Loving America is not very fashionable these days. Sometimes I cringe at the things that Americans and their government are accused of. Let's just say that Americans aren't very popular. Everyone was supposedly on our side after 9/11 and we squandered their sympathy with our unilateralism. At least that's the popular thinking. Unfortunately anti-Americanism was well entrenched in the psyche of a great many people well before the fall of the Twin Towers.
Anti-Americanism has become a particular fact of life in Greece, where it has developed into a central tenet of the Greek worldview. This animosity surfaced after the fall of the military junta and the invasion and occupation of Cyprus, both events seen by the great majority of Greeks as the handiwork of the US. The sins of the US are vast according to many of my Greek friends. America shows favoritism to Turkey, refuses to support Greek demands regarding FYROM, bombed innocent Serbs, has a penchant for invading peace loving countries for dubious reasons, etc, etc, etc.
Anti-Americanism serves an important purpose for many segments of Greek society and it cuts across the political spectrum. The Communists, the Church, the Greek mainstream media, the intelligentsia, the Left and increasingly, even the Right. Have I left anyone out? By scapegoating America, these elements deflect Greeks from focusing on the failures of their own institutions. The failure to craft a realistic and credible foreign policy, the failure to weed out corruption and nepotism, the failure to reverse the decline of the fertility rate, the failure to Christianize young Greeks, the failure to re-energize the Church, the failure to free the dormant economic vitality of the average Greek, the failure to stand up to Turkish aggression and provocations, the failure to Hellenize Europe (instead Europeanizing Hellas), the failure to provide opportunity, the failure to build a world class system of higher education that is accessible, the failure to decrease the role of government, the failure to reach out to or support the Greek diaspora and the failure to provide a balanced public discourse.
Blind anti-Americanism is nothing more than an excuse for Greeks to continue playing the "victim" card. It is an excuse for Greeks to disengage from the world, to feel surrounded, to feel impotent and to become more politically isolationist. By scapegoating others for our own faults we create an environment in which it is impossible to take responsibility and thereby begin the first step of emerging into the light. Hellenism and Orthodoxy need to engage the rest of the world, not withdraw from it. The Ancient Greeks were not afraid to sail out and meet the world, they were travelers and they reveled in and sought out new ideas. They were not frightened by the "Varvari (barbarians)" nor their ideas. The Greeks, were in fact, the agents of change and modernity. Today, modernity is frightening. It means we have to compete. It means we can't explain everything away with conspiracy theories.
The rot is deep. Kathimerini is a conservative Greek newspaper, considered by many to be the "paper of record." One of its frequent and respected columnists, a professor emeritus at Panteion University in Athens, Christos Yiannaras, recently wrote: "the European Union appears (with dramatic consequences) infected with a syndrome of inferiority in the face of the new/rich primitive culture, economic might, and military superiority of the United States. The E.U. wants to bring the traditionally state controlled universities under the politically uncontrollable demands of the economy, creating institutions of a society that seek to teach its leading cadres itself, and not to entrust them to the so-called "free market."
"The American model that seems to have enchanted the E.U.," he said, "is a society of emigrants, a racial hodgepodge of uprooted people for the sake of survival, with tragically antisocial differences in their way of thinking and in their cultures. They are 'united' by their blind devotion to 'money,' a devotion they inherited from the early emigrants, 'money' being the measure of evaluating every person. Their idea of life is the search for "opportunity," the stubborn effort to show off their riches and their power to the lands of their origin-their childish admiration for their machines and for the size and glitter of their products.
"The overwhelming majority of the American people are in a state of undifferentiated masses, buried deep in their lack of education, with dizzying percentages of illiterate people. An aesthetic barbarism, ridiculous clothing, a torpid state of overweight, with idiotic gullibility and easy submission to any kind of power (even the power of crazy religious preachers). This is the model, the E.U. wants to imitate and sacrifice for its sake the social conquests and its cultural refinements which should have been upheld as its cause of pride."
The part about showing off riches and wealth in the country of their origin will no doubt particularly endear him to Greek Americans. How do you argue with such a distorted view of Americans. The simple answer is: you don't. If some people want to engage in this type of rhetoric so they can absolve themselves of their own sins, there is not much to be done about it.
Faoud Ajami is a professor at John Hopkins University, an immigrant like myself and part of that "racial hodgepodge" known as America. In an article entitled "The Falseness of Anti-Americanism" he writes the following: "Today, the United States carries the disturbance of the modern to older places? to the east and to the intermediate zones in Europe. There is energy in the United States, and there is force. And there is resistance and resentment and emulation, in older places affixed on the delicate balancing act of a younger United States not yet content to make its peace with traditional pains and limitations and tyrannies. That sensitive French interpreter of his country, Dominique Moïsi, recently told of a simple countryman of his who was wistful when Saddam Hussein's statue fell on April 9 in Baghdad's Firdos Square. France opposed this war, but this Frenchman expressed a sense of diminishment that his country had sat out this stirring story of political liberation. A society like France with a revolutionary history should have had a hand in toppling the tyranny in Baghdad, but it didn't. Instead, a cable attached to a U.S. tank had pulled down the statue, to the delirium of the crowd. The new history being made was a distinctly American (and British) creation. It was soldiers from Burlington, Vermont, and Linden, New Jersey, and Bon Aqua, Tennessee ( I single out those towns because they are the hometowns of three soldiers who were killed in the Iraq war) who raced through the desert making this new history and paying for it. " Read the whole article.