Something really strange is happening in America in 2008: American’s, their leaders, and the press seem to have woken up to the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t like them quite so much anymore.
The references to America’s standing in the world have been peppered throughout the election campaign, most regularly from Obama, but also in the recent slew of newspaper editorials as well. The NY Times in support Obama had this to say:
The United States is battered and drifting after eight years of President Bush?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s failed leadership. He is saddling his successor with two wars, a scarred global image….
Both presidential candidates talk about strengthening alliances in Europe and Asia, including NATO, and strongly support Israel. Both candidates talk about repairing America?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s image in the world….
There would appear to be a shift away from the America! Fuck Yeah! ethos so nicely put in Team America World Police, a blind idea by all Americans that they are the best of the best, superior to the rest of the world, and that every other country should be like them.
For once, some Americans at least now care that the world thinks less of them.
The shift isn’t huge; the acceptance that America needs to play nicer in world affairs and earn respect hasn’t fully replaced the blind ideology of American supremacy over all.
Oddly enough, it’s Obama who calls upon this idea of American supremacy more than McCain, at least in the speeches I’ve seen from both.
I cringe every time Obama says that his story would only be possible in America, because it’s so patently untrue, and so patently populist crap pandering to base nationalism. Obama’s story could have been possible in any number of countries, from my own Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, western Europe, South America (economically less so, but the racial mix most definitely)…and numerous other places.
There is of course nothing wrong with being proud of your country, but there is a difference in blindly believing that your country is the best of the best, and that you a superior in every way, and that others do not share or enjoy the same freedoms and benefits you do.
The numerous times I’ve been asked on my trips to the United States when I’d be moving there (honestly) I’ve responded that I am happy with the country I live in, and although I like visiting places, I don’t feel an urge to leave because some how (in at least some of these people’s minds) that America is better.
The difference is in grounded reality. I love Australia, but I know it isn’t perfect, for example these words could be blocked soon from being seen by my fellow countrymen due to our Governments inability to understand free speech. But there are many positives as well. Americans tend to overstate the positives and ignore the negatives, or downplay them more than people in other countries. One small example: homeless people aren’t an issue regularly discussed there, but every time I visit I’m horrified by the huge number of beggars in some cities on every corner.
Health care: how exactly can the richest country in the history of the world not look after every person? It’s not socialism to keep people alive: it’s loving thy neighbor, it’s looking after everyone because you should morally do so.
It’s a positive trend that the United States is finally taking into account how others see it. It may also be reflective of looking inwards, and realizing that all is not perfect in the land of the free. There’s still some way to go, but finally America might be saying Fuck No, we can and should do better, and that we are not perfect.