Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Why they hate us, and I mean "us" 

The secret's out, according to the latest Ipsos poll - they don't just dislike the President - they dislike the people, too:

"Just over half in France and Germany said they viewed Americans unfavorably. Almost half in Spain felt that way, while a third of Spaniards viewed Americans favorably...

"A majority in each of the four European countries polled, including close U.S. ally Britain, said they were disappointed in the Bush re-election...

"In Australia, Canada, Britain and Italy, people had a negative view of Bush, but a majority in those countries said they viewed Americans favorably."
As the AP helpfully comments, "President Bush pledged soon after his re-election victory on Nov. 2 that he would work to 'deepen our trans-Atlantic ties with the nations of Europe.' He plans a trip to Europe in February. But the president, and Americans generally, have plenty of work to do to win over Europeans, according to international AP-Ipsos polls." I know that the AP is tying their observation to the remark by the President about his willingness to rebuild the bridges with Europe, but don't you just love it how it's Bush who always has to "win over Europeans"? The possibility that perhaps the Europeans might be the ones who need to win over America, or at least meet the President half-way in this act of trans-Atlantic kiss-and-make-up, doesn't seem to be entertained at all.

One other thing: the favorite defense of many - particularly on the left - who are accused of being anti-Semitic is that they don't hate Jews, they're merely anti-Zionist, or better still "it's not anti-Semitic to criticize the actions of the Israeli government." In case of the United States, there doesn't seem to be this sort of semantic distinction between the dislike of the American people and the opposition to the US government policies - the term anti-American is widely accepted as sufficiently wide to accommodate all of these sentiments. But just in case someone would still argue that the opposition the US is all about being anti-Americanist (to coin a term to describe America's "right wing" policies vis-a-vis the world) and not anti-American (in the sense of hating the American people), that distinction no longer seems to hold true. If we are to believe the results of this, and other similar polls, anti-Americanism is becoming just like anti-Semitism - a racial (or ethnic) as opposed to just a political prejudice. This is perhaps unavoidable; an acknowledgment of the democratic nature of American and Israeli societies. After all, the governments don't operate in a vacuum, they are elected and supported by majorities. The buck ultimately stops with the people.

The American attitudes to Germany, France, Spain, Canada, Australia, Great Britain and Italy are probably a lot more positive, but that in itself is quite meaningless. The citizens of Germany, France and other countries feel that America has a lot more impact on their lives than Americans think that France or Germany do. The lesson is that it's the powerful who can afford to be nice and magnanimous; the hegemon, in turn, is rarely liked. Better learn to live with that.


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