Letters to the Editor

Jealousy doesn’t explain feelings about America

Re: “Jealousy fuels the fires inside those who hate America,” Erik Raymond, Aug. 30.

When I was a child, I loved watching westerns. The complications of my everyday world dissolved away. Westerns, presenting an unambiguous conflict between good and evil, allowed me to identify and cheer for the white people, who were very, very good. The Indians were very, very bad, and I could, without confusion, rejoice when they were defeated.

But then I grew up and realized the hard truth. There is no such thing as pure good and evil.

As an adult, I cannot fall back on reductionism’s simplicity. Human relationships, including those between the peoples of different countries are complicated, morally ambiguous and never easily understood.

For this reason, I was dismayed by Eric Raymond’s column, in which he dismissed the articulated thoughts and intellectual debates of foreigners by ignoring what they are really saying and assigning them the fictional emotions of hate and jealousy.

To do so, like my childhood engagement with Westerns, only simplifies the situation, reducing it to a facile and shallow manageability. It sets up an absolute good – the United States – and evil – anyone who criticizes it. It is much easier and less complicated to hate than to engage in deep understanding.

Mr. Raymond has chosen the lazy way to deal with the global distrust of the United States. If Mr. Raymond wishes to speak for people living in other countries, I think it would behoove him to actually know a few.

He throws around words like jealousy and hate. A list of words describing how many Europeans think of the United States might more realistically include bewilderment, disgust, consternation, condescension, dislike and yes, fear. A poll asking people if they were jealous would probably generate hoots of laughter.

I suggest that Mr. Raymond sits in on some history or American studies classes before he writes another column, that so glaringly reflects an ignorance of American history. Americans’ stories are a wonderful conglomeration of inspiration, creativity and initiative, as well as greed, stupidity and misguided concepts. They have to be, because Americans are human beings.

The United States is not an exceptional John Wayne-like heroic entity. Americans don’t live in a tidy Western film. People have faults and strengths, and a country, being made up of people, will always reflect those faults and strengths. Jealousy alone can never adequately sum up how people perceive that mix.

Susan Birchler is a graduate student majoring in humanities and American studies.

American dream is not everyone’s dream

Re: “Jealousy fuels the fires inside those who hate America,” Erik Raymond, Aug. 30.

Classes have just begun, and I’m already overwhelmed. So why am I taking precious time to respond to Erik Raymond’s column? Because students need to speak out against ideas that are leading America to ruin.

Mr. Raymond is responding to a Pew Research Center poll that reports American popularity dipped in Great Britain, France, Germany, Indonesia and Turkey between 2000 and 2006. He wrote the drop ranged from 23 percent in France to 45 percent in Indonesia.

Mr. Raymond identifies the cause for this drop as jealously, without exploring the events that followed Sept. 11 – namely the U.S. bombing of civilians in Afghanistan and a pre-emptive war in Iraq. People in other countries are jealous of Americans. They weren’t jealous of Americans before Sept. 11, but they are now.

I wonder if Mr. Raymond has encountered the term “ethnocentrism.” His arguments – that Americans are exceptional, that those polled wouldn’t waste a minute if they had the opportunity to work and live in America, and that people all around the globe desire to achieve the American Dream – reflect a sorely constricted view and hints of paranoia.

I’ve been lucky to visit France, Germany and Great Britain. I left Europe in admiration of its extensive mass transit systems, the historical richness of its towns and cities, and the civility of its people.

The people of those countries have nothing to envy from a country obsessed with physical comfort and consumerism, where despite limited fuel resources, the purchase of SUVs and trucks increased tremendously in the last decade. Higher gas prices recently curbed Ford truck sales, not the ethical dilemma of either consuming more than one’s fair share or the prospective drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that a dream based on competition and materialism is flawed, that bullying other countries and disregarding NATO and the United Nations in pursuit of narrow self-interests might cause America to lose favor among other nations.

Mr. Raymond, not everyone is enamored by the American Dream.

Jordan Dye is a graduate student majoring in social work.