From Crikey today:
The Australian marks US Independence Day today with an op-ed piece by Barry Hing on anti-Americanism, which he describes as a “rising tide” of “bigotry”:
“There is a ferocity with which Americans are being lampooned, and it can apply to anything – accents, food, entertainment, social graces, fashion, weight, as well as their supposed lack of intelligence and insensitivity to other cultures. … [W]hile it’s become perfectly acceptable to poke fun at Americans for their s-xual attitudes or religiosity, it’s deemed as highly inappropriate and even bigoted to subject other nationalities to the same jabs.”
Hing has got a point. Anti-American sentiment is sometimes associated with extreme ignorance; it can easily descend to the “banal and crude”. But I think his argument depends on forgetting the context in which America is criticised.
The assumption is that the US is just another country; that jibes against Americans are on a par with Irish jokes or anti-Asian prejudice.
But the US really is different: it’s a global hegemon of unprecedented power. What America does – and therefore what America is – affects everyone, in a way that just isn’t true of any other country. When worrying trends take hold in America, from obesity to reality TV to fundamentalist Christianity, they’re a legitimate matter of concern to the rest of us.
Although Hing pays lip service to the idea that his target is different “from plain and reasonable criticism of US foreign policy and attitudes”, the effect (and probably the intent) of demonising anti-Americanism is to dampen or discredit that criticism. Just ask Mark Latham, whose views on the American alliance were ignored because the commentariat succeeded in branding them as “anti-American”.
Certainly, critics of America should try to become more well-informed. But if they do, one of the things that they would learn is that the attitudes Hing thinks of as anti-American – fierce dissent from the current state of American culture and policy – are actually held by many citizens of the US.
They think of themselves as patriotic Americans; they just dislike where their country is going. We should be able to share that dislike without being labelled as bigots.
I’m back in Australia by the way. Not loving the 20 hour flying time, but am loving the quiet, the clean and fresh air of Canberra.
Also loving seeing family, friends and Aussie sport.
It’s amazing how much I have missed the Aussie accent in everyday living. Yeah, I work with Aussies and hear lots of accents during work, but I love hearing it over the tv, and the mall loudspeakers, and those people chatting beside me at the airport.
Makes me remember that home is always best.
I included that piece from Crikey because I thought it was interesting to read another point of view on the ‘anti-Americanism’ that has been a part of Australian culture for a while now. But the last line is true. People just don’t like where the country has been heading this last 6 years in particular. Coincidence that it coincides with a certain Wanker in charge?
I mean, there’s also been a vein of the Anti-American feelings, but before we would just laugh at their medieval laws and stupid spellings. Now it’s harder to laugh about world oil ownership and lack of freedom to live and speak. So now we get more serious about our feelings because things are a lot more serious in general.
Anyway…enough of that…Happy Indepence Day to my American friends. It’s a little sad that I miss it, but to be honest I am much more glad that I am here in sunny cold Canberra.