December 27, 2007

Attitude to America: A question of Ambivalence

..."America is a country that, for all its faults, continues to represent something quite admirable and idealistic..."

For all the prevailing anti-Americanism sentiments abroad many, when asked (and they are honest) would admit that if circumstances permitted they would immigrate to America.

Gerard Baker in writing for the TimesOnline tells us:

“Last year The Daily Telegraph published the results of one of those now routine opinion polls that document the British public’s rising disdain for the United States. The poll captured all the usual antipathies towards American policies – the Iraq War, Guantanamo, Kyoto - as well as the familiar popular perceptions of modern American pathologies – a nation of overweight, gun-toting, gay-baiting, lethal-injection-loving, religious nutters. The British expressed haughty distaste for the global spread of American culture (which the Telegraph helpfully summarised for us as “fast food, popular music and Hollywood”), but right at the end, almost buried amid all the unflattering stereotypes was a remarkable finding. In answer to the question, “Would you immigrate to the United States if you could?” a staggering 19 per cent said “yes”.”

I would venture to suggest that if a similar survey were conducted in Australia it might well produce similar findings. I am reminded of a conversation I heard on a top rating radio show here in Melbourne recently. The host asked her guest about a recent trip to Los Angeles, a fairly predictable reply followed, “well I gotta tell ya, “faaaantastic”.” She went on briefly describing the known landmarks and streetscapes, the glamour of Hollywood and general attraction of consumer culture unique to the States before pulling herself up hastily and adding, “I dunno, are we allowed to say that?”

Makes one wonder, does people’s disdain of America stem from envy? Lord help us if we actually like the U.S. and admit it loudly!

Says Baker, “deep down, in a layer of their consciousness formed by more enduring perceptions than the last Ten O’Clock News, I think people have a sense that America is a country that, for all its faults, continues to represent something quite admirable and idealistic."

“A country that promotes individual freedom that rewards hard work that fosters an extraordinarily productive and open system that engenders creativity and ingenuity. Above all, a country that remains uniquely hopeful.”

Read the whole piece here.

Remember Reagan’s words, "The United States is unique because we are an empire of ideals. For two hundred years we have been set apart by our faith in the ideals of democracy, of free men and free markets, and of the extraordinary possibilities that lie within seemingly ordinary men and women. We believe that no power of government is as formidable a force for good as the creativity and entrepreneurial drive of the American people."

One reason why I am drawn to liking and vigorously promoting America is fuelled by my hatred for Marxism and its determinism; the idea that history pursues a predictable course that is to be followed. I loathe talk of inevitable outcomes that render the individual powerless more exactly; history is shaped by independent actions of thought through the enactment of human judgements.

What does this have to do with America? Through its defining papers and leadership, the nation stresses qualities that are in harmony with the most natural human disposition of liberty, the pursuit of democracy, rules of law, and religious and civic equalities. Abstract and idealistic values that engender hope.

Baker concludes by quoting the words of Amy Chua, a Harvard law professor who suggested that the “popular attitude towards the United States” could be summed up as:

“America, get out. And take me with you.”

Feel free to comment...

11 comments:

Karen said...

That's always been the point of irony for me by the America-bashers, especially among our own, that people are trying to get into this country, not out! There is talk of building a wall to secure our borders, but to keep illegal immigration down, not Americans in!

I do think it is envy, all the criticism. But, I'm American...

Reagan liked to use the quote that America is the shining city on the hill. We are the beacon of freedom to the world. Proudly. The majority of us, anyway!

Aurora said...

Otto, thanks for such a great post. As a half American, I get so heartily sick and tired of hearing America bashed (it's rife amongst the Europeans and the Left).
I wonder what they would do with themselves if America were no longer here to be railed upon. It's a truly dysfunctional family that has to have a scapegoat for all its problems.
America is, as Karen says, a shining light on a hill.

heidianne jackson said...

i love my country - unabashedly and unapologetically. i have travelled extensively around the world - including a six month jaunt to your island back a million years ago. not much has changed in terms of bashing americans.

aurora brings up and interesting point, but i MUST take it a step further. where would europe be if america did not continually bail it out?

in england, france and italy they'd be speaking german by now and the eastern bloc would still be part of the ussr. they imported our culture to get past the mess left by war and communism - and in a way to honor us.

still today, the bulk of european defense dollars and mechanisms come from the united states. where would they be if we suddenly became smart and said "you don't support us? fine! we won't support you either" and then we took our toys and went home.

how long do you think it would take the muslims to launch a full scale war on europe? how long before europe is europastan?

yes, there is envy - but they could have it too. first they must decide that they love freedom more than laziness; freedom more than safety and freedom more than being kept. then they must stop trying to force their socialistic world order on to us and work for what they want without expecting the government to provide for them.

but this is too much too ask - people would much rather be kept than work hard - that way there is always some one to blame for their plight. the thing is, it is only american making it so that their plight is not much worse.

the former balkan republics get it. slovakia and the czech republic get it. why can't every one else?

cheer! otto on another wonderful post...

American Interests said...

karen: It is right to be proud and America IS, the "shining light on a hill" even if many don't get it..

aurora: I too am sick of the America bashing, not that you could not guess. What would they do if American were not there to be relied upon? Diddly-Squat...

Thanks for referring to this post at, The Midnight Sun:

http://www.themidnightsun.org/

The fight continues...

heidianne: Great comments, almost a post in itself...I think Europe is already "europastan". They're becomong such a lazy lot, preferring to site around their piazzaz sipping latte's all day long whilst their nations decay...Both Socialist and Marxist wares are on the march outside of America...thankfully outside!

Tapline said...

Otto, Outstanding post. What else is new.......You are spot on. I too have traveled much, I found they hate America, but The only place I found indifference was Germany. Not that they did or didn't like Americans. They just didn't express much. To me anyway. Most of the Far Eastern countries the people looked at you with suspicion, but the minute you smiled they lite up like a light bulb and were ready to accept you It was a strange feeling. I ramble....stay well.....

Aurora said...

Otto, you're welcome about the link.

Tapline, the Europeans are funny. Some, it's true, just hate Americans to hate...But others are ambivalent. ON the one hand, they spout the usual stuff about Iraq and Bush and yet, on the other hand, when you ask them where they'd most like to visit, it's America; L.A. New York or San Fran; almost without exception. Very bizarre.

MK said...

It's envy Otto, it's part of human nature to be hatin' on Number 1. The way i see it, in America there is true freedom, even though the left are working diligently at undermining it.

From a recent trip to America, i sum it up by saying, in America you are free to stand and you are also free to fall. It's all up to you. Thanks for stopping by my blog by the way.

WomanHonorThyself said...

hiya Otto..yup it is flat out jealousy..u dont get more patriotic than me!..Have a super weekend!:)

American Interests said...

Tap: With all your past travels I am not surprised tht you concur

American Interests said...

aurora: a bizarre attitude that conceals envy...

mk: Welcome to AI and have added yoursa to blogroll. A great site you have there...

angel: Shakespeare’s “green-eyed-monster”, jealousy is a gut-wrenching and tormenting feeling!!!

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

I'll cast another vote for envy/jealousy.

I'm an American, three or four-plus generations in on the Norwegian side, quite a bit longer on the Irish side.

I'm not entirely happy with America. Twice, I looked seriously at another country to live in. Although the Commonwealth - and the world beyond - includes fine and attractive countries, I discovered that I was already in the least-bad country on the planet.

That research gave me an appreciation for the intellectual breathing room that Americans enjoy (outside the colleges and universities), and for the free-to-fail aspect of the culture that makes people like Bill Gates possible.