Friday, June 24, 2005

Pew-y: America's "Image Problem"

One of the most interesting surveys of the year was released by the Pew Research Centerfor the People and the Press on Thursday. It's an annual survey called "The Pew Global Attitudes project." From April 20 to May 31, the Pew surveyed 17,000 people worldwide with a set of questions designed to gauge others' sense of us, including how they regard our foreign policies and actions and our national character as well.

This year's survey found foreigner's positive regard for the United States slipping in most areas, including with some of our key allies: Turkey, Pakistan, Britain and Canada. Much of that slip is due to the U.S. led war in Iraq. But negative feelings toward the U.S. persist for other foreign policy and 'American character' issues as well.

In reporting on this on "All Things Considered" Thursday, director of the Pew Research Center Andrew Kohut said America had an "image problem," especially in the Muslim world. He said, "It would take an awful lot to move the needle substantially in the Muslim world."

But is it just an image problem? No, it's our actions, too. To say we have an image problem implies that others' views of us are shallow, superficial or just plain wrong. Our actions speak louder than words. And war and other acts of imperialism speak louder than handing out some foreign aid or tsunami relief.

And this, even though a majority of Americans surveyed agreed with the foreigners' assessments. Greedy? Who says we're greedy? Well, a majority of foreigners but also a majority of Americans, 72% in fact. So maybe it's not our image but ourselves, our nation.

A majority said Americans have "a violent streak," and almost half of Americans say so, too. Makes sense to me. Look at the "images" that get plastered on the worldwide news. But think of it closer to home, as well or not so well, in terms of domestic violence, guns at school, guns in homes, and road rage.

So aren't the Canadians justified in calling us "rude"? Compared to Canadians, we're the planet of the apes. It really is that different, and a thin line on the 49th parallel is all that separates us geographically. Our cultural divide is much wider, and it is widening these days, as the U.S. veers off a responsible, multilateral course to go it's own way. The way of the dinosaurs? Are we oil-addicted, stuff-addicted dinosaurs?

So that's not just "image," that's substance, down to the core.

We have a lot more than a mere "image problem." We have a slew of character problems which lead to community problems, governmental problems, business problems, education problems, international problems, and global problems. It's all connected, folks, and we (many of us, ok, not all, there may be a few exceptions), yes, we, We the People, are the problem.

Seems it's time for a twelve step program where admitting our problem(s) is the first step:

"Hi, my name is Uncle Sam, and I'm a nationalistic, isolationist, imperialist, selfish, myopic, overdevelopemental glutton."

You can see more about The Pew Global Attitudes Project" at the research center's website.


At 6/26/2005 5:29 AM, Anonymous rainlily said...

I find it interesting that American's themselves concurr with the world view. Mainly because our culture is so diverse in terms of the mix of cultures from all over the world. OR do the immigrants, once here, throw away what values they had grown up with, and find that this is indeed the land of "opportunities" and that underneath that is the greed motivation -- is Horatio Algers our Everyman's dream hero? To define the American attitude, we have to define the American, and that i think is not an easy nor simple task. Is our culture made up of the malcontents from other nations? Somehow i don't think that people come here to help build a better nation, but to get more out of life for themselves. and it works. Freedom --- to make your own choices to better your lot in life -- is a powerful draw.


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