Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Australian Caroline Overington lets her readers know this about Americans: they like Bush, and they are not stupid . She points out something many non-Americans either fail to see or ignore:

"Because I live in New York, I rarely get to hear the voice of this majority. Instead, I get magazines such as Vanity Fair, which last month had a column by the editor angrily listing statistics from the war in Iraq. Such as: number of American soldiers killed: 500. Number of weapons of mass destruction found: 0.

But, as some readers pointed out, there were statistics missing from the list. These include: number of mass graves uncovered in Iraq: around 260, containing as many as 20,000 bodies. Number of people liberated from brutal, murderous leadership: 12 million. And number of times Bush lied about receiving oral sex from a White House intern: 0."

Europeans and the world at large receive much of their information from these very same people in publications in cities like New York, LA, or Washington. Hence the view that not even we like or support our President. The belief is not tha America is a force for good in the world, but rather a pseudo-Imperial Hegemon led by a dumb, cowboy who is supported by culturally crass, ugly Americans. Caricatures such as that are tired and old and only expose those who hold them as ignorant. To those of you who think you know all about America from what you hear from New York media outlets or the BBC, I encourage you to shake-up your sources for information on America. Read some newspapers from the heartland online. Blogs are also a good source, BUT, to be honest, they are often written by those espousing one or other extreme who too often have turned a deaf ear to arguments opposed to their own. There are good ones, but when reading blogs, one should approach them with a critical eye, as they should all other media sources.

But that isn't really what Overington's column is about. She goes on to detail an encounter on an airplane:

"I remember sitting on a small plane, travelling from North Carolina to New York, when the war was a few weeks old. I was reading USA Today and, as I opened it to study a map of Iraq, one half of the newspaper fell into the lap of my fellow passenger. I turned to apologise, but he said: 'No problem. Actually, do you mind if I have a look?' Together we studied the picture, trying to work out how far the Americans were from seizing power. It was clear from the diagrams that troops were near Saddam's airport, and close to the centre of Baghdad. I turned to my seat mate and said: 'I don't think this is going to be a long battle, after all.' It was only then that I noticed, with horror, that he had started to cry. And then I noticed something else: a photograph, wrapped in plastic, pinned to his lapel. It was a picture of his 20-year-old son, a young marine who died in the first days of the war. The man's wife was sitting across the aisle from us. She had a round bowl on her lap, filled with water and some drooping tulips. The movement of the aircraft was making the water slop around. She was trying to wipe her hands, and her tears.

The couple told me they had just been to a private meeting with Bush to discuss the loss of their son. At the time, it was already clear that Saddam didn't have any weapons of mass destruction. 'But I never thought it was about the weapons,' my seat mate said. And, although I can't remember his exact words, he also said something like: 'We have always stood up for freedom, in our own country, and for other people.'"

Touching and it really gets to the heart of the matter, as Overington further explains:

"Any student of history knows that this is true. America saved the Western world from communism. America saved Australia and, for that matter, France from a system that would stop you from reading this newspaper. Americans support the war in Iraq and, by extension, Bush because they see it as part of a bigger picture. Like everybody, they now know that Saddam was not the threat they thought he was (at least, not to them) but they still think it was a good idea to deal with him, before he became one. The price of freedom is high. You might think you would not sacrifice your life for it, but maybe you don't have to. After all, 20-year-old Americans are doing it for you, every day."

How true. This is not meant as an attack on our European Allies, but maybe it is a reminder that, yes, the United States may be the biggest kid on the block, but all in all, it's not a bully...more like the brother who watches out for his siblings and doesn't necessarily ask for anything in return. (By the way, I can hear the sarcastic saying, "Yea, Big Brother, hahahah," but I believe they are only looking to obfuscate the truth of what I say with pithy remarks.) Sure, a lot of the benefits gained by other countries for the United States' committment to its own agenda can be considered accidental, but they are still tangible. In working towards a safer and more democratic world, the U.S. is not only securing its own interests, it is doing the same for the world.

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