Originally posted at Dean’s World here.
The Wife just called me before she went to bed in Tanzania. It seems she got into it with a 24 year old New Zealander who felt the need to tell the Wife “just how hated you Americans are in the world,” and how we “f*** things up everywhere you go.”
Such run-ins with loudmouths abroad aren’t as common as you think. While living abroad for five years back in the ‘90’s I probably ran into these bigots maybe half a dozen times. They invariably came from small countries most Americans probably couldn’t find on a map, and often work for – or have worked for – the United Nations (Kiwi-girl worked for the UN). You’re much more likely to face anti-American sentiment on your local college campus than you are to encounter it while traveling. If anything, the word “American” still causes faces to light up in most places of the world.
I mention this because I’ve known quite a few Kiwis and neighboring Aussies, and they are truly some of the best people to meet while traveling. If you are ever in a place that’s dangerous, nothing and I mean nothing beats having an Aussie at your back. And while New Zealanders are upstaged by their neighbors to the west in the same way Canadians are by their brothers to the South, they aren’t a shabby lot either. In fact visiting New Zealand is high up on my “Life’s To Do List.”
But there are bigots wherever you go, and this little New Zealand girl, a quarter of whose paycheck comes from hated America, felt it was her duty to use my wife as a punching bag for all her pent up hatred for the United States. “Iraq was better off under Saddam,” is a common meme we hear on the Left, and one that is not borne out by any evidence from the Iraqis – unless you consider only the opinions of Baathists. “Vietnam” The Magic Word that’s supposed to connote “failure & f*** up” – Yes, we’re so hated by this country that it is doing its best to improve relations and trade with us.
I reminded the Wife that the United States was the largest single aid donor to Tsunami relief in 2004. Kosovo is free because of US involvement. The EU blew an opportunity to solve the crisis in Bosnia, and it was only after the US became involved that the slaughter in that state stopped.
The Wife hasn’t heard about the recent turmoil in Burma (probably because she’s getting much of her news from – no joke – al Jazeera). I updated her on events there, and told her that demonstrators were begging “Where are the Americans?” Not “Where are the New Zealanders?” and definitely not “Where is the United Nations?”
She wished I was there to argue with the little trollop, but I reminded her that it was pointless. She was 24 and knew everything there was to know about Life, especially about America. Only age and experience could change it, and chances are she would live her entire life with a burning hatred of our nation.
But in the end, her opinion wouldn’t matter a jot. Bush will soon leave office, and a prettier face will take his place. Another disaster or war will erupt and Americans will be criticized for “not acting sooner” – as we did in Bosnia, “doing the wrong thing” in Iraq, and “not acting at all,” as we did in Rwanda and continue to do in Darfur and Burma. But someone somewhere will call out “Where are the Americans?” and we will come again.
But should we? I haven’t forgotten Nicolo Machiavelli’s adage: “Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.”
Perhaps a little American Isolationism – our default state – is called for.
UPDATE: The more I think about this, the madder I get. I am currently exposed to people from all over the world at my job. I work with two people from Beijing China. Even though I am fuming about what’s happening in Burma and Darfur, and haven’t forgotten the fear that Chinese students at my university felt after the Tiananmen Square massacre, I don’t bring up these topics with them – nor do I mention the continuing oppression of Falun Gong. This is partly because of working together, but I also don’t hold them responsible for any particular action of their government.
When we travel we are ambassadors for our countries, but that works both ways: Kiwigirl is doing a poor job representing her nation. New Zealand might want to consider ‘recalling’ their ‘ambassador’ to Tanzania for not just being bigoted, but more importantly, for being plain rude.
And on second thought, after reading this I think I’ll skip New Zealand. I’ll go to Australia instead.