Among the more nauseating elements of what has become the American national character is the moral preening, the lecturing of others on the virtuousness of the Exceptional Nation, on America’s incontinent goodness and sense of superiority. The world isn’t buying it. The internet makes fraud impossible.
Start with the domestic. The whole world can see, in what calls itself the richest country in the world, squalid, diseased, often rat-infested encampments of tens of thousands the homeless on the sidewalks of city after city: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Austin, on and on. In New York they live in subway stations, often on the trains. Forgotten diseases return. This must cause astonishment in civilized countries such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, China.
Next, crime, levels of which constitute a measure of civilization. American lawlessness is a wonder of the world. Over seven hundred killed annually in Chicago, three hundred in Baltimore, with perhaps three times as many shot but not killed. Similar numbers per capita can be adduced for many other cities. Equally elevated figures exist for assault, rape, carjacking, mugging, shoplifting. To citizens of Taiwan or South Korea these numbers must look more appropriate to civil war in Sudan than a country that regards itself as an example to the world.
America talks of its commitment to human rights. Yet the world just watched agape as some four hundred cities exploded in looting, arson, and vandalism citing abuse of human rights by the police. Uighurs? As the world can easily see, and does, the black population lives generation after generation in crime-infested, drug-ridden semi literacy. Racial relations are terrible, probably worsening, and so bad that whites dare not walk in black regions. The frequent horrific racial attacks by blacks on whites are carefully kept out of the American mass media, but the world can see them in foreign publications such as the Daily Telegraph.
The fetid, necrotic, and hopeless ghettos are widespread. Consider Newark, Camden, Trenton, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, St Louis, Cincinnati, New Orleans, just to begin.
Human rights? America’s unending race riots appear in graphic detail all around the world. Cities burn, over and over, decade after decade, as American politicians speak of their values, which they seem to want the rest of the world to adopt.
Race relations in the most moral, preachy, and indispensable nation, two examples of many, many dozens that could be given:
Public disaffection is rampant in America. Washington is so afraid of its citizens that it called in over twenty thousand soldiers to assure calm when Biden was inaugurated. The whole earth watched, some in shock, others in amusement, as infuriated citizens stormed the Capitol. During a recent trial in Minneapolis troops were needed to protect the proceedings from an angry population, with stores boarding up in fear of looting. Can anyone imagine this in Tokyo?
And of course, few around the world can hve failed to notice the disparity between China’s quick and effective response to the epidemic and the chaos, verging on anarchy of the American, in which no one appeared to be in charge and much of the population refuses to cooperate with the government.
Americans are not an historically aware people and so have little idea of how or why they are regarded as they are abroad. Consider Mexico, where I live. People here know of the Mexican-American War (of which, preposterously many Americans have never heard) as well as the bombardment of Veracruz and Pershing’s incursion. Peoples remember their defeats and humiliations as the victors do not. Mexicans know they are powerless against America, resent it intensely. Latin Americans in general know of the almost endless list of invasions, coups, dictators installed, economic exploitation that Americans have never heard of. Today they see the persecution of Cuba, the attempt to starve Venezuela into giving Washington control of its oil, the coups and murder attempts against Maduro, the coup in Bolivia, other attempts in Ukraine and Byelorussia, on and on.
Many countries have endured American manipulation exploitation, invasion. Americans seldom know of these things, but the countries involved do. For example, China remembers that American (and European) gunboats seized Chinese ports, forced the opium trade on the country, and that American troops have rampaged through Beijing, looting, raping, and killing for sport. There was the burning of the Summer Palace (look it up if you haven’t heard of it.) During the Cold War, Americans saw themselves as on a moral crusade against Communism. The Chinese saw it as a crusade against China. Which is how the “trade war” looks to them now.
How does America appear to much of the world today? As a brutal, utterly unprincipled, destructive, out of control monster wreaking havoc on any country that doesn’t submit.
If this seems to you extreme, you are probably a normal American. But try for a second, if only as an exercise in mental gymnastics, to see how it looks from abroad.
America killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq and wrecked it for generations, has killed and killed and killed for almost twenty years in Afghanistan. Supervised the destruction of Libya, currently occupies much of Syria and kills there too, bombs Somalia, supports a grisly Saudi war against Yemen. In an earlier generation it killed millions in Southeast Asia.
At this writing America is the only country of note steadfastly supporting Israel’s search for lebensraum in the West Bank and its conversion of the Gaza Strip into the Warsaw Ghetto, with the IDF inflicting its usual devastation.
Human rights? The world saw the godawful photos of torture in America’s prison at Abu Ghraib. They know of the continuation of “enhanced interrogation,” in Guantanamo. These things could be seen, and were, everywhere from Kathmandu to Finland and all over the Moslem world, where they served to spur enlistment. The American media carefully do not speak of the horrors of the torture camps, or of the death and mutilation caused by the wars. Web sites in other countries are not as reticent. No, the pols speak ok American values.
Which leads to a question I often hear in Mexico: “Why don’t the gringos worry about their own problems instead of causing new ones for the rest of us?”
Fred Reed, UNZ Review
Write Fred at firstname.lastname@example.org Put the letters pdq anywhere in the subject line to avoid autodeletion