Thursday, February 17, 2011

idea of america

A couple weeks ago, I had a long conversation with a fellow employee and once again found someone who strongly dislikes American foreign policy but is seemingly in love with the idea of America. As some of you know, I was in Paris, or more accurately, La Defense, for a training course last week. One of my 110,000 co-workers was also going there before flying off to his final destination in Algiers. (No, it was not my now-former boss). Anyway, the vagaries of the flight schedule necessitate a several hour wait in Libreville after coming up from Port Gentil so we talked shop and politics and what had happened in Tunisia and what was still going on in Egypt at that time. I did ask him about Algeria and he indicated it could never happen there, but of course we're here now and there are protests in Algiers now.

We got to talking about America's role in these protests and he generally had a very negative view of American foreign policy and the meddling about in other countries. Perhaps everything should be taken with a grain of salt as he also thought Wikileaks was a CIA and Mossad conspiracy to make Obama look bad. I suppose that could be true, though it's likelihood seems rather low. He was just so down on U.S. politics and policy-meddling about the rest of the world and that's an understandable view to me. As you would expect, I have met plenty of non-Americans in the last two years while living overseas. By and large, they dislike U.S. foreign policy which is generally seen as meddlesome and supportive of causes that lack popular support where they occur. However, this person I spoke with was so passionate about the idea of America. For him, it was a place where hard work meant success. Where people had opportunities. It contained freedoms not found in most of the rest of the world. A nation of immigrants but united by ethic and freedom.

This is perhaps a bit maudlin, but I think you can only get an appreciation for this, especially if you are yourself an immigrant or have traveled enough outside the U.S. to meet people from less opportunity-laden nations. And this is what I find so frustrating about our foreign policy. It sometimes feels like we have done nothing but try to sabotage our reputation abroad with questionable wars and support of dubious governments. And yet, people still think this is a great place of opportunity.

1 comment:

buickguy said...

Your comments about how America is perceived are spot on and have been so for decades, probably from WWII onward. Meddling foreign policy coupled with the land of opportunity -- an interest combination.