“We give them money / but are they grateful? No / they’re spiteful and they’re hateful / they don’t respect us / so let’s surprise them / we’ll drop the big one / and pulverize them”
— “Political Science,” Randy Newman, 1972
I would be remiss in not thanking letter writer Larry Kirkland for his apparent deep concern for the status of my soul. In truth, Larry, I am not the least bit concerned about such lofty matters. To live an engaged, ethical and creative life here on planet Earth is good enough for me.
As for my having had a bad day when I penned the recent column casting doubt on “American exceptionalism,” nothing could be further from the truth. Researching lies and exposing them to the light of day always brings a smile to my face, never a frown. Do I love my country? Yes. Do I love it blindly? No.
His letter did serve as a catalyst for the present “screed.” Despite easily ascertainable evidence in abundance that our “shining light on the hill” is a canard (which Larry and his cohorts would like us to overlook) why do they persist in their delusions?
On a related note, if we as a nation are divided as to our God-given mission to civilize and democratize an intractable world after our glorified image, what do citizens of “s--t hole countries,” “nations of rapists and drug dealers” and “doddering old Europe” — think of us? Folks the globe over view the same signs of cultural decay that I tried to address. Do they tuck those painful insights about America the “land of the free” away and salute ”Old Glory” as the standard of all that is virtuous and honorable?
Right-wing true believers would like to imagine that we are collectively admired throughout the world. Unfortunately, just as they blithely ignore the true history of our ugly meddling around the world, they are dead wrong about our standing abroad.
From a series of studies conducted by Pew Research Center and other sources, U.S. citizens might pause before considering foreign travel. While it is true that the following numbers are from May of 2020 while the Donald was still riding high and riding roughshod, and it is also true that these numbers spiked dramatically upward the day Trump was defeated, animosity to the American way of doing things is nothing new nor unique to having a thug in the White House.
Some of these numbers make perfect sense. Owing to our generous financial and military support for Israel, 80 percent of Palestinians expressed disapproval of Americans. Our numbers are even worse in Egypt and Jordan, where 85 percent of their citizens hold a negative view. Perhaps our preemptive war overthrowing Saddam that brought turmoil and chaos to the Mediterranean Arab world had something to do with it.
Sixty-on percent of Iranians dislike us, which again makes good sense, but how to explain Iraq where we are disliked by an even greater number, 67 percent? Considering all that we expended in money and blood to bring them the glories of “democracy,” this seems like poor repayment.
For foreign travelers, things aren’t looking a whole lot better visiting our traditional allies. It seems that Americans are held negatively by 65 percent of Swedes, 70 percent of Germans … even 69 percent of the Dutch who view us as “egocentric, intolerant, and unhealthy.”
Published in an online journal, which informs its readers of good places to visit and good places to avoid, these woeful statistics do offer some small amount of hope. If South America is your thing, only 47 percent of Chileans view the U.S. unfavorably while Argentina might be another go-to place with only 57 percent disapproving. Those still with a hankering for the Middle East should be happy to know that Chile’s ratings are shared by Tunisia.
Finally if Asia is in your blood, only 54 percent of Chinese hold a distasteful view of us and all we stand for.
Canada? If they’ll ever let us in without quarantine, only 51 percent give us bad reviews.
So — back to American exceptionalism. Is it “exceptional” that we are disliked so many places throughout the world? For Trump, that would be a badge of honor, a true draft-dodging patriot that one. As someone who travels abroad regularly and consorts with regular folks, I’m not so sure.
McGehee, a lifelong activist, settled here in 1973 and lives in Palouse with his wife, Katherine. His work life has varied from bartender to university instructor to wrecking yard owner.