Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Americans Overseas

Not only is the article in Commentary good, the comments are amusing as well. It touches a nerve when Americans are criticised by folks from other countries - especially among those Americans who have actually lived in other countries. From the article:
The third impression I came away with is the widespread view in Europe, as well as among some Americans, that the U.S. has suffered a huge, almost incalculable, loss of “moral authority” (its worth recalling that we heard much the same thing during the Reagan years). The evidence cited is always the same: Guantanamo Bay, rendition and secret prisons, and waterboarding. They are invoked like an incantation. The effect of this is that you would think that the United States is among the leading violators of human rights in the world.
From the comments:
I currently work with a Canadian with whom it is impossible to have an extended conversation on any subject, whether it be medicine or rock music, as he invariably finds a way to insert some anti-US remark — when confronted on this after some months of enduring it, he said indignantly and evidently seriously that “You have to to expect this”. He spends much of the day complaining about the U.S. to other members of staff, none of whom are American. They may not initiate the conversations, but they rarely disagree. Most of it is childish: he doesn’t have any new ideas or insights, and he isn’t trying to engage me in a serious, thought-out, view-changing way: it’s just “jingoism, baby killers, too bad Reagan didn’t die, shoot Bush” etc. merely the equivalent of “Yo mama wears combat boots” over and over.
The next time Europeans do something moral on behalf of someone else will be the first.
My particular favorite are those residents of other countries who think it is a particularly significant point that Americans should ask themselves why they are hated - as if the idea has never occurred to us before.

No, and no again. Americans worry about such things obsessively, to my great irritation. For those who do not belief we should submit to the correction of our betters in Europe and Canada, we are not usually unaware of what your criticisms are. We have considered them and found them childish. That is apparently even more unendurable in Davos than our initial disagreement.

The shoe is on the other foot. Americans have considered your criticisms. Will you consider ours?


DaveM said...

In my travels to out of the way places in my work, the progression is always the same. Greetings, some mild criticism of the USA, and finally a request for help to emigrate to the US.

We also are a really mysterious breed from the view of most of the rest of the world. They do not know how to deal with an American. We don't have the inbred cultural tools of class positioning, deference to authority, hidden meanings in conversation and ruthless ambition that will allow them to work with and american on a comfortable basis.

This is the consequence of +300 years of personal liberty as Tocqueville noted. Where I now live in Connecticut the first written constitution was developed in 1636! When my German ancestors emigrated to Missouri in 1853, the land grant noted it was the 77th year of independence of the United States. Germany is just now getting to the point where they have 77 years of democracy in their entire history.

Anonymous said...

"for those who do not belief"
s/b believe.
(That's two typos found tonight! I can go to bed feeling that I have done my little bit to improve the world today.)

Zhenya said...

This article is precisely the reason I'm glad I grew up overseas and stayed there. If the US wants to posit itself as the "bastion of freedom" and its president the "leader of the free world", then it invites such scrutiny.