America: How some others see us
We are now officially into a presidential election year which may be unusual in that the incumbent president’s approval numbers are so low that some in his own political party are urging him to step aside in favor of the woman he defeated in his party’s primary elections in 2088. There might even be an Obama-Clinton ticket. Stranger things have happened.
Also this election year may be worrisome because, as some foreign observers are quick to point out, in this time of world crisis, neither party appears to put forward a candidate who possesses the towering stature of, say, a Thomas Jefferson (D), or an Abraham Lincoln (R), or a Franklin Roosevelt (D) or a Ronald Reagan (R).
If you wish to see how your own political views accord or do not accord with the current crop of GOP presidential aspirants, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/candidate-match-game. There you will find a fascinating survey with which you and your computer mouse can interact. Simply answer a question about each of 11 different political issues and the extremely interesting webpage will rank the candidates in terms of their agreement with your political views, or not. It will also compare your political beliefs with those of Mr. Obama.
Turning to world public opinion, some foreigners think Americans are a great people. Others think we are pond scum. This latter conception is difficult for this former soldier to accept because in all those years living overseas, we saw the American GI regarded with affection rather than with fear or disgust. The chewing-gum dispensing GI is no figment of some Hollywood press agent’s imagination. The American service men and women with whom this writer had the honor to serve were unfailingly compassionate to the less fortunate around them.
But why do some foreigners have such a low opinion of Americans? Recently, former Reagan speech-writer, Peggy Noonan, had occasion to be in Iraq. She reports: “In Iraq this year I asked an Iraqi military officer doing joint training at an American base what was the big thing he’d come to believe about Americans in the years they’d been there. He said: ‘You are a better people than your movies say.’ He had judged us by our exports. He had seen the low slag heap of our culture and assumed it was a true expression of who we are. And so he’d assumed we were disgusting.
“We are at a point in our culture when we actually have to pull for grown-up movies, when we must try to encourage them and laud them when they come by. David Lean wouldn’t be allowed to make movies today, John Ford would be forced to turn John Wayne into a 30-something failure-to-launch hipster whose big moment is missing the toilet in the vomit scene in ‘Hangover II.’ Our movie culture has descended into immaturity, deep and inhuman violence, a pervasive and flattened sexuality. It is an embarrassment.”
Yes, Peggy, there is a certain genre of Hollywood movies dripping with violence and sex that are somewhere in between hard-core pornography and the horror stories of Stephen King. Obviously, someone in Hollywood is making money from those schlock-shock movies made mainly for overseas consumption or they would not produce them. But it also needs to be said that the demand for such films by foreign audiences says something about the character of the foreign audiences who are willing to part with what little money they have in order to see America portrayed as a lawless place of: arrogance, avarice, corruption, deceit, envy, gluttony, greed, hubris, idolatry, incompetence, lust, murder, sloth, waste, wickedness, and wrath. You know, like Washington, D.C.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
©2012. William Hamilton.