Some years ago, David Ignatius wrote an article in the Washington Post titled, ‘Replant the American Dream’ (1), in which he told of travelling the world as a foreign correspondent some 35 years ago, and how he believed that as an American he carried a kind of white flag, presumably of purity and moral superiority, signifying that he – being an American – was ‘different’, and that “the world knew it”.
He then noted dejectedly that the US was slowly “shredding the fabric that defines what it means to be an American”, that Americans are now seen as “hypocrites who boast of our democratic values but who behave lawlessly and with contempt for others”. His basic premise was that the US, and Americans generally, had “used up all their seed corn” and needed now to reach out to the world and ‘share America’s values’ once again.
He then ended with a statement of hope about the celebration of American Thanksgiving Day. Reading from his mythological American history book, he recounted the Pilgrims’ desolate fears as they departed the Old World for America, and “the measureless bounty they found in the new land”, which they shared with the local natives. You have already read an accurate account of the first Thanksgiving, which was a bit short on sharing measureless bounty. Ignatius ended with the words: “We need to put America’s riches back on the table and share them with the world, humbly and gratefully.” I wrote a reply to Mr. Ignatius that said in part:
You said that when you travelled the world as a correspondent carrying your American flag, you believed and felt you were different from all the others, a perception all foreigners shared. But that isn’t exactly how it was. What you really meant to say was “I was better than them, and they knew it”. Your despair is not from having shredded your fabric, but a nostalgic regret that those people have finally realised you are not better than them, but are worse, and that they no longer respect you but despise you. You don’t want to reach out and ‘share America’s riches’. What you want is to replant the false utopian values of American superiority in the minds of all those people so you can once again travel the world and tell yourself you are better than everyone else – and to once again see that delusion in their eyes.
You said you must stop behaving as if you were in a permanent state of war, but your America has always been in a permanent state of war. That’s what you do. Wars of aggression are what define you as a nation.
You don’t want the world to think badly of you about your culture of torture, massacres and war, but you have no intention of ceasing them.
You continue to destroy nations, topple governments, foster regional wars and revolutions, reduce small countries to poverty and misery, but you want to be judged only by the utopian values you preach but never follow.
You say that Americans “travelling and sharing” will make everything okay again, that you would no longer be misunderstood.
But why do you think your US today is the world’s most hated nation? It isn’t because the world doesn’t understand you, but because it does understand you. You are reviled as a nation and as a people, for your values that produce only instability, terror, misery, poverty and death.
You say you want to “give something back to the world”. Well, maybe you could begin by giving back the country you live in, to those from whom you stole it. Maybe you could give Panama back to Columbia and Hawaii back to the Hawaiian people. And maybe Puerto Rico back to the Puerto Ricans. Maybe you could give Korea back to the Koreans and stop preventing the unification they have wanted for the past 60 years. Maybe you could get out of Taiwan and Hong Kong. Maybe you would like to give back the wealth you forcibly plundered from about 100 nations with the strength of your military.
Perhaps you would like to give back to Chile the hundreds of billions worth of copper you stole. Maybe you would like to return all the gold you plundered from all of Central and South America and the Caribbean, when you repeatedly invaded those countries, forced open – and then emptied – the vaults in their central banks. Maybe you would like to convince Citibank to give back the billions in gold it stole from the Chinese citizens who trusted it. Maybe you would like to give back to the Philippines and Nicaragua and Haiti the peace and happiness they had before you colonised and destroyed them.
Maybe you would like to give back to mothers in Iraq the 500,000 babies that Madeline Albright killed.
You said you wanted to share America’s riches with the world, but the time for that is long past. You no longer have any riches to share with anyone, and you never shared them even when you did have. Instead, you shared your depleted uranium artillery with the people of Iraq and Libya, who today have fetuses born that are described as ‘unidentifiable lumps of flesh’. For a decade, you shared napalm and Agent Orange with the people of Vietnam who today, fifty years later, still have tens of thousands of hideously-deformed babies being born.
Your CIA shared its 1,000-page torture manual and its Death Squad training with dozens of your dictators in Latin America. You shared your brand of democracy with Yugoslavia, converting it from a peaceful federation to a broken and pathetic mess of despair, and you then shared that same template with a dozen other nations, priding yourself on your “color revolutions”, leaving nothing but death and misery in each of them.
If you don’t mind, we don’t want you to share anything more with us.
We have had enough exposure to American-style freedom, democracy and human rights, to last us for generations.
And, to tell you the truth, we in the world have lost our stomach for your worldwide carpet of atrocities, brutality, death and misery, as well as our tolerance for your hypocrisy.
All we want is for you to just go home, mind your own goddamned business, and get your dirty, bloody, dollar-soaked fingers out of most of the world’s nations you are exploiting. The seed corn that you refer to, is gone, but it was not eaten. It just rotted.
Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. His writing has been translated into more than 20 languages and is available on more than 100 foreign-language websites around the world. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.