Sunday, November 9, 2014

The U.S. Has Allies, but, Generally Speaking, It's at Odds With Most of the World

The statement in the title is, at first glance, an absurdity. How many countries don't like or admire the U.S.? I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want the U.S. as its friend?

The Dutch might swallow the random herring, but they have
trouble swallowing the way America does its business...

It's complicated, but, generally speaking, we've been a very bad country from an international perspective.

Why? It's because we don't just act like a bully, we are in effect the very definition of a bully. Also, we have very, very bad habits. Let me count the ways:
  1. We bomb the crap out of a lot of people, and not just Muslims, though we do like to bomb us some Muslims.
  2. Yes, we tortured people, in every sense of the word torture. It is a huge violation of international law and treaties and conventions the U.S. has signed, not to mention a violation of our very own federal laws. Signing treaties and then ignoring them -- with a certain evil glee, a la Dick Cheney -- is frowned on by fellow signatories to said treaties. Not a great confidence builder, but quite the contrary. Uh, who trusts us now? (Answer: nobody.) And we held none of our own citizens accountable, except for a couple of fall guys at Abu Ghraib. (Remember that? I almost didn't either.)
  3. Guantanamo Bay is a major violation of our own laws, let alone international law and human rights principles, and is a huge embarrassment to all Americans. Watch Obama close it somehow, yes, with one of his commander-in-chief orders. The conservatives and even some chicken-hawk Democrats will sprout heads on fire. But the U.S. maintaining prisons away from the mainland and pretending law doesn't apply there is an abomination of everything we stand for (er, stood for).
  4. When the whole world learns -- yes, from Edward Snowden, among others -- that we bug EVERYBODY WHEN WE FUCKING FEEL LIKE IT, it's hard to keep our allies on our side. And, yes, the UN has determined that this violates U.S. treaty obligations, as well.
  5. It might be obvious to all of us, but much of the world thinks we're freaking crazy -- yes, especially the Republicans -- when it comes to our behavior. Not having universal healthcare like the rest of the developed world, having a clear obsession with guns and being heavily armed and having the statistics reflecting pervasive gun violence throughout much of society, having a drug habit that has corrupted much of Latin America, well, it has much of the world wondering what the hell has gone to hell here in the U.S. Does any American think that "stand your ground" is a principle that lights up the heart of citizens of other countries across the globe? Yeah, maybe in Yemen, which is second to the U.S. in gun ownership.
  6. It's a common meme that we need more guns than, say, Europe or Japan because we're not "homogenous." Two facts that intersect bitterly: Young black men are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than young white men, and the white gun ownership rate is 41%, compared with the black gun ownership rate, which is 19%. The rest of the world looks at these statistics and begins to wonder if it's safe even to visit the U.S.
 Bolivia's socialist president Evo Morales. Why would he not like the U.S.?
Could it have anything to do with forcing his plane down over Europe
looking for Edward Snowden? Yeah, maybe for starters.

I've traveled extensively in Europe and Asia, and by and large people there seem to like Americans individually. Though, ask a Dane, a Japanese, or a Spaniard what they think of Republicans, and they quickly and cheerfully offer how absolutely whacky they think Republicans are. That belief is widely held. Yes, they think what's wrong with America is the Republican world view. Their notion, not mine (well, mine, too).

I've met Republicans -- even played golf with them! -- and they can be charming and lots of fun. That's not the problem. It's the ramifications of their policy choices. Of course, I'm a European-style social democrat. Needless to say, Europeans like me better than Republicans. Of course, one of my favorite acquaintances in Europe was a bar/restaurant owner in the heart of Copenhagen named Hubert. He was such a libertarian, he made the average American Republican seem, I don't know, positively Swedish! Hubert, needless to say, was not a socialist.

But I made a habit of dropping into his place from time to time during three visits to Denmark in the past year. Our conversations were lively, intellectually relevant, and stimulating. We convinced each other of nothing except, possibly, our mutual humanity.

You can't judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to content, the U.S. doesn't fare that well these days. Here's to change, and plenty of it.

Copenhagen's Nytorv Square: Hubert's restaurant was two minutes from this fountain.
But it was ten parsecs from our American conservative view. Danes are for the people.
which is, yes, socialism. BTW, huge Muslim population. Seemed to all get along. Weird.

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