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United States of America

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by melbo, Feb 15, 2007.


  1. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Does anyone care how we are perceived around the world?

    I tend to get the majority of my news from outside the US. I, frankly, don't trust the local and national outlets. This is an interesting article out of London. The comments after it are pretty eye opening. Couple that with Putins comments this week, Russia, China and India getting together this week...

    As most of the old guys here know, I'm not a political party guy... I tend to trash both the repubs and dems equally. If I ever voted again, It's be if Ron Paul were on the ballot. Anyhow, If the rest of the world does perceive us as an emerging 'Evil Empire', will that ever effect our future? I know that anyone can say "F" em all and we don't care. but, what about our future generations? I'm seeing this more and more and I'm not sure that our current (and past) leaders have been acting in my best interest.

    The comments are even more interesting than the article as they slam the author for eve romanticizing us Americans. These are White folks and Christians too. Not muzzi terrorists... [dunno]

    http://business.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2012672,00.html

    Once the most beloved country in the world, the US is now the most hated

    [FONT=arial,helvetica,sans-serif]The American swagger has become bombast, the cocky GI a bully. But with luck the pendulum may be ready to swing back[/FONT]

    [FONT=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif] Jan Morris
    Wednesday February 14, 2007
    The Guardian


    [/FONT] 'Whisper of how I'm yearning", sang George M Cohan in one of the great American songs of nostalgia, "to mingle with the old time throng". Well, I'm yearning too, not for the gang at 42nd Street exactly, but for the America that Cohan was indirectly hymning - for the Idea of America, with a capital I, which once made the United States not just the most potent of all the nations but genuinely the most liked.
    Article continues[​IMG]

    <hr class="mpu"> <hr class="mpu"> Perhaps, with a future new president already champing at the bit, we are about to witness its rebirth. As a foreigner I am immune to the rivalries or seductions of American party politics, but I have loved the old place for 60 years, and I simply pray for an American leader to give us back its baraka, as the Arabs say - nothing to do with religion or economics or power or even ideology, but the gift of being at once blessed and blessing.

    Of course nobody can claim that the old dreams of America were ever perfectly fulfilled. They often let us down. They were betrayed by the national reputations for crime, corruption, racism and rampant materialism. Not all the presidents, God knows, were icons of virtue or even of glamour, and the benevolent Uncle Sam of the old cartoonists was more often interpreted, around the world, as a fat moron in horn-rimmed spectacles, chewing a cigar. Nobody's perfect, still less any republic.


    But I think it is true that only in our time has the American Idea lost its baraka. A generation or two ago, most of us, wherever we lived, loved the generous self-satisfaction of it, if not in the general, at least in the particular. The GI was not then a sort of goggled monster in padded armour, but a cheerful fellow chatting up the girls and distributing candy not as a matter of policy, but out of plain goodwill - everyone's friendly guy next door. To millions of radio listeners around the world, the Voice of America was a voice of decency, and one could watch the lachrymose patriotic rituals of America - the hand on heart, the misty-eyed salute to the flag - with more affection than irony.


    For myself, I responded to them all too sentimentally. Like Walt Whitman before me, I heard America sing! I relished the hackneyed old lyrics - Mine eyes have seen the glory, Thy word our law, Thy paths our chosen way, Oe'r the land of the free and the home of the brave, God bless America, land that I love ... Most of the words were flaccid, many of the tunes were vulgar, but as I heard them I saw always in my mind's eye, as Whitman did, all the glorious space, grandeur and opportunity that was America, Manhattan to LA. Sea, in fact, to shining sea.


    In those days we did not think of American evangelists as prophets of political extremism - they seemed more akin to the homely convictions of plantation or village chapel than to the machinations of neocons. We bridled rather at the American assumption that the US of A had been the only true victor of the second world war, but most of us did not very deeply resent the happy swagger of the legend and danced gratefully enough to the American rhythms of the time. We thought it all seemed essentially innocent.


    Innocent! Dear God! Half a century, and nobody thinks that now. Far from being the most beloved country on earth, today the US is the most thoroughly detested. The rot really started to set in, in my view, with Abraham Lincoln, one of the most admirable men who ever lived. He it was who saw in American glory the duty of a mission. America, he declared, was the last best hope of earth. The pursuit of happiness was not its national vocation, but the example of democracy. The more like the United States the world became, the better the world would be. No statesman was ever more sincere or kindly in his beliefs, but poor old Abe would be horrified to see how his interpretation of destiny has gone sour.


    For the missionary instinct, which impelled Americans into so many noble policies, was to be perverted by power. Pace Lincoln, America was not necessarily the last best hope of mankind, and the knowledge that it has possessed unchallengable powers of interference has distorted its attitude to the world and cruelly damaged its image in return.


    Isolationism was not a very estimable stance, but interfereism is not much more attractive. In humanity's eye, the swagger has become bombast and the cocky GI has become a bully.


    But there is a difference between image and idea. One is a projection, the other an absolute. Public relations people, tabloid newspapers, spin doctors and entertainers can all fiddle with the image of America, but the idea of it remains constant - overlaid, perhaps, dormant, even forgotten, but always there. Everyone who visits America feels it - every package tourist returns to tell their neighbours how nice the Americans are, how different from their reputation. And what they are all sensing, half-hidden behind the image of America, is the presence of the Idea, with a capital I.


    When I first went to the United States in the 1950s, I impertinently remarked to an archetypal guru, Chief Justice Felix Frankfurter, that what with Senator McCarthy and southern segregation, and civic corruption everywhere, I was not much impressed by the condition of America. Be patient, said the sage. America is like a pendulum, swinging from good to bad, from bad to good, and before long it will swing again.


    He was right, and with luck, perhaps the pendulum is almost ready to swing back once more. Whatever we may think in our moments of despair, America is still a marvellous and lovable country whose patriotism can still be touching: try restraining a tear when you listen to Irving Berlin's setting of the words on the Statue of Liberty - the ultimate American text, with music by the emblematic American immigrant. The Great Republic is great still, full still of decent clever people trying to be good. Even now, it is as free as can be expected, and its democracy is fundamentally honest and robust. It laughs at itself, criticises itself and dislikes itself just as much as we do.


    All it needs is someone with a key to unlock that Idea again, and I hope it will be that next president, whoever it is, even now gearing up for the election. Please God, may it be a poetic president. Inspiration has been the true engine of American success, and all its greatest presidents have been people with a divine spark. The dullards may have been efficient, respected or influential, but the Jeffersons and the Roosevelts, the Lincolns and the Kennedys have all been, in their different ways, artists.


    So may it be a president with the key of original inspiration who can release the Idea from its occlusion. All the ingredients are still there, after all - the kindness, the imagination, the merriment, the will, the talent, the energy, the goddam orneriness, the plain goodness - all there waiting to burst out once more and bring us back our America, blessed and blessing too.


    "Give our regards to old Broadway", sang Cohan, "And say that I'll be there ere long." So will we, so will we, just as soon as America comes home.
    ยท Jan Morris is a historian, travel writer and former Guardian correspondent. Her first book was Coast to Coast: A Journey Across 1950s America and the most recent Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere
    CommentsDJLudwigvan
    February 14, 2007 1:23 AM
    With luck indeed. Sadly, and frighteningly, the neocons who still have Bush's ear may yet condemn all chance in the near-term of the pendulum swinging back by bombing Iran, which they really want to do because they need an external enemy to justify their existence and to cover up their lies and failings. The current conservative anti-intellectual tenor of the US media outlets (CNN, Fox "News") ruling the airwaves doesn't help by following their lead hook, line and sinker.
    But the victory of the Democrats in the midterm elections is a small hope, and hopefully the first step in a painfully long journey towards something resembling sanity. Most Americans are indeed not as extreme as the current wave of media bigots like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and the other prophets of hate who shout the loudest, and thus get heard. Moderation, from both Democrats and Republicans, doesn't make for very sexy TV or sound bites.
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    JamesMackay
    February 14, 2007 1:23 AM
    Just to check - this is the America founded on an unprecedented land grab that dispossessed countless millions of Native peoples?
    The American Dream was a good sales pitch, but with the Cold War over it's no longer necessary for anyone outside the US to follow America's vision of itself.
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    marksa
    February 14, 2007 1:43 AM
    I don't know if the US was ever the 'most beloved', it sounds somewhat fanciful. But its certainly true that after 1945, for a short time anyway, the US has a strong anti-imperialist image with its call for decolonisation. The European states were discredited and tarred with warmongering and colonialism, before they did the rapid switcheroo to pacifism. Even Ho Chi Minh wrote to the US president asking for assistance against the colonist French evildoers.
    But I don't know if the US will ever recover this mythic image that you speak of, the economics has changed far too much for this to really happen. When the US accounted for 50% of the Worlds GDP you tend to forgive it a lot of things, Vietnam etc. Its now at 23% and no longer the land of boundless opportunity, well there are other places opening up. Like Vietnam

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    Mainhatten
    February 14, 2007 1:49 AM
    " .......but the idea of it remains constant - overlaid, perhaps, dormant, even forgotten, but always there. Everyone who vists America feels it - every package tourist returns to tell their neighbours how nice the Americans are, how different from their reputation. And what they are sensing, half-hidden behind the image of America, is the presence of the idea, with a capital I"
    The American pathos is still going strong. Their concept of liberalism and secularism hasn't turned its back on decency. But most of all, America hasn't betrayed its roots!
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    wikipedia
    February 14, 2007 2:01 AM
    "Give us back its baraka (the gift of being at once blessed and blessing)"? As in Barack Obama? Pendulum about to swing? Next president? Poetic president? Divine spark...artist...kay of original inspiration? (Yes, Guardian readers can connect dots when they're that big and practically fluorescent.) http://www.barackobama.com/
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    Cartier
    February 14, 2007 2:08 AM
    Nostalgia and romanticism about a glorious imagined past is what got us into this mess in the first place. If people in general, and journalists in particular, were more willing to ask the tough questions, and criticise the wrong decisions that the U.S government has specialised in making, we might not need the rose-tinted glasses. But they don't. Instead, we have this constant wishy-washy portrayal of the beautiful errant child who needs only a loving hand and a quiet word to correct its naughty ways. Sorry, that's not going to work. Cutting the US too much slack has created an out of control monster. We have allowed them to get away with murder; brutal, heartless, unjustified murder. In our name. And we continue to do nothing but sigh and reminisce and hope the "pendulum swings the other way." Dream on.
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    Cartier
    February 14, 2007 2:10 AM
    Nostalgia and romanticism about a glorious imagined past is what got us into this mess in the first place. If people in general, and journalists in particular, were more willing to ask the tough questions, and criticise the wrong decisions that the U.S government has specialised in making, we might not need the rose-tinted glasses. But they don't. Instead, we have this constant wishy-washy portrayal of the beautiful errant child who needs only a loving hand and a quiet word to correct its naughty ways. Sorry, that's not going to work. Cutting the US too much slack has created an out of control monster. We have allowed them to get away with murder; brutal, heartless, unjustified murder. In our name. And we continue to do nothing but sigh and reminisce and hope the "pendulum swings the other way." Dream on.
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    GiantsandRedskins
    February 14, 2007 2:19 AM
    ..... this is the America founded on an unprecedented land grab that dispossessed countless millions of Native people"
    Wasicu sni washte yelo, eh? Your sentiments exactly, I take it?
    Once you have gotten a hold of yourself you might like to take a look at World history. From time immemorial it has been about territory - whatever one's ethnic affiliation - it's about territory. Or do you think that the Ancient Egyptians and Persians, for example, were in into the "land grab" for anything else?
    And although the fate of the Native American was a harsh and severe one, it was also a natural process. Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory may be cruel to some but it sums up human existence to a T.
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    imamba
    February 14, 2007 2:25 AM
    I'm sorry but I strongly disagree with the premise of this article.
    What is taking place now in America is very similar to what happened Germany in the 30s. I served in the South African Army in WW2 and when my division was in Italy most of the time we were attached to the US 5th Army. I have very fond memories of the Americans of that time. However when I look at the US now I see a "Nazi" America fomenting wars using the Hitlerian big lie.
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    bessaroth
    February 14, 2007 3:15 AM
    "The last best hope of earth (or mankind )" is attributed to Lincoln.A half century ago, the threat to freedom ( still much denied by some of those who haunt the GUT) was the USSR.That threat is gone, and who can deny that America was largely responsible?Today,the civilized world is faced with another threat, different in character but perhaps more insidious, and who would Ms Morris propose we should look to save the West? The Belgian army, perhaps?America is hated because all others, who were once capable of resisting, are impotent.Another relevant quote.Freud said of a former friend, turned disloyal. "Why does he hate me? I've never done anything for him".
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    There are about 50 more comments here:
    http://business.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2012672,00.html
     
  2. FalconDance

    FalconDance Neighborhood Witch

    I was in the military in the early 80s; I visited France, Sicily, Greece, Spain, Italy (lived there for 3 years as a civilian), briefly Beirut (as in looked over the water as the barracks burned, the Marines died and our gov't wrung its hands impotently). Spoke with people from all over the rest of the world: Germany, England mostly. WITHOUT FAIL, even 25 years ago or so, we were viewed as loud, brash, imperialistic (which is funny considering it was coming from the Old World ;)) and plain old bossy/snoopy/bullying.

    In the time since then, we haven't changed for the better.

    Also without fail, as soon as I could persuade whomever I was speaking or dealing with to actually listen to me or visit with me, they began to see that "America" was also ME. I was America and I wasn't all the nasty things they'd heard all their lives (not, mind you, that I'm not a bossy bitch ;)). But that's one person out of 301 million. A really tall order.

    America is f*cked up. Period. And we let it be. We want to set it back on the right path, we want the world to see us as anything different, then we take back the government, we take back the economic basis, WE TAKE BACK AMERICA. Tall Order. Wish enough people would feel that way. We did over 200 years ago.........

    ~Falcon
     
  3. Clyde

    Clyde Jet Set Tourer Administrator Founding Member

    With 52% of the population paying absolutely no income taxes, it is quite easy for people to be uninvolved in their government. As long as they don't pay a thing into the system of waste, they really don't care how the money is wasted as long as they are getting their handout! The change the people would be for is total redistribution of wealth.
     
  4. Blackjack

    Blackjack Monkey+++

    Falcondance... I had pretty much the same experience in the late 80's and early 90's. Spent time all over Europe and some in the middle east. I found it best just not to let people know that I was American, as they usually had preconcieved notions about what an "asshat" I would be.
     
  5. FalconDance

    FalconDance Neighborhood Witch

    Was rather funny, though. As long as I kept my mouth shut, the Spanish thought I was German (the red tint to the hair), the Italian thought I was Spanish, the Germans thought I was northern Italian (again, the hair, red-brown). The Greeks were pretty sure I was Italian and the Sicilians just hugged on me and never bothered asking :D.

    Once I opened my mouth, if I spoke Italian or Spanish, I was ok. English, however, resulted in an immediate social deep-freeze effect.

    Wish I could remember either the Italian or Spanish now. [angelsad]

    ~Falcon
     
  6. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    We have always been hated one way or another, we are the "Have's" and the rest of the world is the "Have Nots" and as long as its that way we will always be hated.....
     
  7. Blackjack

    Blackjack Monkey+++

    I agree quig, it's true enough, but it's not the only thing. In general we really are idiots in other countries. Imagine (an army base) at a german town. A thousand 19-24 year olds making good pay unleashed on the town, and all of legal drinking age there. It's horrible... we make total jerks of ourselves, we get drunk, harass (and rape) the women, steal, beat people up because they won't speak english, it really is horrible. It's no wonder people hate us.
     
  8. E.L.

    E.L. Moderator of Lead Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    Personally, I think we should quit giving the rest of the world aid, no more handouts. You just thought they hated us before.....eek3
     
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