Remember that old song, “The More I See You, the More I Love You”. Well with these young men in Boston, who came to this country to seek asylum and ended up bombing the Boston Marathon last Monday, the song title seems to have become “The More I See You, the More I Hate You.” I have spent the day cooking and thinking about “hate” this Sunday. You are welcome to share some of my thoughts.
Hostilities suppressed for over fifty years were set free by political change (the demise of the USSR, the Berlin Wall, and the Iron Curtain) and by revolutions (Chechnya, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Myanmar). Ancient disagreements, cultural/religious feuds and suspicions, and hatreds which had been suppressed by dictators have been opened up like a Pandora’s Box by taking away the people who suppressed these hostilities. This does not mean we should go out and find another leader who can close the box, but it seems to mean that we will have to live with the manifestations of all these negative energies until they are somehow resolved by the parties involved.
I’m not sure we really understood this until we went into Iraq, although the chaos in Africa should have given us a few clues, or the war in Bosnia. Neighbors in areas where there were tribal or religious groups with differing beliefs and customs often did not get along (and that is putting it mildly). When the hostilities among these groups were suppressed they did not go away; they festered and grew like a mold might grow in a dark, hidden space. Someone, after the attack on Sadam Hussein in Iraq, once described the reemergence of the sectarian groups there as a cover being taken off a boiling pot thereby letting the steam escape into the world.
America has been getting involved in these cultural arguments by taking a “parental role” in the world and has ended up intervening in these disputes by accident and proximity. As any parent knows, putting yourself between two arguing siblings will often result in having them turn on you, the peacemaker. The same thing may occur on a larger scale in countries when two combatants who were focused on each other now focus on the outsider, who they both see as an interloper, at which point both of the enemies will then become allies against the intruder; in the cases being discussed here these feuding groups become allies against us, America. This dynamic operates on all levels of society from the playground, to the family, to the neighborhood, the boardroom and to entire nations.
This sibling-alliance-under-duress phenomenon is one possible explanation for all of the hating directed at the United States, although it is clear that there are a number of factors involved in the terrible image America enjoys around the world. We have of course meddled in the affairs of others, especially when our interests were in some kind of jeopardy, or when we felt threatened by someone’s behavior, or when we felt it necessary to support the right’s of oppressed groups.
Sometimes the reasons for our meddling turn out to be quite self-serving and the ways we resolved the problems which we perceived to exist were not always compatible with what the indigenous people wanted or needed. Think of all the leaders who were sympathetic to America that we have installed in nations around the world and the sometimes devastating circumstances experienced by the people who were ruled by these hand-picked leaders. We do have stuff to answer for. Some of the hating was earned. We have on occasion deserved the sobriquet “the ugly American”. Even as tourists I bet we can sometimes be a bit arrogant and demanding; high maintenance and invasive. (I’m being a bit facetious here.) However, I guess one of the questions here is, do we want to be considered compassionate and a friend to all, or do we want to stay large and in charge? It may not be possible to be both popular and powerful.
I am pretty sure that if the American government were to go away and anarchy were the order of the day in the United States, then we might see some opposing groups forming up over the American landscape as well.
No matter how much we want to hold on to our premier position among the nations of the world we don’t have a magic wand that will resolve the cultural divides that have existed in some places for centuries, that have reared their ugly heads to complicate the struggle of some nations for freedom and self-determination.