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Why Are They So Angry at Us?  |   Love & Hate—Where Britain Meets America  |   Your Opinion

Your Opinion

Marketing 101: Empathy is Key!
The Darkness Behind our Romancing of Innocence
How America is Viewed: My China Experience
We Cannot Be a World Leader by Behaving Like a Bully
Implicit Contradictions
What is the Rest of the World Thinking During these Troubled Times?
The Government and the People
Learning to Listen to Other Points of View
Mixed Admiration/Resentment for the U.S.
We're Stronger if We Seek to Understand
Blind Patriotism is Not Patriotism
Learning About Others is a Slow Process
The "Great Equalizer" in Military Affairs
Broadening Our Outlook
September 11: A Cycle of Violence

Marketing 101: Empathy is Key!

As a foreigner (French), who has lived in the U.S. for 5 years and has accumulated years of work experience in the developing countries, my reaction to your question is... that the question itself shows the problem. The September 11 events' main question should not be about how the world's point of view on the U.S. has changed, but how the U.S.'s point of view on the rest of the world has changed.

Indeed, resentment (some time hatred) against America is deep down, often founded on mere jealousy. It is difficult for many people and cultures to accept the simple truth that the U.S. has managed to create so much more wealth and power (and let us dare say it: happiness) than any country in the world, ever. And I have seen in all the countries I worked and lived untold admiration when one speaks about America. This jealousy is not very sane... but human. Deep down, many of us would like to be citizen of a country that successful!

However, there is more than this: Americans are so proud of their success, they can't even imagine that the rest of the world does not want to be American. This attitude is compounded by the crass ignorance of the American people about other cultures and mores. Nowhere else than in the U.S. can we hear people's representatives priding themselves of not having ever left U.S. soil or see a president who went only twice abroad in his entire life prior to being elected. Nowhere else can we hear such an opinion leader such as O'Reilly bragging about not caring about the rest of world's opinion. Nowhere else in the world will you find college students asking whether there is such a thing as democracy in Germany. There are tons of examples of such combination of arrogance and ignorance in this country.

The only way for America to change the way the world views it, is to change its own perception of the world.

Empathy is key: don't do unto others what you would not want them to do unto yourself. Then everything will be obvious to Americans.

Look for justice rather than control. Be on the side of the peoples, not the dictators. Relinquish your SUVs and risk confrontation with all the Persian Gulf countries' autocrats while giving some support to better environmental protection. Forget about selling weapons and pay your due to the U.N., whatever its numerous and huge weaknesses. You have the duty to be tough and demanding on other countries and international institutions, but above all, you have to be fair ... and listen to the people.

In other words, turn your unrestrained generosity into common sense justice.

I hope September 11 will at least allow that to happen ... even though I doubt that, like many around the world.

Too bad: America is such a great country!

Arnaud Desmarchelier
Washington, DC

Posted 12/21/2001

The Darkness Behind our Romancing of Innocence

In many disturbing ways, the jets that crashed into the towers on September 11 were not on our radar screen. We need, for our own security, if for nothing else, to reflect, in a reasoned manner, on this metaphor.

Sandy Tolan's report begins this process with intelligence, compassion, and honesty. We need to do more, however, to identity what is not on the radar screen.

What do we Americans fail to understand about how we see ourselves and others in the world? Our response, in the media and on the street, is too steeped in the language of "healing." This language keeps us blind. It is time to move on. Pop psycho babble and the waving of flags are psychic bandages no longer needed. It is now safe, and healthy, to remove them.

True healing is "seeing things as they really are." We need to adjust our radar, find new language and paradigms, and with an open mind, search for new perspectives. The word "evil," a word our president likes to toss around like a baseball at the World Series, is useless in this regard. It merely helps to keep us stuck. It helps to sell his policies and make the world safer for terrorists.

We must look at our own evil, not others: the darkness behind our own romancing of innocence. We must examine our sincerity for how it may cloak something very painful to face—our entitlement, corruption, and hypocrisy. No easy task, but without working through this pain, there will never be lasting gains in stopping terrorism, whose horror I am freshly acquainted with—I live four blocks from ground zero and ran from my apartment as the towers collapsed.

I hunger for more reports like Sandy Tolan's. It seems, lately, our democracy is without true, well-considered discourse or debate. The media goes on endlessly repeating itself, in an entertainment format, often selling the government's war and goals.

The exposed life is not the examined one. Hours upon hours of television time, mountains of front pages. Yet, we starve. Where is the real content? The layers? The complexity? And most importantly, the fresh perspective.

Challenging ourselves and our policies is now seen as unpatriotic. This is truly a tragedy. Jefferson must be turning over in his grave. However, I am sure he takes great comfort that reporters like Mr. Tolan are at work.

Give me more, please.

James Ryan
New York, NY

Posted 12/21/2001

How America is Viewed: My China Experience

I was in China on September 11, 2001 as part of professional delegation of mental retardation professionals visiting programs in the People's Republic of China.

I called home to talk to my husband at 9:50 pm China time or 9:50 am Eastern Standard time. We had spent the day visiting the Beijing Children's Hospital and I was full of the excitement of the differences in our approaches to services. But instead I encountered an unfolding tragedy as my husband said; "it's a terrible day in America." I found the one English station on TV and we simultaneously watched—a half a world apart—the two towers fall. I could hardly hang up the phone, as it was a concrete connection to the surreal situation I was in. It was nearly midnight when I hung up and tried to reach the leader of our delegation. The English/Chinese language gulf was too wide for me or my hotel hosts so I was there alone with the knowledge of this horrible event. I could not stop watching as it unfolded on television, yet knew that I had to get some sleep for the next day.

I wondered what the next day would bring. I knew we were there under the auspices of the government, yet also knew our recent relations had been strained. I thought China shared a border with Afghanistan; at any rate I knew I was a long way from home and this was an unprecedented tragedy.

I remembered looking out the window at the lights of Beijing and the nearly deserted streets. I had a very strong realization that I had suddenly gone from being a very privileged person, an American, to an uncertain status. Would this country be our friend or not? I realized that the ability to control my life that I had always assumed as my American right was suddenly very much up to a communist government.

The next morning our national guide gathered us together and we anxiously waited for his words. He assured us that the Chinese government was opposed to these terrorist acts, that they supported the actions of our government and that they would do all in they could to ensure our health and safety during our time in China. We decided to continue our trip to Xi-An and Shanghai and the rest of our professional visits.

From that point on, the response of the Chinese people was one of an outpouring of sympathy. At all professional meetings our hosts expressed condolences for the terrible tragedy in the United States. When we were in Xi-An and visiting the Wild Goose pagoda, two photographers from the newspaper asked our permission to photograph us for the newspaper. They said they wanted to show the world that people from America were safe and welcome in China.

In Shanghai, I was purchasing a flute for my son. As the clerk was ringing up the sale, he asked in very rudimentary English, "American?" I said "yes" and he said "So sorry, so sorry" with great feeling.

During the rest of our 10-day visit I felt very safe. As foreigners in China, we stood out, but this time, it was to express kindness that people approached us.

While anxious to get home, I never doubted that all possible was being done to help us get home, to provide us with timely information, and to make sure that we were well cared for. Flying back was a very different experience then going. I knew I was going home to a changed country but had the knowledge that my own family was safe.

This was my first trip to China so I don't know how changed their view is. I do know that on a personal level, they were very kind and solicitous after 9/11. So the change I saw was going from professional respect to personal kindness. It was very gratifying.

Barbara Pilarcik
Springfield, MA

Posted 12/21/2001

We Cannot Be a World Leader by Behaving Like a Bully

I want to thank you for this great program. It is like looking at yourself in a mirror from some unusual angle.

Why do some parts of the world hate us? We do not need to go far in time to see it. Just start from the beginning of the current Bush administration. He backed off from the greenhouse effect gases treaty (Kyoto Protocol) which took many countries many years to negotiate soon after he took office; he has just recently announced that he will break the nuclear weapon treaty again (to start another round of arms race? or did he figure that former U.S.S.R. is broken so the U.S. will be the only one to benefit? But did bin Laden use high-tech weaponry?). Do whatever I want for I am the ONLY ONE. Do you think a kindergarten class would like a kid who acts like George W. Bush? My son told me no, because "He is too bossy".

Let's look again at what happened at the China coast this spring. The U.S. government behaved like it is totally legal and glorious to spy on China and that China has no right to voice her displeasure. We Americans certainly will not tolerate such spying on our houses in our domestic lives and will call police, yet our government claimed that since spying of this sort had been carried out for many years on China, so it will continue. What logic is this, except that of imperialism?

The roots of resentment are complicated. But one part is the doing of our own foreign policy. Does our government, especially the Bush administration, have peace and "justice for all" in mind? We cannot be a world leader by behaving like a bully. The book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" is a good book to review at this time.

Minneapolis, MN

Posted 12/27/2001

Implicit Contradictions

I love the contradiction implicit in the comments other counties have of U.S.A. On the one hand, our greatest sin is spreading our culture, businesses, etc, to the globe—and yet we are a nation of people "who don't even own passports." Who do they think is traveling the world establishing our presence? Us! Also, what other country has men and women actively engaged in conflicts and peace keeping all over the globe? Because of this very fact those of us at home are engaged in the happenings of the world.

I wish the host would have pointed out this inconsistency.


Paul Putzier
St. Paul, MN

Posted 12/27/2001

What is the Rest of the World Thinking During these Troubled Times?

Thank you for your broadcast, exploring the roots of Anti Americanism in Egypt and Jordan, two of our most important Middle Eastern allies. I've been concerned that there has been far too little coverage of this topic, and more generally of public opinion abroad since the bombing began.

The Dallas Morning news printed an angry letter or two objecting to the reporting of civilian casualties during the bombing in Afghanistan, and it seems as if the whole of American journalism has avoided the topic, along with any view from abroad that is at variance with the Bush administration's policy of a "war on terrorism."

I hope the appearance of your article, which gets to the heart of the issue, in my opinion, is a sign that the country is ready to look beyond it's borders to find out what the rest of the world is thinking during these troubled times.

Thanks again, and keep up the good work.

Robert Sheaks
Irving, TX

Posted 12/27/2001

The Government and the People

There is a distinct difference between foreign opinion about American people and the American government.

When people talk about how the U.S. did this and the U.S. did that, they are referring to the government. They do not necessarily link the two together, because they know that we are something akin to a democracy, and that there are dissenters among us. (Look at the percentage of non-voters in our country, and you will see that the government does not fully represent us.)

What is disturbing about Sept 11 is that they attacked the American people directly. If they just attacked the Pentagon, would we be so united? Would the world be as empathetic? I say no.

This leads to disturbing questions: Because of this attack, will we now, as Americans, take a more active role in what our government does in our name? And will the U.S. press be brave enough to report on this dissent?

And is this what the attackers meant to achieve? I say no. I say they fear this as much as our government does.

Joe Dowling
St Paul MN

Posted 12/27/2001

Learning to Listen to Other Points of View

(A) I believe that people have always had their opinion about America. Everyone is entitled to a positive or negative opinion of the U.S.A. I think that now America is actually listening to other people.

(B) I think that the U.S. is actually stronger since the attack. Many people are looking into the mirror and asking questions about themselves. They are searching for knowledge and understanding of subjects that were not "important" to them before.

(C) I felt a sense of common ground with condolences from many countries. It brought tears to my eyes to see people grieve with us. I am surprised that I personally feel responsible for poor choices that have been made in foreign policy before I was even born. I know that I am responsible for myself and my actions. I am learning to not only listen to other points of views but to explore how people get to their conclusions, assumptions, misunderstandings, or passionate hatred.

Gina Vloet
Las Vegas NV

Posted 12/27/2001

Mixed Admiration/Resentment for the U.S.

The change is more in Americans understanding how we are being viewed. Basically we have loved ourselves and assumed everyone else loved us too. Now, we are realizing that other lives are remarkably different, sometimes fragile and diminished because of what the U.S. does. It reminds me of some of the smart, wealthy, athletic, good-looking kids in my high school forty years ago: they were insulated to the misery and the mixed admiration/resentment in some of those around them.

I was surprised (and shouldn't have been) at how eager Americans were to give up rights. I was afraid they would get into a patriotic frenzy of suggesting more rights they would be willing to give up—all, of course, for the "other guys." I am very sensitive to this because when I was a child my grand-parents moved their small dairy herd in with the larger herd of their Japanese-American friends who were sent off to a concentration camp in order to keep up the payments on their friends' farm until their return. This kind of thing gets repeated VERY EASILY with patriotic zeal for SOMEONE ELSE.

Jean Meyer
Redding, CA

Posted 12/27/2001

We're Stronger if We Seek to Understand

As Californians we're accustomed to living atop shaky ground. We suffer through random temblors and collectively feel the pangs of panic that the aftershocks induce. We share the same fears of being trapped within elevators, stuck in high rises or bridges, cut off from loved ones when the dreaded "Big One" strikes... but fears of an angry and capricious God are tempered by the fact that we have consciously elected to balance those risks of random destruction against the rewards of living in the region.

The vision of the September 11 attacks, however, produced a quake of a wholly different kind. Witnessing an intentional act of catastrophe was profoundly disturbing on myriad levels. In one sense, the acts of 9/11 were an assault on the very idea of permanence, highlighting for me the fragility of our material world. In the following days, structures I once took for granted now induced a sense of foreboding. I questioned what was enduring, what held meaning beyond its physical form and how do we protect the world as we have come to know it?

As to the question of whether we as a nation are stronger or weaker for the attacks I would say that collective contemplation of an entire nation's citizenry has been a net-positive experience. It's a profound exercise to ask to whether one's lack of understanding of world's affairs impacts one's life and perhaps the future of our earth's inhabitants. How might we as ordinary folk do something in order to impress a positive impact? I believe it is empowering for Americans to believe that empathy and awareness can materially affect the course of events. If by way of this tragedy we ultimately come to see ourselves as active participants in a complex system, inextricably linked to our collective survival, then the lives lost on 9/11 will not have been in vain.

Darius Abbassi
San Franciso, CA

Posted 12/27/2001

Blind Patriotism is Not Patriotism

It is again cool to love your country—but at what expense? I teach American history to eighth graders and have been covering the "War on Terrorism" with my students. They were shocked to find out that the September 11 attacks were precipitated by more than just envy of the United States. I constantly repeat to them that in the U.S., we have the weighty responsibility of liberty, which means it is our duty to be informed and to take part, rather than to simply trust our leaders and cheer from the sidelines. Blind patriotism, I tell them, is not patriotism. If you love your country, stand up and make it listen to you.

Brian Stevens
Tucson, AZ

Posted 12/27/2001

Learning About Others is a Slow Process

Even immersed in another country or culture, understanding others is a slow process that requires patience and humility. From 1970-1974 I was doing graduate studies in Toronto, Canada. Only after three years did Canadian friends have the courage to tell me that many Americans living and studying there often behaved as though Canada were the fifty-first state of the U.S.A. As a result, we were unable to perceive what made Canada Canada or what the feelings and values of the Canadian people were. I appreciated their honesty: it helped me see.

From 1976-1983 I was doing doctoral research in Germany. This time I realized that learning the language of the culture was critical to understanding how people perceive the world around them, put ideas together, make sense of their society and mores. Since September 11, I have experienced from German friends both sympathy for the disaster which occurred in New York and Washington, as well as expressions of distress and anxiety about the unilateral manner in which we conduct American foreign and economic policy.

Now I am living in California with a community of graduate students where four are from the United States, and one each from Korea, Portugal, Spain, Mozambique, Madagascar and Tanzania. Conversation since September 11 has been open, respectful and frank, but anxious about whether the United States will be able to learn from this experience -- about its own life style (which is often rapacious and self-absorbed) and about a world in which more than a billion people eke out existence on less than one-dollar a day.

George Griener, S.J.
Berkeley, CA

Posted 01/02/2002

The "Great Equalizer" in Military Affairs

It would appear from conversations with many in Europe over the last month, that September 11 showed, quite unfortunately, that terrorism is the "great equalizer" in military affairs. This requires a total policy review and a need to better understand the roots of Mideastern resentment toward U.S. policy in the region.

David Sliney
Fallston, MD

Posted 01/02/2002

Broadening Our Outlook

I love this country very much.

Even so, I am aware it has problems, as a parent who can understand that a child has a problem. I was surprised to hear that so many Americans are shocked and confused to discover that we are not universally loved. Anyone who listens to even a little news must be aware that our government tries to impose its political power around the world by trying to make other nations—even friendly, democratic, free nations—do what we want them to do.

Whether the policies that we try to impose are positive or negative, no one likes being told what to do. Furthermore, when things don't go our way in international relations, we often refuse to participate—we take our ball and bat and go home.

We don't believe that we are affected by what goes on in the rest of the world. We don't care that our failure to participate can kill efforts to address legitimate international issues.

We have all been brought to a sad reality in the worst possible way. We are great people—we can change. One of our greatest strengths lies in our dynamic energy, which fuels our constant change. I hope we improve.

D Calixta
Austin, TX

Posted 01/17/2002

September 11: A Cycle of Violence

I agree with Chalmers Johnson's book BlowBack: The Cost and Consequences of American Empire. It should be required reading. Our foreign policy has created decades of resentment and the chickens have come home to roost. The sins and stupidity of our fathers have/are born by the sons and daughters.

We espouse values we do not live. We talk peace while selling weapons of mass destruction is our business. Our economic system values corporate rights and profit margins over human or family rights: You are fired.

America is great only because we the people can talk about our needs for change and struggle to shift our paradigm. Usually it takes a crisis.

The numbers have gotten so outrageous: spending billions on war and so little on peace. Who profits: 1/2 of 1% of the people on this planet. Who is safe, no one not even them. Sadly, our leaders' lips are dripping with talk of killing people as though they were...only a footnote on the evening news!!

Unless we build a global community where we are all are safe, nourished, educated and loved, the human species will simply be a brief experiment in the dust our "universal enfoldment".

This little note is my call to us all!

Obasi Haki Akan
Cleveland, OH

Posted 01/17/2002

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