The Dualism of American Appeal
Source: Open Talk Magazine 04/02/2011 01:22:00
“Why do they hate us?” asked George W Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks. At the same time, many Americans wonder why they love us going by the sheer number of people lining up for immigration at U.S. embassies worldwide. America is the most hated and loved nation in the world, a dualism aptly expressed by the slogan; “Yankee Go Home! – And Take Me with You”. Ostensibly, this particularly evocative signage came up in the Philippines in the sixties and now has gone global. The Filipinos, throughout their freedom struggle against Japanese occupation during the Second World War, and later fight against Soviet ideology during the Cold War—hated the Americans for their domineering ways but found the lure of American life and freedoms endearing.
That pretty much is the overriding sentiment in much of the developing world; where the locals don’t want Americans to interfere and overstay in their troubled lands, but want to partake in the wholesome American way of life. India’s present environment minister, Jairam Ramesh has even written a book titled thus!
Why this dichotomy? One may ask. Well, it’s a strange paradox but then America is a strange place. It is strange because America is the only land in the entire world, where history has been written ab initio. Before the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, American history did not exist. Starting with a blank slate had its advantages since there was no historical baggage to contend with, no conflicting religious ideologies to deal with, no ‘Middle Kingdom’ syndrome to battle with, no class systems to reckon with and no cultural dissonance (save the Red Indians) to rectify.
With perseverance, hard work and ingenuity, Americans build a nation and a way of life centered on democracy and democratic freedoms. In fact, American values are the closest a nation can get to anarchic freedoms without existence of anarchy. Why is it so? Look around you. We stop no one from expressing anything under the sun or going where they want or doing what they believe in. The sort of things our television anchors say would have put most behind bars in many enlightened countries.
In a different country, people like Louis Farrakhan would have long been proscribed or shot for the things that he says. Yet the First Amendment protects him and many others like nothing else in the entire wide world. The steel framework of our Constitution, amendments and laws provide the necessary strength to back the freedoms that others covet but cannot replicate.
Since they cannot replicate, they envy and they grouse as Oscar Wilde rather churlishly said “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between”. Can we do something about it? Alas! Very little, because in this chaotic international system, America will continue to hold a central stabilizing role being the only nation which has the capability and the capacity to intervene anywhere any time. Sure we can curb our enthusiasm for ‘spreading democracy everywhere’ but that won’t stop the calls for ‘Yankees to go home’ or the prayer, ‘take me with you’; we will just have to learn to live with it. The Dualism of American appeal is here to stay.