like you, I don't care what a bunch of Brits think about us. I don't live to meet their standards or make them happy. But here's why this matters. America, it seems to me, has totally lost perspective on who and what we are. We torture people. We lock people up without charging them. We abandon our poor when catastrophe strikes, and make sure the rich get every advantage they wish to grab. We attach puritan conditions to our offers to help those who really need it. We attack and occupy countries, it looks like, at random, while at the same time letting terrorists roam free. Journalism in America has turned into a job of passing along government press releases verbatim. Everything that we mean when we talk about "the American way" has been given up, abandoned in a frenzy of fundamentalist moralism mixed with mortal fear that something bad is going to happen to us.

Taking the country back is simply a matter of putting things back into perspective. We can do it, but we're going to have fight each little fight, one fight at a time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good thoughts, Jim. We need to undo all the destruction we caused. Luckily, Saddam's still alive. Let's fix his palaces up and give him a ride home. Then, we'll pull out our imperial forces. He'll know how to stop the bombers.

While we're on the topic, who did we think we were interferring in Europe back in the 20th century? If we just minded our own business, the Germans and Brits would have worked things out. Where have you gone Neville Chamberlain?

July 03, 2006 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


July 03, 2006 1:52 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

83 percent of those questioned said that the United States doesn't care what the rest of the world thinks.

Yes, that is a fact...the fact I take the most pride in.

There are two ways of looking at this issue. First, that we ought to humble ourselves a little and take "niceness" lessons from the likes of China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. Or second, that the inner directed nation does not take advice from morally inferior political regimes.

Would I like the United States to be liked? Sure, why not? Over all though I think it is an over rated attribute...sort of like the parent that craves the acceptance and friendship of their children when what the parent really needs to do is "suck it up" and be the parent.

July 04, 2006 5:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the thing you take the most pride in. Not being liked. Great.

July 04, 2006 9:13 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home