Thursday, October 16, 2003

Why Do People Hate America?

I am currently listening to "The Longest Walk," an excellent book by Englishman George Meegan, about his quest to walk the length of the Americas, from Tierra del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. His journey takes seven years, and along the way he acquires a wife and two children, all while walking through desert heat, torrential rainstorms, and furious mosquito attacks.

I'm currently listening to his journey through Nicaragua, shortly after the triumph of the Sandinistas over the Somoza regime. As he walks through the country, Meegan is constantly jeered and insulted, because the people believe that his blonde hair makes him "a hated American."

This begs the question, why do people hate America? In the case of the Sandinistas, the reason is pretty clear; the US supported the Somoza regime, which, if it's possible, was one of the more horrific Latin American dictators that we supported. On the other hand, billions of people apparently hate America, including many Americans, despite any direct reason. For example, there are a significant number of Germans who believe that 9-11 was a CIA/Israeli plot to generate a pretext for American imperialism.

Fortunately, Google, the source of all knowledge, is here to help.

Why Do People Hate America (a book by Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies)

"The economic power of US corporations and the virus-like power of American popular culture affect the lives and infect the indigenous cultures of millions around the world. The foreign policy of the US government, backed by its military strength, has unprecedented global influence now that the USA is the world's only superpower - its first 'hyperpower'.

America also exports its value systems, defining what it means to be civilised, rational, developed and democratic - indeed, what it is to be human. Meanwhile, the US itself is impervious to outside influence, and if most Americans think of the rest of the world at all, it is in terms of deeply ingrained cultural stereotypes."

Why I Hate America (letter to Pravda)

"I would be dishonest if I said I didn-t hate the American government. I do hate it, so really, so deeply and, yes, so rightly. America is the tormentor of my people. It is to me, as a Palestinian, what Nazi Germany was to the Jews. America is the all-powerful devil that spreads oppression and death in my neighborhood. How can I not hate this great Satan, the evil empire? Does anyone expect people to love their tormentors?

In short, it is virtually impossible for me, as indeed is the case for most Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims, not to hate America so much. For me, in order not to hate America, I would have to be an imbecile, bereft of dignity, or without senses and feelings completely numb. Only infra-humans and quasi-beasts wouldn-t hate their evil tormentors and grave-diggers. And America is the Palestinian people-s ultimate tormentor and grave-digger, as well as the oppressor and killer of millions around the world."

My personal opinion is as follows:

1. The reason that people say they hate America is because they have been harmed by our foreign policy. For example, the Arab world hates America because America supports Israel, and therefore implicitly condones the disastrous settlement policy. There is some legitimacy to these complaints, though America's critics rarely acknowledge their own role and culpability. After all, the Israelis are not the only ones doing the killing, nor did they launch the Arab-Israeli wars in the 20th century.

2. The real reason that people hate America is because they don't want to take responsibility for their own situation. It's easier and more satisfying to blame America or "The Man" for one's lack of success in achieving one's goals. The Iraqis blame the US for not solving all their problems, just as the Russians blamed the fall of communism for their ills, just as Castro finds it convenient to blame the US for Cuba's economic woes, just as "blame the Yankee" is a favorite pastime of various Latin American regimes. The truth is that America does not control the world. If we did, we sure as heck wouldn't allow our critics free reign to rouse hatred against us. People need to take responsibility for their own lives. And oh yeah, it probably would help if we got rid of Sharon.

3. The other contributing reason that people hate America is because they hate the Americanization of the world. The French are the champions of this practice, but plenty of other folks around the globe lament the encroachment of David Hasslehoff on their age-old traditions. Guess what folks, the culture wars are being fought in the minds of the young, and you lost. Everywhere, even those kids who hate America and protest against its policies are eager to take up its lifestyle. We won. Deal with it.

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