Why is America so hated in the world?
Sometimes we wonder why America (not the American people as individuals) is so widely disliked and, indeed, hated. Of course, we are the world’s richest nation, and there is indeed some good old fashioned jealousy.
Also, let us remember that most of the world’s people know us through news and movies and television. They see the horror of Newtown and the self-indulgent flaunting of wealth of famous people and gross immorality that so many of our films and television programs celebrate. If the media that foreigners see are a true picture of who we are as a people, I am not so sure that I like us very much!
We are sometimes angered and surprised when we hear news reports of people shouting anti-American slogans, burning flags, and calling for our destruction. Some of this is indeed paranoia. I have no idea if ordinary North Koreans have a clue about the nature our nation, but either they are ignorant or act out of a misplaced loyalty to the horrific Kim dynasty, and its latest lunatic-in-charge, Kim Jung-un.
Yet, when all the shouting and rock throwing and role playing in front of the cameras are behind us, we are still left with a great deal of anger and hatred that cannot be so easily dismissed.
I met a lawyer in Morocco a few years ago in a camel market (I think that both of us were “only looking”). He told me that he rejected American-style democracy because he knows that families are disintegrating (true), there is a lot of obscenity and vulgarity in the media (true), homosexual are free to express themselves publicly (true, thank goodness). He says that he does not want these things to be present in his country, and he resents the USA for pushing this sort of freedom agenda to other nations and cultures. I disagree with his interpretation of the negative consequences of American freedom, but his views deserve to be taken seriously and engaged rather than dismissed as irrational rants.
It is generally agreed by experts on global consumption that the USA has about 4 percent of the world’s population but consumes somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of the world’s resources. That leaves the other 6,700,000,000 people with no more than 3/4 of those resources to share and fight over. We can no longer dismiss this as goods-envy and claim we are fair and just in our level of consumption. We look at child labor and tragic workplace accidents in East and Southeast Asia that feed our frenzy for trendy sneakers and countless other products. Not only are we running in shoes produced in unsafe and exploitative conditions, but another consequence is the loss of American jobs.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote that, “all men (now we would say ‘persons’) are created equal” and that all humans are equally entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he did not grasp all the implications of his words, slaveholder that he was.
Our area of New York produced leaders like Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, who helped us to recognize that non-whites and women are included in that statement. Yet too many Americans appear to conclude today that since those words are in our Declaration of Independence, they are really only apply to Americans.
Not so. Jefferson did not write that all Americans are created equal. His statement is universal.
Similarly, our Judeo-Christian heritage is clear that all humans are children of God, hence brothers and sisters in our creaturehood. This truth of equality has always been so, but modern communications have made it dramatically clear each day how such equality is elusive, sometimes even in our own nation, let alone in tyrannical places like North Korea and Iran or among the Bottom Billion (people living on less than $1.50 per day).
We need to be better. I am not talking primarily about government aid/support for people beyond our borders, although that is one part of our responsibility. We ought all to be generous, not just when there is a tsunami or a famine but constantly. It is obscene that in our world, millions starve every year when there is enough food to feed all seven billion of us equal humans.
We should not just send aid for emergencies, however. And we know that sponsoring a child in a developing (sometimes a euphemism) country does not address poverty, although it radically improves the life of one person.
We need to deal with the root causes of world poverty and spend much of our money and our energy to identify and address such causes. We need to act individually and collectively, through civic organizations and churches but also through corporate America, since that is where the money is. We should be willing to pay more for products made abroad so that laborers there work in humane and safe conditions with a living wage.
Many in the USA act morally and responsibly toward the world. However, we all need to be on board. Nothing we do can eliminate the fact that some people and some nations will hate us. However, we can chip away at that hatred only when we accept the fact that such hatred is not completely irrational. This is a hard pill to swallow.
So, take a big gulp of water with this pill, swallow it, and get going!
P.S.: My friend Carol Adelman heads a program that studies private philanthropy. Check out her work at http://www.global-prosperity.org.