In mid-November 2020, I posted this excerpt from an article on my personal Facebook page:
“In truth, it has been a long time coming. For a long time, America has been to the world what Trump has been to America – a bull in a china shop. Rich, entitled, brash, over-confident and often downright stupid, since the end of the cold war the country has traipsed around the world, breaking stuff as it went, throwing its weight around, and playing fast and loose with cherished global norms. Its journalists and moviemakers (and president) rarely missed the opportunity to stress just what an uncivilized “shithole” the rest of the globe was and how much we needed the enlightenment offered by the Peace Corps.” [Source: “Laugh? We nearly all died – why my US failed state Twitter thread went viral
My friend Bob Hooker replied “Truth. I have seen it up close during my life and travels abroad.”
In reply, I commented that “The article points out well the issues that my Socialist friends have with any manner of status quo in our government and society. So many things need to change but it is hard to make big changes when people feel relatively safe. Although peaceful change is more possible with the current rendition of the Democratic party, albeit less probable that enough action will be taken. 🙁”
Bob followed up with an excellent synopsis of the issue of how the USA is viewed from abroad. With his permission, I am sharing it here:
“Yeah, it’s really complicated.
On one of my travels back or forth through Heathrow Airport I picked up a book entitled “Why Do People Hate America?” which at the time was unavailable in the US, out of reach of the very people who most needed to read it. My main takeaway from the book is that we just don’t see people in other countries at all. They are invisible to us. It’s like there is only the American way and no other way has any validity at all. Even though unspoken and invisible to us this attitude comes across loud and clear outside our borders, and it is deeply wounding. So as far as much of the rest of the world is concerned, America is finally getting its comeuppance in the form of Donald Trump.
On the other hand, (I said it was complicated) America remains the “indispensable nation” culturally. The great myth of America as a land of milk and honey where the streets are paved with gold persists, despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s a giant theme park, “Americaland,” with cowboys and Indians and glamorous sports and movie stars where anybody can become rich and live out their dreams. It’s as though much of the world has a psychic need to believe there is such a magic place. When I lived in China I could not help but notice that even the sharpest critics of the US in the government and news media and any family with the means sent their kids to American universities to pick up the keys to the kingdom.
One more point: our dismissiveness of the rest of the world has some serious implications for our future. In China, it’s the infrastructure. High speed rail systems (200+ MPH in quiet comfort) and world class subways, and a planned city larger than New York that sprang up in a mere 30 years are just a few examples. In Europe it’s not only the infrastructure but the social systems that provide education and health care and other services we can’t even dream of. The world is passing us by and we sit here without a clue. We need to start seeing the world, and I mean really seeing it honestly, for our sake even more than theirs.
NOTE: “Why Do People Hate America?” is now available on this side of the pond.”
I really appreciate Bob’s perspective. I’ve always been aware of the image of “the stupid American” but this was helpful to me as to gaining a greater understanding of how America is viewed by the rest of the world. Thanks, Bob!