America Gets Bashed
a view by Joe Boudreault
The United States of America takes a beating everywhere it turns, and for everything it does or tries to do. All over the world the favorite pastime for many people is to take a poke at the Yanks, to criticize or thumb the proverbial nose at the empire of all empires. I suppose this is understandable. When you are on top, look out, in come the naysayers and the detractors. America, of course, is on top of the world. Alright, if you ask certain people, that is not the case, but I’m going to go along with the general assessment that the US of A is the dominant power on the planet. This is certifiable by any measurement: culturally, politically, economically, or democratically. You can take any of those categories and you can pick them apart in such a way as to demonstrate the opposite, and you are free to do so.
I would only argue that the greatness of a culture, whether it is Canadian, American, British, Oriental or whatever, resides in the fact that to be able to pick at its faults is a testimony to its decency. To do so and not be shot or hanged for doing so testifies to its moral tolerance. And to do so and help create a better culture for doing so testifies to its greatness. Now I come with keyboard in hand not to pick faults but to purvey some praise. I think that America deserves some praise. It deserves some praise far more than it deserves the vilification and criticisms it receives from a world, at large part, under its influence.
I think that being under the influence of American culture is not necessarily a very bad thing. I can think of a great deal of worse things to be under the influence of. It is hard, in fact, to imagine a completely better world to live in than that of the American empire. Now I said better, keeping in mind that I can also sling mud at the Yankee eye here, but what would that accomplish? Mudslinging, so they say, is the cause of two backward movements: you get your hands dirty, and you lose a lot of ground. Besides, do you refuse dinner because the desert happens to have some rot in it? No, I am talking about relative greatness, because mankind does his best work in relation to lesser works done elsewhere, and none of them are that superior. The world’s waters are all muddied now, but I for one am grateful for the Yankee drink, stains and all.
The list of accusations against America is long. Here is a country, so it goes, with a superiority complex, with an arrogant attitude, with self-righteousness, full of inward-looking esteem, bombastic and overly ambitious on the world stage, egotistical in its culture, pretentious in its wisdom, single minded in its knowledge, satanic in its materialism, and narcissistic in its belief as a role model for the world. Did I miss anything important? No doubt I did, and it is quite possible that I can find my own brand of dirt to throw in that same direction if I want to rummage through the international garbage heaps of anti-Americanism, but I will toss my intellectual manure later. For now, I would like to propose that you consider, for a change, another list on America. Here, so it also goes, is a country with a freedom complex, with a generous attitude, with some strong moral underpinnings still in place, full of innovative brilliance, motivated to better the individual and hence the world, open-minded in its culture, searching for wisdom among the madness, a leader in knowledge, inventive in industry, and – this is important – receptive to high criticism from within and without. I suggest that America got to the top in large part due to that second list, not the first.
There are well in excess of 190 sovereign nations in the world today (194 according to the United Nations). Some of them owe sovereignty (if you can call it that) to brutal kingpins and warlords; others to the morality of natural law; a good many operate by popular consensus of some sort; a few exist in monarchial splendor; some of them struggle with borderline catastrophe; and while some are shining lights there are still others that are human cesspools. In this modern age we have nations based on the theocracy of Hinduism, Islam, and pantheism, and a few on the doctrine of atheism and communism. Judge them as you will, but I am willing to bet that America is neither a cesspool nor a dictatorship. I am also willing to bet that when something works well and benefits a whole lot of people equally, the modifying affect of a good society has a way to amplify the mood of detractors, especially if the reasons for that modesty are not understood. It can further be seen that when a rule of law gives peace and prosperity, the outlaw will become stir-crazy. When America works well, which is a lot of the time though not all of the time, professional jealousy enters in and the mud flies.
One of the most helpful things a person can do when confronting a complex situation which seems to be full of faults and errors is to look at facts instead of rumors. Then assess it as thoroughly as possible, to determine if something better exists or can be brought into being. Then proceed to replace the faults or correct the errors. Or at least acknowledge that most other scenarios are not so rosy when the same examination is applied. The existence of good countries is a result of a very delicate balance, whereas the existence of distasteful nations is a result of oppression and violence. Enlightenment breeds the one, ignorance breeds the other. On the streets of the world, immigrants vote with their feet and I have noticed that America gets a heck of a lot of those votes. In fact, just over 20% of all of the world’s immigrants go to the USA, a number that far surpasses any other nation. The number of immigrants who reside in America is close to 40 million, which is equivalent to the total of the next five countries combined. Nobody runs willingly into the arms of a despot. These are peoples who chose to come to the heartland of western democracy of their own free will, and the fact that it has been relatively easy for most of them to do that speaks volumes about the generosity and goodwill of that nation.
Empires rise because the values of a common community are codified and put into law and enforced among all the communities. They stay on top because they honor those values. They fall from grace because they ignore the reasons for the formation of those laws. It is easy to tax the peasant if you have allowed him to make food. It is easy to allow religion and ethics if they reflect the common good and contribute to a unity. It’s not hard to repel the danger when you all wear white and the aggressor wears red, but it is also easy for the barbarian at the gate to invade if the guard on the tower decides he now likes the color of the enemy’s clothes and the sound of his song. What I am trying to say is that we fall because we forget the reason why we rose in the first place. The greatest human desire is to belong, to be valued, to have a home and hearth in peace and prosperity. But from Eden to Armageddon, man has been slowly taking away from what God has been giving. I believe God blesses those who recognize His sovereignty and He withdraws from those who deny Him. I believe the life of nations and empires illustrates this divine doctrine.
America was born in pain and turmoil and it was not alone in its founding principles. When a governing system ceases to offer the home and hearth to one and all, revolution is the result. It began with Nimrod in the Hebrew lands of the Bible, it wended its way through history and it has not ended yet. Egypt prospered under its pharaohs but people tired of worshipping man as a god. Culture blossomed under Mesopotamian and Greek rulers but outside jealousies decimated them. Rule of law had its day with both the Romans and the British, but monarchies never gave a common person much of a vote. The idea of a peaceful confederacy or republic was always there, of course. The Roman empire coalesced into a religious entity in Europe and ran its course. Persecution of the human will was enough to motivate the starving and disenfranchised masses to move to the North American frontier. The frontier practiced Christian fundamentalism for the most part, and the frontier became colonies. With a whole new slate to write nationalism on, the colonies soon superceded the motherlands. When the colonial children asked for autonomy (their own home and hearth) from the home powers, the Establishment of that former world saw power and wealth slipping from their fingers and refused. The children walked gently but carried the bigger stick and got their separate homestead. America was born because when oppression breeds oppression too many times, it eventually breeds a call to freedom.
The founders of the new American democracy knew from whence they came. They crawled away from the woes of Europe, where they were increasingly denied their own economy, their own religion, and a better political expression. The New World promised a culture untainted by the Dark Ages. The colonizing of North America was done for the most part by Christians. This was not of course the total caliber of colonialism here, but by and large the groups who came to form America were adherents of a culture which was soundly based in Biblical principles. A reading of the preamble to the America constitution clearly shows this. If a better place than Europe was to come into being, it was apparent to those founding fathers that the practices of Europe had no place in the new world they were creating. If European kings ruled by divine fiat and mucked it all up, what better chance would the colonizers have if they turned for help and guidance to divinity itself? That, in a nutshell, is what happened. Perhaps at no other time in history, since the days of those ancient Hebrews, did a people conspire to write a blueprint for nationhood with the very words and commands of God. If God created us all equal, then perhaps it should follow, they reasoned, that human government should treat us all as equal. How many people, Americans among them, have forgotten the preamble verse that says that “all peoples are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and freedoms”? If God gives, man cannot take it away without consequence. The American constitution, unlike any other constitution in the world, proclaimed the equality of its citizens. Such a declaration, which I’m sure was underwritten by a lot of prayer and forethought, was guaranteed to succeed. And succeed it did.
Even within its first century of independence, the America nation prospered enough to challenge the industrial might of Western Europe. But a frontier also attracts the outlaw and the malcontent. The wealth of the continent was being harvested in some cases by the use of forced indenture of part of its workforce, and by spurious genocide of its aboriginals. Slavery on the plantation and slaughter on the frontier does not bide well with Christian principles. It is, I think, a mark of maturity that this nation that harbored such festering sores took matters into hand and did something about it. True, the ugliness of this sort of racism took decades to get addressed, but this is in no way a nation in collusion with Satan and deserving of a downfall. Violent racism existed for many centuries in Asia and no interior war or rules of law eradicated it within generations. The same dour history applies to Africa, which in fact helped supply the fodder to the America appetite for slaves (not to forget the British, French and Spanish empires of ‘hired’ help). I think it is important here to mention that popular history doesn’t do enough to publicize the fact that the North American slave trade could never have existed except for the fact that African warlords were willing to sell their own people. Europe was afraid to penetrate the Dark Continent in order to harvest that field of free labor. But it should come as no surprise that wicked men’s desires will be filled with wicked men’s sources. I do not pardon American slavery, or the apartheid of aboriginals. Free men and women chose to do the wrong thing. It appears that half the American population felt the same way. With winds of freedom blowing across the globe, threatening monarchies and dictatorships alike, America addressed its problem with a Civil War. When God-fearing people pray for a solution, it is a God-given result that transpires. National slavery fell first in the USA, and consequently throughout a great portion of the world. Within half a century after the Civil War, America dominated the world and Britain and France and Spain were in decline.
But the internal bashing of moral principles in America became externalized as well. With new prosperity came expansionism. America the colony became America the republic, and now was becoming America the empire. The twentieth century truly belonged to the United States of America. It is always an interesting and enlightening historical exercise to do some fundamental research on the developments, inventions, breakthroughs and general industriousness of this past century. The vast improvements in every area of human endeavor are astounding in just that single hundred year period, whether they be in science, health, arts and literature, communications, transportation, manufacturing, technology or food supply. If you list the origins of all of these unprecedented improvements, you would be amazed to see that fully half of them, possibly more, originated in the USA. This one nation had become the most significant magnet for human freedom and opportunity in the world. America’s booming economy straddled the globe simply because it was so infectious and life-changing.
I said there was some mud in the waters. On a per capita basis, America has a higher crime rate than nations like Australia or Canada, though by no means the highest in the world; it has a startling differential of lifestyles between the lowest and the highest income levels; and it has a whole new plague of social issues that originated within a vigorous drug-oriented counterculture. But these things should not be exaggerated. Crime is far higher in dozens of lesser developed countries (South Africa, after apartheid ended, has ten times the American rate), and drug abuse and disease are more rampant in those other nations as well. Criminal gangs outside the USA are openly blatant and law enforcement officials are frequently involved in those very crimes. The label of gun-toting Yankees seems quite tame compared to this. High-class prosperity always brought high-class problems. Another lament, also misleading, is that American prisons are overloaded, a “proof” of high crime rates. Actually, it is proof of a very high success rate of incarceration of criminals. Most other nations rarely exceed a 20% conviction rate for crimes reported. It is reasonable to conclude that if America had instituted a tighter form of government in which personal freedoms and choices were more restricted, the social ills and crimes would be far less. But then, so too would the pace of the vibrant national economy. Fortunately for the American, it was always possible to amend the constitution and reform the laws and regulations in order to bring in newer and better things.
The voices of international criticism were hammering on America’s doors by mid-century. Wherever America’s trade had gone, the pop culture of the country had followed. The affluence of twentieth century consumerism had gripped the entire planet and it seemed that most of it came from the pulsing heart of Yankee ingenuity. It was a many-headed beast, hungry for new marketplaces, and its tendrils seemed to be involved at every level of business. It was said that the monopolies of American enterprise were influential enough to change the very fabric of some countries. It is quite true that some American conglomerates, such as those involved in the food production industry, mining, and natural resources, were autocratic and domineering wherever they obtained a beachhead. The allegations were that this sort of modern colonialism was tantamount to a whole new form of slavery. Parent companies with branches in the huge network of developing nations were reaping enormous benefits and reinvesting in other spheres abroad. While there were certainly a lot of benefits flowing in both directions, the general feeling in many quarters was that rampant capitalism became so self-serving that the planet was in the control of cartels and that there would never be any chance for a level playing field for any of the ‘colonies’ of this burgeoning empire.
The dictates of human nature should explain why this consumerism and worldly wealth of the past century spread the way it did. People want whatever the public marketplace can give them, especially if it is affordable and if it promises the glitter and appeal of an improved lifestyle. No culture on earth has ever resisted for very long the advantages of material growth and enhanced well-being. If a horse can be given up for a car, a primitive tool traded for a household gadget, or the opportunity to gain more leisure time and its accompanying appurtenances, societies everywhere will queue up for the chance. The America empire was foremost in offering all of this. In his book Weapons of Mass Distraction, Matthew Fraser concluded that the affects of a century of American influence on the world at large was, in the balance, an invasion that was welcomed. So much so that when, for example, a First World factory or resort threatened to close its doors in a Third World outpost, protests and reprisals were immediate. Better a colonial job with a few New World perks than nothing at all. For the tired, the poor and the hungry who couldn’t migrate, the gleanings of empire hand-outs were in fact blessings for millions. Exploitation has is pleasantries.
One of the most trumped up charges against American empirical business is that this giant republic would do anything to further its hegemony. Americans, runs the lament, would go to war to secure and further its trade. Being the world’s foremost military power, this hedonistic colossus, so it is preached, had the world at its command. Well, America certainly had an enormous appetite for worldly things, but a planetary control by way of coercion? I hardly think so. Think world oil. Here was a commodity that was in high demand by more than one empire. But with almost a quarter of the world’s industrial might, the USA was seeking more of it than anybody else. The popular myth is that the greedy industrialist will bend rules and twist arms to keep the wheels of progress and profit turning. Cartels do carry dark secrets, but they never became mighty conglomerates of industry strictly by manipulation and unfair exploitation. Progress feeds progress but it all must start somewhere. The ingenuity of world commerce is such that the genius inventor of a car will further use that genius to create a reasonable fuel source, or else the car becomes nothing but elaborate junk. Business in the Oil Patch attests to this. Those superbly rich and very accessible oil fields in the Saudi deserts did not spring up overnight, miraculously summoned into being by the genii of Arabia. Nor were they found and developed by Middle East entrepreneurs. What use had Bedouin kings for petroleum? The vast oil fields of the Arabian Peninsula were in fact discovered by British and American prospectors. Abdul Aziz, the reigning tribesman, was so strapped for cash that he accepted, in a round-about way, a down payment from American businessman Charles Crane just for the right to poke some holes into the sand. When those rich finds were made, the costs of development and exploration were born by the prospectors and their foreign oil companies. It may have been a deal made with the devil, but it would have never happened if the devil had said no. Enterprise such as this was only possible if somebody was willing to take the high risks and enormous costs to jump-start it. This principle of developing new resources in a world which was rapidly becoming a global village was applicable to many other international exchanges as well. And the spin-offs were plentiful if anybody cared to look. Infrastructures of entire countries were installed and improved and standards of living rose. If this was utilitarian foreign policy, it was welcomed. Charges of unilateral exploitation were I think for the most part unfair. If you don’t like the goodies, you shouldn’t hold out your hands for more. Or, as one American proverb puts it, “if you don’t like the peaches, why shake my tree?”
I don’t for a minute think that any sort of exploitation is always a good thing in any empire. But I would ask the reader to consider this: just how different would this world of ours be if it were not for the groundwork invention, risk-taking, and high-risk investment of empirical big business? How many items can you lay your hands on right now, within your immediate sight, or how many privileges and rights can you claim, that have not come in one form or another from the purses of American enterprise? It would do the reader well to remember two related points here: an empire such as America got to be that way not through military might but through the implementation of the most liberal set of freedoms in any system anywhere. American foreign policy was for the most part benign and positive, not malignant and destructive, as were other empirical policies. The world at large still cries out for the sort of freedoms that North America enjoys.
As for the popular perception of Americans being arrogant and gun-happy, it is a myth; but it is a myth that is easily dissolved. Allow me to dwell on that in these following paragraphs. It is common knowledge that this last century was, in spite of the remarkable progress made, one of the bloodiest centuries in history. And with the American military-industrial complex in full roll, it is an easy target for such accusations. However, military haughtiness on behalf of the Americans is more or less impossible to prove if you care to look a little bit closer. In every hot spot on the globe during the 20th century, America was a stabilizing influence, not an invasive force. Eastern Asia, Europe, Middle America, all benefited from American “interference”. Name one other dominant country that affected as much in the defense of high international standards. I’m sure you will not find a single one. In regards to previous comments here about friendly exploitation and the aggressiveness of empire, it is strange to think that wars have been fought (are still being fought) for control of oil. In fact, such charges are ridiculous. With its overwhelming military strength, America could have simple taken over all Middle East oil fields by way of invasion. Why not just establish total occupation and ownership of those resources, lock, stock and barrel? But this has not happened. America is not a dictatorship, in spite of the numerous ill-informed pundits who would have you believe this nonsense. The Saudis and Iraqis may not have discovered and developed their wealth, but they do own their oil and gas.
Since its formation as a republic 230 years ago, the American nation has been involved in many wars. But of all the wars and conflicts that have taken place on its territory and away from its homeland, very few have been in any way a war of aggression. America fought two wars for independence; one a major conflict, concluding in 1776, to gain its statehood from Britain and another only 36 years later to maintain that statehood. These were defensive actions against the tyranny of a European power. It fought a war against secession and slavery in the mid nineteenth century. It entered into two world wars in the twentieth century against more European dictatorships. It engaged in numerous other smaller conflicts in defense of freedoms and common interests with other allies. Perhaps only its engagement on its own frontiers against remnants of its aboriginal populations, and a conflict with Mexico in a failed bid to gain more territory, were unfair and overzealous, a fact admitted by the vast majority of Americans today.
There is a popular saying that war never solved anything and therefore is a disastrous and cruel waste of time. This argument can easily be shown to be false. Wars of defense are never a waste of time, and in every conflict between peoples and nations, one is an aggressor and one is a defender. Surely any defender has a moral right to that defensive action. America built up great armed forces because it had great democratic freedoms and interests to defend and a people willing to fight for them. It should be remembered that in the lengthy period between its Civil war and the first World War, America had an unprecedented growth and prosperity record, perhaps unlike any other part if its history. Immigration and industrialization was at a peak in the latter decades of the nineteenth century. In regards to the two world conflicts, America was reluctant to enter into what were messy and convoluted wars between dictators and monarchial powers. These world wars were just the thing that America had hoped to avoid when it established its own independence; in fact, they were the kind of embroilments that had forced puritans and immigrants to leave Europe for the New World. Even in the past century America was involved in wars against communism on several fronts, at the request of victim nations and/or United Nations approval. In this the twenty-first century, a kind of warfare has seized the world in which defense against terror tactics requires combat and heavy police action on foreign soil.
If gunslinger diplomacy and arrogant expansion were true, America would have been the prime mover in events like the two world wars. Certainly it carries the biggest of all guns. It certainly had the means to invade and conquer. Even the hegemony of the Russian communist empire was relatively fruitless against it, a proof in itself that where freedoms are not present, empires fail. Yet for the USA, the opposite proves to be the case. A violent defense of better principles seems on the surface like a contradiction – how can war be good? Yet it is the undeniable fact of human nature that the good principles of a free people will always come under attack and therefore must be brutally defended. Every civilization has been able to exist for this reason alone. Gentleman diplomacy must carry some big clout and be ready to assert it.
As a continuation of the opening remark in the above paragraph, the alleged gun-toting arrogance of the Americans is dispelled in two very noticeable occurrences in history. In the entrance of this nation into both WW1 and WW2, America was both reluctant to engage and late in engaging. That is, while Western Europe and all of the Commonwealth nations scrambled to be in place at the battle scenes, America stayed put. I recall relatives of mine and friends of those relatives bragging of their efforts to enlist in WW2 warfare. That was in 1939, and my grandfather’s generation did the same in 1914.
Not to put down the bravery and honor of those fighting forces, but consider that America did not enter WW1 until April, 1917 and only when provoked, for example, by the sinking of so many of their neutral ships by the Germans. They relented from engaging in WW2 until provoked by an attack by Japan in December of 1941. Even then, the war declaration was only against Japan, not against Germany or Italy. In the recent TV series by filmmaker Ken Burns, The War, a remarkable and poignant portrait is given of Americans at war. This was by no stretch of the imagination a country consumed by the desire for combat. Instead it was the sacrificial generosity of a free people to defend freedoms against tyranny. That is not the cliché that you might think it is. A free society is wonderful but it is extremely fragile. Just ask almost any German or Japanese citizen of today what it was that their WW2 “enemies” have given them after defeat. Can you say Marshall Plan? This post-war reconstruction deal was not only financed by the Americans but was given to the very nation that was the aggressor in the war, Germany. It was given as well to France and the UK, along with almost every European country affected by the WW2 conflict, a conflict instigated in full not by the Americans but by these Europeans. Billions of Yankee dollars poured into these nations and benefited every one of them. Even the tiny island nation of Iceland received more than 43 million dollars in direct aid. Unfortunately, Germany didn’t fare so well, because it fell under the hegemony of another ungenerous empire, the Soviets, who rejected the plan for their own selfish reasons. Then again, perhaps not so selfish, considering that the Russians, by any measuring stick, suffered the greatest losses in the conflict. Apart from the Russians, no other nation suffered more severely in this war than the Americans, yet their generosity was the greatest. Can you say Rape of Nanking? In November, 1937, this eastern Chinese city was besieged and ravaged by the Japanese Imperial Army. By most accounts, as many as 300,000 Chinese citizens were slaughtered. In the midst of this madness, a sanctuary called the Nanking Safety Zone was established and its central point was the American Embassy, and its main workers were American missionaries. Like other foreign nationals there, they put their lives on the line to rescue countless thousands of civilians.
For the previous century Americas were 90% in favor of neutrality. They were loath to enter the Korean conflict but were begged by the UN for their aid. They were likewise loath to enter the Vietnam conflict but were pressed by international concerns against the rise of Chinese communism to aid the South Vietnamese. They restrained themselves against the conflict in Rwanda in 1994 (apparently to the world’s disgrace) and entered Somalia a few years later when begged to help stop the horrible human rights violations going on there, and continuing yet. That debacle cost them the lives of soldiers who were jeered and desecrated for their humanitarian efforts. Ditto for Bosnia and Kosovo, where America, a Satan in Islamic eyes, came to the aid of Muslims. I remind you there was no Big Oil in those places to conquer and no corporate empire to spread. And when they were victors, no nation in history was as generous to their defeated foes as were the Americans. Witness the huge success of both the German and the Japanese economies in post world war times.
Americans are the first on the scene when relief from natural disasters is needed, everywhere and anywhere. But the volatile and discriminatory Arab nations, who are the real arrogant nationalities on the planet with their theocratic exclusivist attitudes, never give direct assistance to western countries in times of calamities. We are, after all, the hedonistic Satanists. If arrogance could be personified, I suggest that Canadians by and large are far more arrogant than Americans. For example, if you look up the definition of generous philanthropist, don’t be surprised if you find a picture of Bill Gates, an American who gives more back to the world in charity than the human resources of the United Nations does. Look up the definition of arrogant millionaire and don’t be surprised if you find a picture of Conrad Black, a Canadian who denounced his own country to buy a lordship overseas, and who fingers the press and mocks governments and courts of law wherever he goes. Personally, I am just a little bit tired of hearing, again and again, the diatribes against America by my fellow citizens who on the one hand hypocritically mock ‘the materialistic Yankees’ but grab for the same materials with eager hands open. All is not peaches and cream and warm apple pie in America but name me a noticeably better place and I will gladly go there.