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Behold what we have wrought - A little less than a happy high — LiveJournal
komos
komos
Behold what we have wrought
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komos From: komos Date: August 6th, 2003 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)
While I may have made a flippant comment that exaggerated the unanimity of the world’s dislike of Americans, I think you may be overstating your case in attempt to refute that exaggeration. No, Americans (and indeed America itself) are not universally reviled the world over. Yes, it is perfectly possible to note that some citizens of other nations have benefited from their relationships with us. Yes, it is arguable that admiration of the ideals behind the American experiment are alive and well amongst the world’s general populace.

Once I’ve said, “ok, so it’s not everyone,” where, really, can this conversation go?

At the heart of your reply is your place on the other side of the political fence. Though you mentioned it in the face of our involvement in Iraq, it is just as relevant in this discussion. I am not operating from the assumption that America is a land of opportunity filled with free and conscientious citizens who carry their neighbors’ groceries and give homes to orphaned children. For every anecdotal testimonial of an “average Nepalese businessman” about our amazing work-ethic or American greatness, I can likely counter with an observation from a foreign national (most likely European or Latin American) of American paternalism, opportunism, or apathy. We reach a null sum on that tack.

(Incidentally, just how “average” is he? Is it common for the “average” Nepalese citizen to travel to the States?)

So, what of the idealistic view of the things that America stands for, a view that is perpetuated the world over? Well, let’s turn to history for a moment. The Roman republic was regarded as a shining example of what a society could be, but it was acknowledged that that came at a cost, and in no way can it be argued that the Romans were liked by their neighbors. The French under Louis XIV were almost universally despised despite the fact that children of privilege were sent to Paris to be educated and all of Europe did their best to emulate their society. The British were convinced that they brought new opportunity and new culture to the backward peoples they, erm. civilized. Oddly enough, despite all of the advantages they offered, the animosity towards the British persists to this day.

The myth of American opportunity and freedom isn’t any different than the myths perpetuated by these societies. We’re in a similar position at this point, convinced that the mythology is true and as a result can’t understand why it is that these ideas are not universally held, or why it is that any person, people, or state would oppose such a good and noble nation with good and noble intentions. Such a viewpoint is hubris.

givemethewhip From: givemethewhip Date: August 6th, 2003 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Yep. We definitely have very different views on this issue, and I think you're misstating mine. I certainly wasn't saying we're perfect, or that everyone who lives here is some sort of Beaver Cleaver reincarnation, or that people who admire America (including me) don't also recognize that it has weaknesses as well as strengths. Nor was I trying to make the case for colonialism that you seem to think was hidden in my comment somewhere. I was just saying that there is a segment of the world population that admires America -- a view that in my experience is at least as pervasive as the view that America is the Great Satan.

I guess during my travels abroad I've interacted with an very different set of foreigners than the ones you've encountered-- while, as I said, I've met a lot who despise the US, I've met even more who don't, even if they object to some of our actions. I guess I've seen some American programs and assistance (government and NGO) that aren't in any way related to Roman road-building, Empire-expanding projects, or the "White Man's Burden" of Kipling's British Empire. And I guess I don't view American opportunity and freedom as a myth.

So at any rate, it's clear that you have strongly held opinions and that I strongly disagree with them, and, as you said, we're not going anywhere from there. Diversity is what makes political discourse so interesting. All I would ask is that you don't continue painting my views with the rather broad brush you used at the end of your comment.

As a quick aside: it is fairly common for average Nepali businessmen to travel to the US. It's not common for other average Nepalis, mostly becau
komos From: komos Date: August 7th, 2003 07:17 am (UTC) (Link)
The brush I chose was a direct response to the rather broad strokes you used to address me initially. It appeared that the thrust of your argument rested on the refutation that everyone hates Americans. Leaving aside that the idea was a minor sidebar in the discussion, I conceded early in my response that it was an exaggeration. My contention was that in your attempt to reduce that exaggeration to absurdity (as indeed, any generalization so broad must be), you overstated your case. I saw fit to call some of the things you appeared to believe are self-evident into question. To reiterate, I think that it's dangerous to mistake "desire for our wealth and priviledge" for "admiration." The current American model differs from those I cited only in form. The execution is remarkably consistent.

Let me rephrase my original contention... The history of the outcomes of American intervention in the Middle East from the Second World War to the present suggests that Americans should not feel any more secure for this action in Iraq or indeed for our heavy-handed, vaguely defined, and decidedly clumsy "war on terror." Our actions in the post-9/11 world have done nothing to improve anti-American sentiment, and it is likely that we are laying the seeds for future disaster.

But then, as you said, this isn't really what you wanted to debate.
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