The disease of America Hatred now has reached pandemic proportions in many corners of the globe, spreading far beyond the predictably hopeless fever swamps of Islamic militants, French intellectuals, or Latin American demagogues. In fact, many citizens within the USA itself energetically embrace the basic assumptions of America Hatred, perceiving their country as an unequivocally negative force on the world scene.
John Tirman, director of MIT’s prestigious Center for International Studies, recently wrote a book called “100 Ways America is Screwing Up the World.” When questioned on my radio show, he refused to dismiss the notion that humanity might have been better off if Europeans had never settled North America in the first place – in other words, if the USA as we know it had never come into existence.
The most direct way to counter such disgraceful fatuity is with reference to a key element in a classic American contribution to world cinema: Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) learns to appreciate his own worth after getting a glimpse of the direction his community of Bedford Falls might have taken had he not been around to serve and save it. By the same token, America bashers might try a thought experiment in which they imagine a world in which the USA never existed and played no current role. Would Belgium and Canada have somehow pooled their mighty military machines and succeeded in rescuing humanity from Naziism – and Communism? If not for the United States, which nation might have inspired the world to pursue self-government and human rights? Remember, the famous French Revolution proved so feckless in this regard that the frog-eaters anointed an all-powerful Emperor (Napoleon) less than twenty years after they guillotined their king. In terms of commercial activity and living standards, the United States remains the indefatigable engine that drives the world economy, with productivity and ingenuity as indispensable to sustaining global prosperity as American agricultural bounty is essential to feeding all of humanity.
The irrational nature of America Hatred comes into clearest focus with the realization that this destructive passion flourishes most spectacularly among those who have benefited most conspicuously from the existence of the U.S. You’ll find such festering resentment in Western Europe in general (France in particular), Islamic nations especially dependent on American aid, support and trade (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, for example), among pampered, privileged stars in the entertainment industry, and on elite university campuses in the United States and around the world.
If, then, the most outspoken advocates of America Hatred have seldom suffered personally at the hands of the nation they loathe, how can we understand their implacable hostility? Three factors help to explain this impassioned abhorrence which, like most consuming hatreds, does its most serious damage to the haters themselves ---
When the society often described as “the world’s most hated nation” also turns out to be the country most fervently desired as a destination for immigrants from everywhere, then it’s blindingly obvious that envy plays the leading role in generating hostility to the United States. In the same way that the most successful kid in school will generate considerable resentment, or the most prominent and prosperous citizen of a town will provoke hostility from some of his less fortunate neighbors, the US draws anger and condemnation precisely because of its overwhelming power and influence. America hatred has clearly intensified in the last fifteen years, though it’s hard to make the case that our country has suddenly begun playing a more destructive role in the world since the conclusion of the Cold War. What changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union is the disappearance of any credible rival to the last remaining superpower, so that the US, as the unequivocally dominant power on the planet, draws more anger and suspicion than it did during the long struggle with global Communism.
Moreover, the envy that spurs anti-Americanism often stems from a resentment of US power, rather than jealousy of the wealth and freedoms Americans so obviously enjoy. For instance, the citizens of the Netherlands boast living standards that compare favorably with those of many Americans, and have built a vibrant democracy with abundant civil liberties. Nevertheless, when voters go to the polls in Amsterdam or Utrecht they make decisions with no significant consequences beyond the boundaries of Holland; American elections, by contrast, help determine the future of all of civilization and resonate in the remotest corners of the planet. After the Bush re-election in 2004, several journalists in Europe suggested that residents of nations allied with America should get the chance to vote in US elections because of the impact of those campaigns on every nation’s future —a sure indication of the seething envy for the centrality and influence of the USA that contributes unmistakably to America Hatred.
Among America-haters within the USA, their jealousy is directed at presently powerful major institutions (the military, the corporations, the Republican Party, conservative religious groups) and the “great unwashed” who support them. Their alienation from long-standing traditions, current trends, and the majority of their fellow citizens make them feel like exiles in their own country – and to resent the nation which, for the most part, continues to ignore their increasingly hysterical criticisms.
II. THE LEGACY OF COMMUNISM.
For nearly fifty years the Communist Empire that covered half the globe invested untold resources in the most vile and relentless anti-American propaganda. More than a billion adults in today’s world grew up under fanatical dictatorships headed by the likes of Brezhnev, Mao, Castro, Kim Il Sung where school books, youth organizations, radio, movies, TV, newspapers, even official holidays spread the vicious and preposterous lies about life in the United States. Declassified files in the former Soviet Union show that the KGB and related organizations also spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars to spread the same lies in the West – hiring countless agents of “disinformation” to communicate the idea that America is a uniquely cruel, corrupt, exploitative, racist, militaristic, imperialist, and religiously fanatical society whose very existence menaces “People’s Republics” everywhere. Of course, Communist dictatorships remain in power from Beijing to Havana and they’ve been joined recently by leftist demagogues such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela or Evo Morales in Bolivia who depend on whipping up anti-Yankee sentiment to maintain their tenuous hold on power. To an astonishing degree, the condemnations of the United States by even the most “advanced” and “sophisticated” pundits and professors in the West continue to echo the ancient particulars of Marxist anti-Americanism first put forward by Lenin himself, and later elaborated by his Stalinist successors. In a sense, the current discredited state of Marxist ideology (with massive economic failures and appalling mass murder in every nation under Communist rule) only redoubled the anti-American fervor on the left: former apologists for Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism and other horrors can now salve their consciences by insisting that the American economic and political system is even worse than the nightmarish regimes they once embraced.
III. TOXIC POPULAR CULTURE.
Made-in-America movies, TV shows, popular music, fast food and fashion trends remain this nation’s most successful exports to the rest of humanity. Instead of inspiring affection for the USA (as did the Hollywood products of the 1930’s and ‘40’s, for instance), the current entertainment offerings deliver a dark, dysfunctional view of life in North America. Few people in Burundi or Bangladesh will ever get the chance to visit L.A. or New York but they’ll all get visions of American life on TV or at the movies – visions that emphasize violence, sexual indulgence, economic injustice, pervasive corruption, selfishness and villainy of every sort. Most of the societies in the non-Western world (very much including China, India, much of Africa and Latin America, and nearly all of the Islamic world) maintain a commitment to highly traditional family values that would rank as outrageously restrictive, even “puritanical” in US terms. Of course, hundreds of millions in such societies view the risqué contents of American entertainment as decadent and damaging, a (perhaps conspiratorial) threat to the morals that traditionalists year to sustain and defend. When the most creative story-tellers within America itself fail time and again to portray the overwhelming goodness, decency, kindness and wide-open opportunity that remain essential elements of the American experience, then one can hardly blame the impoverished audiences in less fortunate corners of the earth for remaining ignorant of the true nature of the USA.
The factors that produce the surging levels of America Hatred—Envy, Communist Legacy and Pop Cultural influence—all do more damage to the people who succumb to that loathing than they do to the interests of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Envy distracts from constructive effort, paralyzing both nations and individuals; nostalgia for the bad-old-days of Marxist tyranny encourages the worst tendencies in any society, and embracing the current products of US pop culture (gangsta rap, anyone?) grants influence to the worst, not the best, messages from American society.
The one form of anti-Americanism that ought to worry the citizens and leaders of this country involves the elitist contempt here at home for the nation’s past and present—contempt tirelessly fomented by leading educators and media figures. Political historian Michael Barone recently identified such leaders as “our covert enemies” who have “been working, over many years, to undermine faith in our society and confidence in its goodness…. Our covert enemies don’t want the Islamo-fascists to win. But in some corner of their hearts they would like us to lose.”
Understanding and confronting America Hatred wherever it occurs, around the world but most importantly here at home, will help to insure that these potentially dangerous enemies never get their secret wish.