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[Photo: Freedom awaits by _KoAn_]

I am currently reading Sam Harris' book, The End of Faith. In it, he asserts that human kind is quickly moving towards self-destruction, with religious convictions and the atrocities committed in the name of religion, as its impetus. He believes that the only way to prevent monumental disaster is to shed our allegiances to the intangible and unproveable concepts of god and religion and move towards the dominance of rational thought and critical thinking. Although I don't agree with all of Harris' opinions, I am finding the book very thought provoking. I plan on offering a number of his ideas and concepts for reflection in a series of upcoming posts.

Many of the issues addressed by Harris are obviously relevant to the USA's "war on terror." It has been clearly related by the powers that be that in order for our country to remain free and safe, we must fight the "enemy" -- Muslim fundamentalists. This rhetoric, and the measures taken in its support, has most definitely further ostracized the US from the global community and has caused much animosity toward Americans. Government officials assert that the cause of anti-American sentiment is jealousy -- jealousy of our "democratic" process, our freedom and our riches. However, is jealousy really at the core of the world's distrust of America? Or, is our foreign policy and callousness at the root of the problem?

I came across an excellent quote in yesterday's Chicago Sun Times, which adeptly addressed this issue:

"The world distrusts [America] not because we are rich and free.... They distrust us because we are deaf and blind, because we too often don't understand and make no effort to understand."
--Cardinal Francis George

Do you agree? Can the US change the way it is perceived in the global community? How? Or, has too much damage been done?

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NO. Never.
Thanks to the notion that atleast 50% or more of Americans actually believe that the Creator of the entire Universe singled out the USA as his favorite group of people in history (the 6000 year old Earth version) and everybody else on the planet are simply heathen, loser, idiots who are all going to hell anyway.

I liken it to the kids on the playground, that are told the bully only beats them up because they're jealous of how smart they are.

And the bully's told that the kids hate him/her because they're jealous of how big/tough (s)he is.

I don't think either side's getting the real story :)


Do you agree? Can the US change the way it is perceived in the global community?

I think we trompse around the world, with big muddy shoes, bringing all sorts of preconditions to these negotiations, and then claiming the breakdown of those meetings is due to the unwillingness of the other side to stay at the table. So ridiculous.

I often wonder if the countries we're at odds with have an answer to your question, actually.. Could the US change anything, in such a way that they'd now trust that our intentions are good?

These guys you see on the news reports there, that break out in violence against our embassies and those of our allies -- is there actually a sentence anyone could come out of those buildings with and say, that would quell the unrest/anger?

Our teachers here seem to strike every handful of years, chanting clever 3 liners about 2,4,6,8, Hell No, we Won't Something.. Change the words to rocks, and it's basically the same deal.. They want something, and the people inside -could- come out and say "Okay, here's the deal, we hear what you're asking for, and we can provide everything you want." Then, the teachers walk away satisfied, and head home to work on the signs for next year. Awesome. The point is, there's actually something that they WANT the school boards to say. If/when the say it, the strike ends, and we move on.

I don't know what these riot groups actually WANT us to say to them. The insurgency? How do we work to provide them what they want? If we provide it, will the violence actually stop? Do they want it to? Do we?

I laughed aloud the other day when I was reading Tony Snow's comments back to a reporter that asked about our assurance of victory in Iraq:

If you'd asked the same question in World War II, people would have looked at you like you were crazy, because even when times looked toughest, there was a national determination to win. And there is a national determination to win in Iraq. And so the assurance I'm giving you is based on the quality and determination not only of U.S. forces, but also the Iraqis who are fighting with them. And the question is not if, but when.

This is our plan. We'll just be determined. And with determination, we're assured success.

What about the insurgents? Aren't they determined? Wouldn't their determination assure their eventual success, too? If it's just a big staring contest over there, waiting for one side to lose determination, we're in trouble. :)

Iran's determined to develop and maintain a self-sufficient nuclear power infrastructure. We're determined to prevent them from pursuing nuclear weapons. Both determined. We seem to make it sound at the UN like, if all the countries just gather up, and .. feel determined enough, we'll make them stop pursuing their power plans. Why should they stop? And what possible right do we (that DO enrich for weapons) have to tell them not to enrich for power?

Tromp tromp tromp.. *shrug*

How? Or, has too much damage been done?

We're not done yet :)

Just a quick reply today... 2 thing:

1. Loki, great comment!

2. I think Cardinal George's quote is particularly striking and dead-on accurate. The U.S. thinks it's the be-all end-all of freedoms and liberty, when really, while we have the infrastructure to be a world-changing compassionate country, our leaders, our culture, and the people who succumb like sheep to our culture's, leaders', and advertising agencies' self-serving viewpoints prevents us from being the great country of which we are capable.

Is there any other country in which I'd rather live right now? No. Am I ashamed of how egotistical our government is, and the inescapable harm that comes from such ego-devotion? Yes. Am I ashamed of the contemptible ethics of much of the fundamentalist base? Yes. I can agree with Sam Harris in that fundamentalist religion is, to put it mythologically, the work of the devil.

H.E.: Do I detect some pent up aggression regarding this topic? Is there anything that you do like about Americans? ;)

Loki & Mike: Thanks for the insightful comments. Longer response later....!

"They distrust us because we are deaf and blind, because we too often don't understand and make no effort to understand."

...it also doesn't help when so many media pundits AND people visiting other places openly say, "Why do we need to understand? Who cares? It's not like it means anything to us!" which, although not the opinion of everyone from South of the border says, it is something I've head more than a few times in various circles. (Ann Coulter being a prime offender using comments similar to this... but she ain't alone...)

Thoughts like that combined with the (apparent?) general apathy about the rest of the planet that is so often expressed by some doesn't help the world view of the USA.

Like everybody else in the world I have a love/hate relationship with the States as an Institution and Vehicle for Change in the World.

I am fully aware that I would be speaking Russian today if we didn't live adjacent to the Cold War Victor.

On the other hand I remember that when I was a kid that Black people in the Southern States couldn't share cafeteria space...the In The Almighty Dollar We Trust system of Health Care is beyond inhumane...the rabid bipolar political scene...vapid entertainment values...etcetera.

The hyperbole of blogosphere chat overshadows my deep appreciation for the undisputed fact that without America as an ideal this world would be a dark place.

If only more thought was placed in your Government's plans to bring freedom to the world. I heartily endorse the abolition of the tyranny that exists in the developing world and in the Middle East.

The problem is that America needs to lead by example and make the rest of the world envious and not fearful. What the world sees is a society that is full of violence and ravenous for personal gain. All of the hard work that is done by so many Americans is overshadowed by the Military escapades of the ridiculous inner circle that has hijacked the House, Senate and Oval Office.

Hopefully these mid-term elections will demonstrate to the rest of the world that a much needed political correction is in play.
In the end it always comes down to individuals being either charming or tedious..
and I certainly apologise for being the latter.

it is a form ofjealousy. Remember the near-global "sympathy" we had in the days following 9/11/01?

If that's what it takes to have the world like us, well, I don't want their affection.

I think the world distrusts America for what it represents. By the same token America distrusts every dissenting voice against what it represents.
Pursuit of happiness for America is the bedrock for Market economy(" Greed is good" of the 70's), So American entrepreunerial style is to make profits and get rich. It was for this reason the USA went into overdrive, trying to uproot every move that smacked of red menace in Central and South America. Did America succeed? No. In the very strength lies its own weakness. The cardinal whose quote is the basis for this discussion represents the very evil he cries against. Was not Church in its heyday guilty of heinous crimes in the name of man's soul? It is how each nation and Church has done injustice through ages. America also shall pass like every other.

Thanks for making my point, cube...

it is a form ofjealousy.

Of what? The standard of life and many freedoms in much of the world is actually better than in the USA... so what are "we" jealous of? That my neighbour can't buy an automatic weapon when he gets ticked at my dog? That our social services provide more than $41.00 per month for food for seniors? That my health care is not reliant on the size of my wallet? That my passport is more welcome in the rest of the world than yours?

...I can go on...

Please, do let me know how "we" feel and why? Obviously, we're most confused without you to tell us what we're feeling.

If that's what it takes to have the world like us, well, I don't want their affection.

How about trying to figure out why "we" don't like you to begin with?

If you don't care what TROTW (The Rest of the World) thinks about you, why whine about it's unhapiness with you...

FOR THE RECORD, I'm actually not "anti-American" at all and enjoy visiting and working with my neighbours... (I am Canadian,) but cube did drive home my point... and he ain't alone in it.

I do not want to be American... I do not want to live in America... but I don't need to put them down (sorry for the above, but I did want to make a point) and I do hope that cube is not speaking for the majority... because I'm proudly a Canuck and wouldn't change Canada for all the tea in Boston Harbour!

People tend to hate the top dog obviously.
However Bush has done the USA no favours by his style.
He has blown the goodwill that was there immediately after 9.11

There was recently a world-agreement to ban the spread of weapons (arms sales) by the industrialized countries; the US was the only country to vote against it!

What a beautiful blog, very nice photographs! :)

Alas, the correlation between the End of Faith and the Cardinal's quote about whit is happening is not the result of culture or jeaolosy or money or democracy it all surrounds a single belief.

That belief is: "there is only one right way"

Take any action, opinion, belief, idea or position taken by either the US or the terorrists and you will see this belief at the core of everything.

The President and his group beleive this, which is why they MUST push their culture, God, religion, government, lifestyle etc. on everyone. It's also why they are so afraid of gays, it's not because it's in the bible, it's because they are afraid everyone thinks like they do - which is why there is in their minds a homosexual agenda or a dastardly terrorist plot behind every door.

Just like the cheating spouse, they fear because of what they themselves do.

The same belief and mentality run through militant Islamic groups and governments along with anyone who operated basedon beliefs.

Imagine if everyone believed there were many paths for everything. How much dogmatic fighting would you see then.

This is why Sam Harris puts forth this thesis of shedding allegiances. This is why I am a Modern Humanist. Inflexibility of beleif has disasterous consequences and when you blend that with desire to convert everyone in your path to your way of thinking, that's not democracy, that's The Borg.

Great conversation, everyone! Thanks for participating. This is obviously a hot topic for which there are no shortages of opinion. Everyone has raised great points. In my opinion, Navillus cut to the core of the issue: fear. The actions of all parties involved, including the USA, are all too ofen (if not always) based on fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of what is not understood. It is this fear that causes the need to control and overtake the situations and people which cause your uncertainty.

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