how others see us

Okay, one more angry entry and then I’m putting my game-face on and trying to figure out what to do now to make a positive difference.

Something that I suspect the residents of Jesusland haven’t thought about (or don’t care about) is the way the rest of the world views America. When I was in Europe this past summer and the summer before, people seemed clear that there was a difference between the American people and their president. There was still a significant amount of sympathy left over from 9/11.

Now, however, I don’t think we can expect the same benefit of the doubt. Having watched the Bush administration in action for the last four years (e.g. backing out of Kyoto, making up reasons for going to war, torturing prisoners of war), we’ve responded, I’ll take some more of that!

We look like a bunch of ignorant thugs.

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15 thoughts on “how others see us

  1. That just kills me. ‘Cause 55 MILLION of us voted for the other guy. That’s more people than the entire populations of Canada and Australia combined. I mean, I know it’s not enough, but also… I guess I wonder how people would blame us when so many of us are so obviously against this. Blarg.

  2. I also wonder how much views of Americans will change. 49% of us did vote against Bush, and many of us worked pretty hard to see him defeated. I’d imagine the rest of the world feels some sympathy for those 55 million who voted for Kerry, but yeah, I’d imagine that we’ve lost a few more friends this week.

  3. I think America can expect the rest of the world to have as balanced and understanding a view of us as we’ve tended to have of them. As someone once said, “You’re either for us or against us.”

  4. Yeah, you’re right. My friends and students and colleagues have almost unianimously expressed disbelief that Bush could be reelected, followed by “that’s it. I’m giving up on them.” I think we really hoped you’d take to your senses. I read blogs of individuals, I have American friends and (most importantly) a wonderful American boyfriend and it’s obvious to me that there are *so* many Americans who are against Bush. Actually it’s really impressive, after the amazing pro-Bush stuff that went down after September 11, that Kerry did as well as he did, and that the Democrats fight was so forceful.
    So I try to tell my friends that, you know, nearly half of Americans fought Bush.
    But they don’t really care. And the mainstream media doesn’t show all the individuals and how hard they’ve fought.
    I think Europe’s really disappointed. We have a basic liking for America – yes, there’s anti-Americanism and jealousy and anger at a nation that disregards what the rest of the world has to say, but there’s also a basic sympathy which was so strong right after September 11, but which has been all but shattered.
    It’s really sad.

  5. Frankly, I think that the world is right to be angry at Americans. Our morals are so backward that we appear to believe that when two people of the same sex want to get married it’s a moral imperative to prevent them from doing so, but when 100,000 civilians die–that has nothing to do with morality. What objective observer wouldn’t look with skepticism on a group of people who felt and voted that way? People on the left need to reclaim the language of morality. And objective one should be, to quote that old liberal warhorse, Lionel Trilling, teaching the ‘moral responsibility to be intelligent.’

  6. The view from Canada … press and media and general talk across the confederation is that the USA is a country divided. And some of us are trying to find ways of finding how to move the discourse away from certain sorts of demonizing identity politics. In Canadian tradition, we tend to stress the hyphen to build bridges. Evangelical environmentalists; Vegetarian fundatmentalists; Pro-family trade unionists; Pro trade union pastors.
    Michael Adams, author of Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values, was interviewed on the radio this morning. Intereting how he characterized the American divide: between Old Testament and New Testament. Watch the Sermon on the Mount become a key text :)

  7. I went to bed around 11 PM election night, ridiculously early for me, because I was physically sick as the results came in. All of the hopefullness we felt earlier in the day as the first exit polls were circulating on a gorgeous, sunny, seventy-degree afternoon–gone. Ohio, Florida, even Michigan and NH for a time–all trending toward Bush. The writing was on the wall. Four. More. Years. Yet there’s something about the tenor and tone of this discussion (only one of many) that also makes me squirm. The American left *and* our overseas friends need to stop wallowing in Bush. The world’s a bigger place, it’s also an *older* place–at some level we know that, understand that, don’t we? We’re all smart enough here, we’ve all read enough. Time to take some collective ownership, people. I don’t like waving flags and I also don’t want to trample any. But raise your hand if you really want to live in a world that creates its progressive vision out of the displacement and effacement of countless local histories by homogenized anti-Americanism? Not me.

  8. the conversation that might have been

    I don’t like to talk politics on my blog. Yesterday, though, I drafted the following, and have decided to go ahead and post it, in part as a companion piece to Matt’s comment on George’s blog: A few days ago,…

  9. Matt, I’ve been thinking about your comment all morning. I hesitated to write the above comment (and I realized right away that it was a little juvenille), and I wrote it at the moment when I was most upset about the election results. I didn’t intend that comment to be anti-American at all, but to express some frustration at the fact that the American system has this winner-take-all structure that makes me feel as if I my values are no longer represented in government.
    I also feel particularly stung here in Georgia because of the degree to which my fellow Georgians voted for the anti-gay marriage amendment. In that regard, I feel victimized by that polarization, and that was the only way I could respond. My response now is to hold my leaders to the high standards I’ve always held (for Democrats and Republicans alike) and to call Congress and the White House out when I believe they have made mistakes. My other response is to continue building the coalitions we began building over the last four years through organizations like MoveOn.org not out of mere opposition to the Bush leadership, but because I believe that progressives have a more just vision of the world.
    Have a student, so I may write more later.

  10. Dissent is typically American and typically expressed in individualist terms:
    I, for one, am against us.
    Assent is also typically American (quintessential example: Stein’s Yes Is For a Very Young Man) and typically expressible in collective terms:
    We, for others, are not against you.

  11. Chuck, I understand completely. I think the most important sentence in what I wrote was really the last. And it seems to me that “anti-Americanism” is something we now have to unpack. Increasingly it it’s not about spittin’ on Old Glory, but a more subtle and more collectively risky form of what Kari calls “geo-political tunnel vision” over on her blog. Jesper Juul’s comments, which she quotes, also put it more eloquently than I can.

  12. I know I’m not a regular blogger, but I want to point to an intellectual paradigm that I see developing here. The world certainly is a bigger place than just “Bush,” and we do need to take collective ownership of global political problems, but for years we’ve been saying “it’s a little more complicated”, for decades we’ve been deconstructing binaries and teaching the mantras of race, class, and gender, and guess what—we failed! People who believe only in binaries like good and evil, Moral and immoral are carrying the day. What i mean is, our decades of nuanced thinking in the culture war have mobilized millions of people against complicated thinking. Unpacking the problem might make us feel better, even more hopeful, but it is not political action. And I say this as someone dedicated to complicating absolutes and blah-blah-blah. People who define themselves in opposition to something (rather than as something) are winning. It is,in other words–a structural problem. The democratic party has experienced a setback that hasn’t happened since the McKinley era: A Republican president, House, and Senate were all re-elected. They have determined the agenda. The era of FDR is over–and the era of Thurgood Marshall could look like Yeats’s byzantium in a few years time. We need a vision–we can’t simply trade on the old verities of the new deal or the great society anymore. I wish we could, but we need to confront the problem of how people think as much as what they think about.

  13. Green-tinged morning

    What does the title of this post mean? It’s cold out, but green? Please, fair BB! readers, allow me, your host, to remain a touch enigmatic and just say…thanks to all of you. You make-a my day and I consider…

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