Sunday, October 26, 2003

Why Do We Hate the US?

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,

I asked and answered in this space last week the question why the Americans hate us, but not why we hate them.
I admit that too many Arabs and Muslims do hate America. It is not about the American way of life, not about infidels and crusaders, as much as about the foreign policies of the US government, corporate greed, Christian evangelicalism and the aggressive push for globalization to remake the world in the US’ image. Most of us have no issue with individuals, or with most Western countries. These countries are all rich and sophisticated, and enjoy democracy, freedom and human rights. Why, then, is only America regarded as “the enemy”? If it was about envy, the Swiss and Scandinavians would be the most hated.
America has never been so hated before. I remember, as recently as the Clinton era, when the US was seen as an idealistic country saving Bosnians and Kosovans, defending Chechens, democratizing Haiti, reaching out to Africa and Latin America, establishing and supporting international organizations and treaties, and pushing for peace in the Middle East and the Korean peninsula.
What happened to all this goodwill and good intentions? Why would America sacrifice all this capital to implement the impractical neoconservative agenda and serve Israel’s interests? Whatever the realpolitik interests this hawkish administration has achieved, or meant to, have to be balanced against the US image in world opinion. No country can be an island, even one as big as America. Americans would love to travel freely and safely around the globe, like they used to do in the old-good days when they were hailed as liberators and educators, makers and builders, helpers and partners, traders and investors, messengers of freedom, and ambassadors of peace.
Unfortunately, it is human nature to stereotype. I never accepted the notion that in a democracy, people are wholly responsible for their governments’ blunders. Religious, political and opinion leaders have always manipulated our perception of the world. Some were more successful than others. Misunderstanding, misdirected resentment, misplaced blame and unjustified wholesale charges led too many to hate and hurt. Hate manufacturers are making our world too small to hold us all, too dangerous to keep us safe, and too dumb to let us even talk to each other.
What can we do to overcome all these gaps and walls between us? I say communicate. Only by talking to each other can we cross these distances, build much-needed bridges, and learn how similar we are, how good the others can be, and what the global village is really about.

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