Last year, my cousin's daughter and her French class went on a trip to Europe. They were in Belgium, France and Italy. They were told not to speak any English on the trip, but only French and Spanish (my cousin lives in L.A. and most of the kids at her daughter's school speak Spanish on a daily basis). Why were they told this? Was it a graded activity? Was it to help them understand their trip better? Sadly, the answer is no. They were told this because so many people there are angry at America that they were told that they should pretend to be something else in order to avoid trouble.
Now, I've never felt that I had to hide my nationality. I've always felt, even on those rare occasions when I was outside of the United States, that I should never have to pretend I wasn't an American. I've always felt that I was proud of the fact and if I am in a conversation with someone from another country, I've always felt the right (and sometimes the inclination) to brag just a bit about our country.
Are you proud of your country? I am. As we went through this Independence Day holiday, I was once again reminded of what we can do if we want to.
The flawlessly executed mission planned and launched years ago by NASA, in which a probe impacted with a comet over a hundred million miles from earth, showed what we can do. It showed the world the kind of thing we can be proud of.
There is another picture though. And it's not pretty.
This week the President of the United States is meeting with other world leaders at the G-8 summit. And before it even started, the President had to again explain his decision not to sign on to the Kyoto treaty. That isn't a good sign when you have to defend a decision that you made four years ago.
Perhaps the flood of scientific data showing that Global Warming is not any longer imminent, but is already under way, forced the President's hand. But instead of forcing him into finally making the right decision, it forced him to defend his wrong one.
Hmmm.... Doesn't that sound like what he does when discussing Iraq? Or when discussing why his tax cuts that were supposed to create an economic boom, have instead only created a deficit bigger than the hole that was blasted into Tempel 1?
And you can argue all you want about how the treatment of Detainees at Gitmo or Abu Graib wasn't technically (by someone's definition anyway) torture, or how Saddam was worse, or whatever you want to say, but is a bunch of frat boys making adult men stand around naked, or of urinating on someone's holy scriptures, the picture that we want to project of the United States? And it almost goes without need to remind you that he has nominated for the position of Ambassador to the United Nations a man who has openly declared his contempt for the United Nations. Can you name any country in the world where we would send an ambassador who has declared his contempt for that country?
This kind of 'my way or the highway' attitude hasn't endeared the President to Democrats in Congress or the rest of us out here in the country, but it is much worse in the world. Leaders of sovereign nations and their citizens presume that the President of the United States speaks for us. Of course if you are reading this, there is a good chance that you don't feel that what he is saying speaks for you, but that is the perception in the rest of the world.
If Mr. Bush's arrogance hasn't turned the whole planet against us by the time we get someone else in office, we may have a chance to return to the level of prestige that we once held in the world, but it will be a long, long road up.