After the 2004 presidential election, I engaged in some surprisingly restrained discussion between Americans and Europeans. The Europeans felt betrayed by not only Bush, but the people who voted for him. They were actually afraid of what the United States might do under his leadership in Iraq and elsewhere. The Americans, for the most part, didn’t get it. The U.S. wasn’t perfect, but surely no one doubted the country could be trusted, did they?
They did. Americans were hurt to learn their country – even their culture – had lost so much credibility with Europe. We discussed the reasons, and found the difference in perception boiled down to Americans not seeing quite as many “lies” from the Bush administration as the Europeans saw, and dismissing European concerns as baseless.
That was just one forum. It wasn’t a forum about politics, which is why I’m not linking to it. It was just friends united to enjoy a fandom talking about something else and getting their feelings bruised and trying to understand. It went fairly well.
But I’ve been thinking lately about the depths of American hypocrisy, and two examples from the past couple of decades really stand out:
- We said we hated Iraq and Hussein, we sure did, and yet we just spent 10 years driving gas guzzlers and buying his oil. Even more ironic: the people trying to spend less on gas (whether to be green or just frugal) were more likely to be liberals than conservatives, and it was the conservatives who wanted to “kick Iraq’s ass” so badly. Doesn’t really mesh with making them loads and loads of money.
- We hate Communism and want to kick its ass and have been working on that for decades, but we have absolutely no problem with the fact that almost everything you can buy in the US is made in China.
Maybe it’s not that we’re hypocrites; maybe we’re just so uneducated we can’t think stuff like this through. I personally do have a problem with bolstering China’s economy – not because of their governmental philosophies, but because of stuff they actually do, like treating workers badly and drowning baby girls because they aren’t worth much. I’d like to hit them where it hurts – the pocketbook – but the anti-Communist hell-raisers of the U.S. haven’t provided me that option. They’re too busy wanting to buy stuff cheap at Wal-Mart and not tell the all-hallowed Big Business what to do. Likewise, I wouldn’t have a problem with not bolstering Hussein’s regime (it’s just I’m aware of the fact we installed him), so I work at keeping my gas consumption low. But the anti-Iraq ass-kickers just spend another $80 or whatever it costs to fill up their giant SUVs.
It’s not that American culture is full of contradictions. It’s that a lot of Americans, all by themselves, are so self-contradictory in their actions it’s impossible to take them seriously. Except, they’re really well-armed. Yeah, I can see why Europe was scared.