Wednesday, December 13, 2006

American Bashing

One of the most frustrating and disappointing realities of cross cultural interrelations that is all too common these days is American bashing. Not just bashing the country, bashing anyone who lives there as if they are to blame for anything the countries has done, does, or ever will do that is disagreeable to the basher. While I am conservative and Republican, I don't agree with everything our government does, has done or will do. I don't feel 100% or even 70% represented most of the time by our leaders. Sometimes it is less than 10%. I think our current foreign relations stink. And I think our President, though I personally admire him for many reasons, has a bad habit of expressing himself in ways that make it worse. Either he has bad advisors or he is winging it. But some of the things he says are very insensitive and I can understand people's negative reactions. What I am frustrated and disappointed about is that I am so hated for it.

I frequently contribute to Brazzil magazine for instance. And even when I try to engage people in chatting with their comments, no matter how polite or respectful I try to be I get arrogant condemnation back. They don't try to understand me or give me any credit for trying to understand them. They hate me and they hate America and they lump me in with all of it with no awareness or consideration of who I am as a person. This seems to be particularly true with Brazilians for some reason. I never encountered it in Mexico. I did encounter it on a smaller scale in Ghana. To be honest, I think if you want to call someone else arrogant you need to not be arrogant yourself. Otherwise, it is hypocrisy. And yes, I know this applies to me. I said they are arrogant in their condemnation and I mean it. I feel free to disagree with anybody. I avoid insults and I try to always hear what they are saying and be respectful. I cannot abide people who don't have such common courtesy.

Okay, I do fail sometimes to hear people or be as sensitive as I had hoped. But I am the first to apologize and to try harder. And while my country has made many errors and mistakes and even done wrong at times, that is not my decision or my fault. I don't blame Iraqis in general for Sadaam's crimes or Al Queda in Iraq either. So why should I be blamed? And truthfully I don't know a lot of Americans who read cross cultural websites or go as tourists to places and interact with people who don't try to understand, appreciate and respect the culture. So the types of Americans they are lumping us in with tend to be the kind I don't even know or associate with myself. Have we really broken down that much in this world? If so, it is not a good sign.

I failed to see it and approve it until today, but my friend Chuck wrote in July about the fact that many of our complaints are often the result of our desire for something better. And that is definately where I coming from in this posting. I go to Brazil and Mexico and Ghana and other places with a sincere desire to learn. I eat the food. I try things. I try and learn language. I ask questions. I try and understand why they do what they do and why things are as they are. I make a sincere effort. Of course, I have cultural bias. Cultural bias is what makes the people spewing such hatred at me speak as they do. But the difference is, they deny their bias. I can admit mine. And I am often painfully aware of it. I work hard to overcome it. But as I often tell Bianca, my fiancee, she has to help me. She is Brazilian, she sees the world through different eyes, so she has to help me see and understand with those eyes. It cannot just happen. I need help. And I make the effort. So I sure wish people would make the effort too.

Okay, enough griping. I just wanted to point out this phenomenon and ask you all to pray about it and remember it. It makes things very tough for those of us working as missionaries. And it is making things very difficult for Americans everywhere in the world. And the problem is only going to get worse and become more of an issue in cross cultural inner cities, if we do not do something t0 change it. We at least have to make an effort to talk to each other more and attempt reaching some understanding. We have to set aside hate, prejudice and anger, and try not to react in kind when it is hurled at us. It is very, very hard. But the problem is not getting any easier so neither can be the solution.

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