One of the things you get used to as an American, particularly if you travel extensively, is that is that the rest of the world has a love-hate relationship with you. They love having you spend your money in their countries, but hate you because you (not you personally, but you as a Yankee) represent everything they aren't and can't be. They love you for always standing ready to help in case of disaster, but hate you because they need your help. They love you for what you stand for, but hate you because you're preachy and arrogant about it.
I ran across two articles yesterday that are worth your time to read. The first, an editorial by Daniel Davis in The Washington Times, was titled "The Battle of Ideas: U.S. Losing in Recent Years;" the other, by Moises Naim in the Washington Post, was titled "A Hunger for America." These two fine articles looked at America in the world from slightly different angles.
In his editorial, Mr Davis writes: "There was a time in the not-too-distant past when America possessed considerable admiration and respect in the minds of people across the world. But over time that prestige has tarnished while at the same time our domestic condition improved to unprecedented heights. It seems we began to believe all the stories about how great we were while inversely showing less and less consideration, respect and appreciation for those beyond our borders. This undesirable condition has worsened over the past decade, and as is now becoming very clear, works against our self-interest."
In the other article, Mr Naim writes that the world wants America back...but not just any America. He writes, "...the America that the world wants back is not the one that preemptively invades potential enemies, bullies allies or disdains international law. The demand is for an America that rallies other nations prone to sitting on the fence while international crises are boiling out of control; for a superpower that comes up with innovative initiatives to tackle the great challenges of the day, such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and violent Islamist fundamentalism. The demand is for an America that enforces the rules that facilitate international commerce and works effectively to stabilize an accident-prone global economy. Naturally, the world also wants a superpower willing to foot the bill with a largess that no other nation can match."
These are articles that should be required reading in the White House and Congress. As an American, I am appalled at how the image of the country I love has been shredded around the world. We'll never be loved, because we represent a level of success that no other country can match. We're the image they'll never see in the mirror. We're the only country where people of every race, religion, and ethnic group live together in relative harmony, building a nation strong enough to be the one place the rest of the world can turn for help in the face of disaster. We're far from perfect, but the fact that we have such an enormous illegal immigration problem ought to tell you something about what the rest of the world really thinks about us in the corners of their hearts and minds they hate to acknowledge. I want my country to be respected again. Feared when necessary, but feared by those who are evil, and respected by the good of heart.
Mr Davis's editorial goes on to say that he could offer many recommendations for fixing our ills, but that they won't make any difference unless, "...there is first a fundamental change in the mind of Americans. If we do not accept that along with our many and substantial virtues we are also guilty of sometimes not insignificant pride, arrogance and hubris, no reform is even possible. It is imperative that our national leaders concede the fact that part of the reason we're not winning the global battle of the mind is our past behavior, our insistence on having things our way and our unwillingness to compromise on non-critical issues to our friends and allies."
I don't think I could put it any better myself.
My digital countdown calendar tells me that there are 383 days and 7 hours left in the current administration (cue the brass band!). It's too late for our present leadership to do the right thing, even if it were willing to admit to any mistakes. I've written them off.
The message to the new administration is this: humble pie isn't the greatest of desserts, but sometimes you've just got to eat your share. Acknowledge the mistakes. Restore the greatness of America - the spirit and the heart that have made us the envy of the world.
They may hate us, but it's the hatred of jealousy - the hatred that grows from the knowledge we can do all the things they can't, because they allow themselves to be held back by twisted religious beliefs, ethnic hatreds, or discredited economic and political philosophies.
Let them hate us - and if they hate us that badly, let them go ahead on their own, without our aid.
But in the meantime, let's all have a slice of that humble pie, and resolve to do better when we elect our next president..
We can't do much worse.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.