A number of my notes, as well as conversations with family members, have brought forth the assertion that I am anti-American.
I deny that, even while I understand why some may think it is so.
I have great regard for the country where I spent the first half of my life and whose institutions financed and provided all of my formal education. I have lived in seven of the states, visited all 50, written about American politics and culture, and have the most positive of memories.
Yet I have also lived and worked for extended periods in three other countries, visited several dozen others, and have written about quite a few. I have spent the second half of my life in a country that receives substantial assistance from the United States, on the edge of other societies and exposed to cultures that currently generate the most visible signs of violent anti-Americanism.
I do not share the anti-Americanism that I perceive from elsewhere in the Middle East. However, my training as a social scientist and familiarity with numerous cultures allows me to understand its sources.
Among the topics relevant to this note:
· The 10th anniversary of 9-11, with all the media attention and the holding of memorial services, most of them far from the actual events.
· Continuing problems in the American economy and polity, focused on employment, health care, worries about the debt and the country''s future, in the context of tendentious remarks by the President, prominent members of Congress, presidential aspirants, and several members of my family.
I have gotten into trouble with observations like the following:
Admittedly 9-11 was a shock and tragedy, but it can be viewed in the context of other losses far greater. Israeli deaths in the intifada that began in 2000 were more than 15 times greater in proportion to its population. And estimates range to more than one million Iraqis killed, as well as many others displaced, since the American led invasion of 2003.
I am not blaming the United States for the Palestinian violence against Israelis. And the overwhelming proportion of Iraqis who have been killed since 2003 did not die at the hands of Americans. However, that invasion destroyed a regime that--however cruel--had maintained the stability of a problematic society. The regime was not well understood by the American invaders who broke it, and they have not replaced it with anything that is clearly better at controlling Iraqis. In the process--along with other activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere--Americans have inflamed a radical element in Islam likely to haunt all of us for years to come.
Was 9-11 justified? Even asking raises the issue of my loyalties. Yet history begs the question. In the eyes of many people on the Middle East, 9-11 was an action in a conflict that threatened their world view.
Assertions about the United States'' threat to Islamic values prior to 9-11 may not be comprehensible to many Americans. Calliing Americans Crusaders and infidels has a ring of the ridiculous, but the ideas resonate with numerous Muslims.
American scholars have come to understand the Japanese perspective about Pearl Harbor. Like 9-11, it was not a wise move. But it served those with the capacity to do it, and who felt threatened by what the United States represented to them.
Those with a longer historical perspective might recognize parallels in disputes about the attack on Fort Sumter.
Did 9-11 justify the death and destruction in Muslim societies that the United States has attacked, all the while insisting that it was not anti-Muslim?
This question resembles those about the destruction of German and Japanese cities. My grandson''s 3rd grade teacher in Seattle taught that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were wrong.
I am not a pacifist, but I feel uncomfortable with hyperbolic celebrations of military events. Americans who accuse Israel of overreacting may think about all those dead Iraqis and other Muslims. Will a future generation of American teachers tell their students that the war against terror was excessive?
My response to a recent New York Times article may convince some of you that I am anti-American. It describes the mob invasion of the Israeli embasay in Cairo, proceeds to the worsening Israeli relations with Turkey and Egypt, and the looming vote in the United Nations about a Palestinian state. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/
Not surprising given the tilt of the Times, the message of the article is that Israel did not do enough to prevent these serious threats to its prestige and security.
What could it have done? Apologize for the death of those violent people on the Turkish ship intent on breaking the blockade on Gaza, and for the death of Egyptian personnel during Israel''s response to a terrorist raid near Eilat? And join in supporting the Palestinian demand for statehood?
The Times journalist quotes three distinguished Israelis who advocate those actions. Two of them are left of center, opposition politicians (Daniel Ben Simon and Benyamin Ben Eliezer), and one the editor of the left of center Ha''aretz. It''s like quoting Tea Party activists as expert commentators on President Obama''s economic policy.
To the Times'' credit, the article noted that Israeli officials were willing to express regret about those deaths. An apology would indicate that they had been wrong in pursuing national defense.
Has a Times reporter written that the United States should apologize for the deaths caused by its war on terror? Or join in a campaign to advance the political goals of North Korea and Iran? If so, I haven''t noticed.
Would the world--or even the Middle East--be a better place if the Israeli government adopted the foreign policy preferred by the New York Times and left wing Israelis?
Egypt has to bring stability to itself, and ideally pursue economic development with smaller rake offs to the bank accounts of politicians. Turkey might seek to solidify its position among NATO partners--and perhaps bolster it''s candidacy for membership in the European Union--rather than worrying about the Hamas regime that NATO members view as terrorist. Israel may be somewhere on the far margins of those issues, but more as a scape goat and distraction from domestic problems than as a real reason for Egyptian or Turkish problems.
In both Egypt''s and Turkey''s cases, the scenarios imaginable can be unpleasant in the extreme. There are factions in both countries that fantacize about a heroic war against the Zionists. The United States is trying to be a moderating factor, the professionals in both countries'' militaries do not relish any such conflict, and political as well as business figures In both countries have spoken about the need for sanity.
My inclination is to view those who are convinced of Israel''s guilt in such matters to suffer from a mushy-headed and extreme case of political correctness, and failing to recognize that the Middle East does not operate like the Middle West.
I also admit to looking askance at the claims of many Americans about that country''s economics, health care, education, and other public services.
The United States can claim to be a leader in medicine and advanced education, but the levels of care and learning available to the average American fall far from what the most fortunate obtain. American claims of being over taxed are bizarre to those who look at the data. http://en.wikipedia.org/
The effective tax rate for all levels of government in the United States is 26.9 percent of GNP. There is no western democracy with a lower tax rate than that of the US. Denmark''s rate is 49 percent, Israel''s is 36.8 percent, and the average of Western European OECD members is 40 percent.
The result of all this leads me to be critical of the simplistic patriotism surrounding the anniversary of 9-11, as well as claims about a confiscatory government heard from American politicians and individuals.
My observations are no more extreme than what is expressed by other Americans who should not be accused of violating social norms. One of the most admirable traits of the country, which I absorbed in the first half of my life, was the freedom to look at things differently from others. I also learned to appreciate the contributions that come from a critical perspective.
Dispute, criticism, and skepticism are as American as apple pie. The traits have deep roots in Jewish culture, as well as what was acquired from the ancient Greeks and Romans, and more recently from Britain and elsewhere.