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Right Intention: American Generosity

Thursday, December 30, 2004

American Generosity

I've been watching CNN a lot the last couple of days. As viewers of the show know, in the morning hours they have a "question of the day" where they ask a question of the viewing audience and invite them to respond via e-mail, some of which CNN reads on air during the course of the show.

The last two days CNN has asked viewers what responsibility does the US have in situations like the recent tsunami disaster. This is a particularly sensitive subject given the recent accusation of being "stingy" by the UN. The replies that CNN chose to read on the air clearly appalled the anchors. Almost all were a variation of "why should we help, they hate us anyway?" or "no one helped us after 9/11 or the Florida hurricanes, so why should we help them?". A number of times after reading an e-mail response the anchor was visibly upset, and started pleading into the camera on why Americans should be generous. I have no idea what percentage of e-mails of this type were of the whole CNN received as they did not say. But these are the responses CNN chose to air.

After watching this for a while, I sent in my own response. Here it is:

You may or may not read this on the air, but I hope you read this.

First, I believe we should help the tsunami victims as much as we possibly can.

That said, you need to understand the frustration of those letter writers you've been reading on the air.

The US is by far the most generous country the world has ever known. Regardless of the disaster, the US is there to help. Often providing help in multiples of all other countries combined. We give more in government aid than anyone else. We give more in private aid than anyone else. We use our military to keep the sea lanes open for free. And so forth.

And what do we get for it? Not even a thank you. In fact, our generosity is simply expected from the rest of the world at this point. And if the aid is an hour or two to slow in coming, we are accused of being "stingy". Not only is our generosity no longer appreciated, we are in fact hated despite our generosity.

Why does the rest of the world hate the US so much? Who knows? But its a fact. And many Americans see no reason for it, particularly given our generosity. The mindless, non stop, hatred of the US as espoused by foreign governments, foreign media, and foreign citizens is wearing on the American psyche. This hatred is not new, but has been noticed more by your average American since 9/11 as we try to search for the reasons behind the attack and finally start to pay attention to what others think about our country. This is leading to a backlash. Why should we continually help those who hate us? What's the point?

This is what you are seeing in those e-mails you are reading on air. A backlash against anti Americanism.

Now, you can agree or disagree whether this backlash is warranted, or even if we brought it on ourselves. But what you are seeing is a backlash, I promise you. And the quicker the anti American induced backlash is recognized, the better off the world will be. Because it will only get worse.


It's my theory, anyway. But I feel confident that I'm right. And if I'm right, this backlash will manifest in much more dangerous ways in the future. I wonder if the world truly understands what's at stake if America decides to withdraw and stops its generousity? It's clear the world does not understand, but if it keeps up the anti Americanism, it will get a chance to find out.


Blogger Living in Thailand said...

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8:39 AM  

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