Opinions Of America

Ah, Twitter. This Canadian thinks little of the current US president. Apparently he also seems to think this tweet in reply to one by the U.S. radio service NPR somehow demonstrates he is lots smarter and more caring than that president and his supporters:

[Screenshot of Twitter, May 26, 2020.]

The term “Third World” originated in the United Nations amidst the mid-20th centuryCold War” as a way to describe countries that fell into neither of the opposing “camps” led/headed respectively by the USA and the USSR. The “First World” was the US and its allies, particularly NATO countries (including Canada). The “Second World” was the USSR and its satellite states in Eastern Europe and elsewhere (such as Cuba).

It was also always pretty clear that countries like the Republic of Ireland or Switzerland, which were officially “neutral” and thus, technically, “non-aligned,” were NOT what was meant by those using the term “Third World.” It referred really to the “less developed,” usually very poor, “non-aligned” countries ruled by often chaotic or simply “strongman” governments, and possessing little modern infrastructure… nearly all of which were not populated mostly by Europeans or by their descendants.

Considering the large numbers of those of non-European heritages living in the U.S. and without whom the U.S. would not be the U.S., and who are as American as any American, and that the “Cold War” is over, it is worth bearing in mind that if one is going to use “third world” as a pejorative for anywhere, just understand it is merely now a non-vulgar way to say “sh-thole.”

So be careful about professing to despise the current U.S. president, while doing possibly merely a more “polite” impersonation of him.

* * *

Okay, that poli sci lesson concluded, that tweet did get me thinking on the endless theme of foreigners sharing strong opinions of the United States and of Americans.

It started with the very independence of U.S. (which non-Americans also had quite a lot to do with) in 1776.

Possibly the most famous of all still is an intellectual contribution that was a sensation in the U.S. when it was first published in the 1830s. It sought to explain to mostly non-voting Europeans mostly still governed by monarchies (both the goods and the bads of) the broadly based “democracy” – after recent property requirement reforms, nearly all white men now had the vote – that was arising on the other side of the Atlantic. It is still read and even often still relevant today:

[An “1840” excerpt from Tomorrow The Grace. On Kindle for iPhone or iPad. Click to expand.]

Uh, well, bringing up Tocqueville was an inadvertent continuation of the “Intro to American Government” lesson. LOL!

In any case, I have had this conversation with non-Americans numerous times. It is not always a straightforward issue. If foreigners have negative opinions about America…

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995. On Kindle for iPhone and iPad. Click to expand.]

…it is more often than not NOT because they wish Americans ill, but because foreigners’ opinions often stem simply from that they are INTERESTED and CONCERNED and… even like us:

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995. On Kindle for iPhone and iPad. Click to expand.]

Matters have certainly moved on communications wise since even those 1990s. In 2020, thanks to media and a global entertainment industry this is bigger than ever, those who have never set a foot – indeed may never set a foot – in the United States encounter “it” far more easily than ever before. And especially with the ubiquitousness of social media, ordinary people from various countries easily interact with ordinary Americans on platforms like Twitter and Instagram (do “pen pals” exist any longer?) and on blogs like mine here.

[Woodbury Common shopping outlets, upstate New York. Photo by me, 2018.]

The global reaction to how the U.S. is dealing with the current pandemic is but the latest incarnation of opinions of America. It is in its way predictable because much of the world does look to America to set an example. If America seems to be failing, many outside of it fear, what hope have we?

* * *

It is difficult to know “what” is “really happening” over in the U.S. Media reports naturally concentrate on the sensational. And a great deal of what we see on social media is likely exaggeration or even false.

The virus public reaction does seem to have taken on a political dimension that is largely lacking here in Britain and elsewhere. Trump-supporting Republicans overall appear increasingly to hold the position this is really all about opposition Democratic state governors, such as New York’s, being determined to crash the economy and create chaos in order to help likely presidential nominee Joe Biden win the November presidential election. They seem to feel the virus is actually not bad enough to justify the government “overreaction” and is even a “leftist power grab”: Everyone hiding at staying home need to toughen up and remember they have immune systems; people die from flu and we don’t “lockdown” over flu. (NOTE: COVID-19 seems to be much more contagious and A LOT more deadly than is influenza.)

[The Hudson River, at Hudson, New York. Photo by me, 2018.]

At least that is what I read in news sources from there (possibly just like you) and what my father in Pennsylvania tells me by FaceTime. International air travel is tougher than at any time since World War II (aside from briefly in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks in 2001). I have no especial other knowledge: usually we visit two or three times a year, but I have not been in the U.S. since September.

The overraching issue is how informed are any opinions. Criticism is fine as long as it is reasonably informed. I have no use for glib spoutings on social media, and particularly not those utilizing dated, even racist, terms.

Have a good day literally wherever you are in the world. 🙂

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