When she won an Oscar a few years back, actress Sally Field memorably blurted, “You like me!” to her fellow Hollywood stars. It’s become commonplace for Americans traveling abroad to assume the opposite. As we skittishly pull out our passport, we nervously assume the natives won’t like us.
But why not?
In the Nov. 25 Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, columnist David Rossie explains that “the United States, thanks to the Cheney/Bush administration, is about as popular world-wide as the Ebola virus.” He goes on to detail the “draconian penalties” handed down to some American bridge players (that’s the card game, not the congressional earmark game in which representatives attempt to direct billions of dollars to unnecessary hometown projects) who held up a sign reading “We Did Not Vote For Bush” after they won at an international competition.
But if we want to know why the U.S. is so unpopular abroad, the bridge players have already shown us. Not with their anti-Bush signage (their sentiment seems overwhelmingly popular overseas, and perhaps even here at home). No, it’s pretty simple: Other countries don’t like us because the United States wins at almost everything.
Our dollar, despite recent declines, remains the reserve currency of the planet. It’s the money legitimate businessmen and gangsters alike count on. Whether one is buying a big-screen TV from China or dealing in high-grade China White, the price will be set and the bill paid in greenbacks.
Likewise, our English tongue is the language of commerce and air travel.
Commentators frequently complain that Americans don’t learn foreign languages, but that’s because we don’t really have to. We’re confident that wherever we go, somebody will speak English. In fact, about the only place you can go where you don’t have to know some English is an inner city school in the U.S. Too many students are allowed to slide through “bi-lingual” classrooms here without actually learning our language.
Finally, we dominate in international competitions, even ones (like bridge tournaments) that most people don’t care about. The French, for example, are wild about bicycle racing. Yet it was American Lance Armstrong, with his seven straight titles, who put the sport on the map. American golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson dominate their global sport. Athletes from around the world know that, to be the best, they must play Major League Baseball or NBA basketball. Even soccer players like David Beckham are leaving their homelands -- where there’s a passion for their sport -- to compete in the States, where few of us care.