Saturday, February 22, 2003

The International Relations Post
Or on the question of "Anti-Americanism"...

With the heighted threat of international conflict pervading even the most mundane aspects of our lives comes heightened sensitivity. Sensitivity to disagreement. To dissent. But disagreement does not necessarily equate dislike--I hope that upon this we can all agree. But if we don't, that's fine. You're entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. I know that you're not anti-Natalie because our opinions diverge.

So why, then, is that horrible tag--"anti-American"--bandied about whenever someone voices their disagreement with the Bush adminstration or with American foreign policy?

As a defence for the use of that term, I have heard responses such as "Well, the president represents all of us." Well, to that I say, "Bull shit." The current administration represents only the majority of that fraction of the population which bothered to vote. And as for American foreign policy, from the several Americans I know or have had contact with I have been able to gauge that it is not representative of all Americans either.

So how can disagreeing with the the current administration or foreign policies of one country be considered anti-American?

To this I have no real answer. Perhaps use of the term "anti-American" is a defense mechanism, used to deflect criticism by labelling all who disagree as hateful, spiteful, irrational individuals.

What I can say almost with certainty is that there is real anti-Americanism out there. Yes, it is both disgusting and puzzling how in this day and age many people still insist on painting entire groups of people with the same brush. Largely, these individuals are easy to ignore. I mean, really. How can anyone say, "All Americans are this..." or "All Americans are that..." No one has met every American out there. Logically, then, a person who makes such negative generalizations is an idiot (entitled to his or her opinion, but an idiot, nonetheless.)

What disturbs me, though, is that certain individuals seem hell-bent on giving these people fodder for their hatred.

During the recent NATO impasse, American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld remarked, "Turkey will not be hurt. The United States and the countries in NATO will go right ahead and do it. What will be hurt will be NATO, not Turkey." The cavalier attitude is a problem. It is both abrasive and insulting. It makes people angry. I know Rumsfeld's comments made me angry. A willingness to flout rules of diplomacy and international law is intolerable. Yes, I respect the U.S. administration's steps to do what it feels is best for American citizens. As the government, that is its mandate. However, undermining international organizations is not only destructive to said organizations and the relationships between member countries, but it is destructive to the United States' image, as well.

Undermining the U.N. and threatening to undermine NATO does not make one look the benevolent protector of international peace and security.

Still, though, Rumsfeld is one man who does not necessarily represent one administration, which--in turn--is not entirely representative of Americans either.

But rising disdain for the French--because the French happen to disagree with the U.S. government's stance on Iraq--may prove much more damaging, I fear. Last week, PageSix gossipeuse Cindy Adams called for a boycott of everything French. This week, though most likely not as a result of Adam's column, the following was reported:

French-bashing is on the rise as U.S. faces off over Iraq

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Mon dieu, how some Americans are bashing the French these days.

Americans galled by France's reluctance to endorse an invasion of Iraq are boycotting French wine and french fries and trading jokes and insults about all things Gallic.

A Las Vegas radio station Tuesday used an armored vehicle to crush photographs of French President Jacques Chirac, photocopies of the French flag, a Paris travel guide, bottles of wine and a loaf of French bread.

In Beaufort, North Carolina, one restaurant owner took french fries off his menu and replaced them with "freedom fries."

In West Palm Beach, Florida, bar owner Ken Wagner dumped his entire stock of French wine and champagne into the street, vowing to serve vintages only from nations that support U.S. policy.

And Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson said he would try to block a subsidiary of the French conglomerate Vivendi from getting a $25 million government contract to build a sludge treatment plant.

You can't point fingers, labelling people "anti-American" for disagreeing with the U.S. government and then engage in this type of character assassination. Well, you can. But not without consequences--consequences which go beyond merely looking hypocritical.

Hatred only breeds more hatred. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

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