Sunday, January 25, 2004

Take Us to the Moon, America!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,

My Western readers keep reminding me that Arabs are the last and least to lecture the world. How dare we Arabs demand freedoms and human rights in Western countries while we lack them in our own? How can we accept what is going on in our midst and then blithely turn and criticize what happens in theirs? Unfortunately, they are absolutely right!
Arab intellectuals are not doing enough to right our wrongs and fight the battles for more freedom, representative government, equal rights, better education, job opportunities, freer media, world-class businesses, and rights for women and minorities.
We don’t raise our voices high enough to defend the abused, uncover abuses, and fight the abusers. We don’t confront as strongly as we should our isolationists, corruptors and rednecks. Our countries are in dire need of civil institutions, scientific education, productive investments, and more intelligent administrators. Our children need better education, training and plenty of market orientation. Our foreign policies must be overhauled to better understand and deal with the new world order.
Yes, all this is true, very true. And world citizens are not only entitled, but have a duty, to criticize our ways and advise us on possible improvements. After all, we all live on the same planet, and what your neighbor does affects your life one way or another.
Badly brought-up children, for example, can corrupt the morality of those who have been well brought-up. A poorly maintained garden with stagnant water in holes may breed mosquitoes which then infect a neighborhood. But as one criticizes so one must accept criticism.
With a heavy stick, America today, is lecturing the world about democracy, justice and freedom. It should, as well, humbly accept and expect the same from the world in return. Americans should also separate what the world thinks of US foreign policy and how the world thinks of them as individuals. The various polls that named America one of the greatest threats to world peace and security should be understood as a reaction to this administration’s foreign policies rather than as a judgment of America-the country and people.
The world knows and appreciates America’s leadership in civilization building. Therefore, we regret and fear a change in direction which seems to us overwhelmingly negative.
Help us, Americans, by helping yourselves. You are a democracy. Show us how democracy can be used to correct your country’s direction. Show us how you can go back to trading peace and prosperity instead of fear and destruction. Show us how a great nation such as yours can make the world a safer, fairer and happier place for all. Then you can lead our hearts and minds to reach the moon and stars as, under other and better administrations, you once did.

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