Why the Old World Hates America
May 5, 2002
by Bruce Walker
Does the Old World - Continental Europe, Japan, China, and the Middle East - hate America? There is good reason to believe so. During the 1960s, France tried to break the dollar and it withdrew from the NATO force structure. The rudeness of French toward Americans is almost proverbial, and extended back to the days of Mark Twain. The recent triumphant of Le Pen is often portrayed as a victory for the French Right, but he loathes America and Americans.
German students protested the presence of American troops in West Germany, when any sensible person understood that the purpose of these troops was to protect the Federal Republic of Germany from blackmail or conquest. Indeed, Dutch, Danes, and many other peoples shielded from Soviet domination by America were mocking and bitter in their "thanks" to us.
Today - with the single exception of Britain - the European and Japanese civilizations which we saved and which we protected and which we fed grants America only perfunctory sympathy and very thin broth of support in our war against terrorism. Why? What are the real reasons why so many people in the Old World seem to turn up their noses at America?
Envy is a standard reply, but that is only part of the reason. Americans have the highest standard of living in the world, but nations like Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong are wealthy and the animus toward America existed long before Americans were richer than Germans or Dutchmen.
Mythologies about "American hegemony" are patently absurd. America is the only nation in human history that actually could have established a global hegemony (after the Second World War) and which deliberately rejected imperial power. By contrast, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and Japan have each sought to dominate vast chunks of the world and have failed.
We are hated to a large extent because those who came to America were, indeed, "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Who built America into the giant that it is today? Irish families near starvation. Illiterate Italians from the hungry south of the peninsula. Jews escaping persecution in the Russian Pale. Scots evicted from their lands. This is not a new story, but there is more to it than that.
Those who came to America were those who chose to come. Most Poles, Italians, Irish, Jews, Greeks, and Hungarians stayed behind in the Old Country. More than that, the vast majority of the rich and powerful among those peoples stayed behind in Europe. Those who came to America were typically the lower classes, the inferior groups, the uncultured, the lightly regarded.
Consider the most common source of disdain for America in the Old World: the elite. These are the descendants of those who stayed in their higher social positions in the comfort of the salons of Paris, the clubs of London, the universities of Germany, the estates of northern Italy. These are also those who did not treasure freedom as much as security. How galling to them, that their social inferiors come to the land of opportunity and prosper!
Not only that, but peoples - the French are an excellent example - who have looked down on even affluent northern Italy find the elevation of Italians in America to positions of honor, respect, wealth and success intolerable. Europe is a region of petty bigotries and unfriendly glances among groups of peoples. Great Russians did not like Jews who did not like Poles who did not like Germans ... and so on, back and forth.
The notion of a "Great Melting Pot" sounds good to those who see mankind as a true brotherhood - either under theories of natural law or a transcendent and indestructible soul or both - find America a heavenly place, but we forget sometimes that most of the world does not view life or history that way.
Consider that in spite of all the differences of religion, culture, race, and economic interest in America which spread across a vast continent, there has only been one war of Americans against Americans, and that war was fought to end slavery because it offended the deep religious beliefs of millions of American Christians (for all the liberal whining about mixing "religion and politics" it was the fact that Abraham Lincoln got almost ninety-five percent of the Evangelical Christian vote in 1864 which insured his reelection).
Compare the peaceful resolution of our differences with the violent solutions to which the peoples of the Old World have so often resorted. Greek Orthodox Americans and Muslim Americans live together in peace here, with both more successful than their coreligionists in the Old World. Germans live next to Poles, Poles to Jews, Jews to Russians, and all rise as high as their talents and character let them.
It is not just that the poor of the world built America, and that the powerless chose to cross the ocean for a new land in which the comforts of a native tongue, a common culture and family were thrown away forever as they climbed down into the steerage section of the ships. It is that these poor brought with them certain treasures which their social "betters" could not take from them: hope, faith, and courage.
Those who chose the long, typically awful, voyage to a strange new land were those very people who understand the power of faith in God, faith in morality, and faith in themselves. They had magnificent and beautiful values underneath their shabby clothes and skinny faces. The trusted that America was good, and they promised themselves, their children, and their God that each would keep America good.
This America is viewed by the Old World as "hypocritical" because it proclaims the importance of those basic rights of individual human dignity which, as Michael Novak so clearly describes in his new historical study of Americas beginnings, On Two Wings, come from both the principles of natural law which Adam Smith and John Locke explained and the certain faith that a Providential God exists in the history.
These remnants of an old world that rejected moral ideals find America unbearably hypocritical, as if hypocrisy was the greatest possible vice. Preaching good values and falling short of perfection in practicing those values is not hypocrisy but rather human nature. Our very system of government presumes the fallibility of men and the need for checks and balances, and this government was formed by a collection of good, wise, learned, honorable and brave men.
The Old World hates us because we insist on striving for high moral standards, insist on proclaiming the priceless value of high moral standards, and insist that all governments and societies will be imperfect. It was the Old World, not America, which considered that lopping off the heads of enough French nobles would make France paradise. It was the Old World, not America, which considered that murdering in slave labor camps tens of millions of "enemies of the state" would make the reincarnation of the Tsarist Russia happy. It was the Old World, not America, which thought that exterminating all "inferior races" in death camps would create a Teutonic millennium.
The Old World hates us because we insist that perfectibility is primarily a personal process and not a social process. America is living proof that poverty, oppression, bigotry, ignorance and all the other sad conditions which mankind endures cannot stop a penniless Jew, Scot, Italian, Pole, Irishman or Greek from not only becoming great in material terms, but also good and noble at the same time.
America is living proof that the "poor relations" of those who stayed behind in the safety and security of civilized, sophisticated, cultured Europe were always talented and good people. These Americans are evidence that success is the consequence of hard work, honesty, and faith (precisely what Socialists, Nazis, Communists, Fascists and other liberals believe to be a fantasy).
America - the New Jerusalem - is a gleaming monument to blending of faith in Providence and of striving for the very best in ourselves. Our goodness chides them. Our generosity galls them. Our fidelity to a living God unnerves them. We are a testament to the human soul, which transcends every artificial class and strata that men can invent. We are to the unrepentant cynics of the Old World, what they hate most of all: Hope.
Bruce Walker has been a dyed in the wool conservative since, as a sixth grader, he campaigned door to door for Barry Goldwater. Bruce has had almost two hundred published articles have appeared in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, Law & Order, Legal Secretary Today, The Single Parent, Enter Stage Right, Citizen's View, The American Partisan, Port of Call, and several other professional and political periodicals.
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