I think about Americans in two ways:
- The actions of their government and the major organisations that try and control American life, and
- The people I have met in the US/come from the US.
The last category aren’t Americans to me they are folk I invariably like and have fun with. Occasionally I bump into the odd “American abroad” but only twice in a lifetime of travelling, so we’ll just say these Americans are friends.
I have no idea how a collection of these friends when clumped together form the first category. It must be akin to the concept of the forest. A few trees are great for keeping cool in the shade and for providing height in the garden, but put millions of them together and they change. Their mass becomes creepy, dark, moist and cold. They provide a habitat that harbours scary beasts both real and imagined. The forest is completely different from the trees, but it couldn’t exist without them.
Americans are very proud of the fact that they are Americans and strongly identify with the good actions that have been carried out in their name. They seem also to believe that if they are “#1″ then none of their actions can be wrong, because one wrong breaks the perfect record. It s this pressure that forces the US government to hide stuff from them and it is because of this concept of perfection that any attempt to suggest to the contrary is denounced as anti-Americanism.
The recently released views of American diplomats confirm this point of view. If folk are not 100% behind you then they are against you. The Bush doctrine in a nutshell.
But at the same time, some Canadian officials privately tried to make it clear to their American counterparts that they did not share their society’s persistent undercurrent of anti-Americanism.
In July 2008, Canada’s intelligence service director, James Judd, discussed a video showing a crying Omar Khadr, then a teenager and a Canadian detainee at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Mr. Judd “observed that the images would no doubt trigger ‘knee-jerk anti-Americanism’ and ‘paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty.’ ”
This was a recent excerpt from a NYT article by C Savage. Is it purely anti- Americanism that would cause folk to respond negatively to film showing a child who has been tortured, denied access to legal help and been left to fend for himself by his own country?
If we factor in the fact that those in his own country who chose to ignore his plight are right wing xenophobes at heart and factor in the fact that the American Democratic party is further to the right than these Canadian zealots, then we can maybe see another explanation. A lot of Canadians aren’t anti-American they are anti-right wing xenophobes. The fact that both mainstream parties in the USA are occupied by people on the right to very far right and are suspicious of those from outwith the USA means that it just appears as though it is Anti-Americanism.
The individual trees need to think about their place in creating a forest and what characteristics they want that forest to possess. More friends need to get past the ticker tape and parades that has been used to keep them out of politics and put their own views on issues to the fore.