Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Aussie Readers Weigh In On America

I was fortunate enough to be mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald last week and I used that opportunity to write a piece called When Australians Don't Like Us, We've Got Problems. In that column, I cited evidence of what I perceive as an unusual level of anti-American sentiment Down Under, lamented what a bad sign that is given how friendly the Australian people have always been to America and, at the end, asked Aussies visiting the blog to write me with their thoughts.

And write they did. I've received over 100 e-mails from Australians in the last week and would like to simply quote the best of them and let them speak for themselves.

Most of the e-mails came from Australians who have nothing against Americans – in most cases, they say they just flat-out like us – but almost without fail, they have some real problems with the government of George W. Bush. To those who would say that people writing to me would by definition be expressing anti-Bush sentiments, I say fair enough – to some extent. While these are smart folks who obviously knew they were writing to a liberal American, they first came across my blog because it had a link in a major, mainstream Australian newspaper.

But this is obviously not a scientific opinion survey so read on, and take it as you will...

Luke Ryland -- Tasmania
"You asked about how Aussies feel about the situation there - basically the Blue Aussies are in solidarity with Blue Americans, and we share your contempt for the government and Red Voters - perhaps captured best by sorryeverybody.com.... Unfortunately, I won't be visiting [America] till there is regime change - particularly now with the spying situation."
Peter Kemp - Armidale, New South Wales
"The majority of this nation opposed going into Iraq in 2003 but unfortunately with John Howard as Prime Minister, we have a person whose servility to the Bush administration knows no bounds. He simply loves those rare photo-ops with your President (presumably not shown on your national TV due to the usual 30 second grab mentality of those dinosaurs) but many of us on the left or who are in your parlance 'liberal' , view his 'in bed together' foreign policy with the U.S. as being over-emphasized to the exclusion of multilateral approaches so necessary to solve difficult international issues.

"Many of us are deeply suspicious of U.S. foreign policy and particularly disdainful of the "Bushovics.'' I personally believe they stole the last two elections in the U.S. and represent not only a danger to the rest of the world with their abysmal ignorance and arrogance, particularly this illegal immoral war in Iraq, but they are also a danger to American democracy itself. I keep reminding the Republican supporters here that the Bushovics have a sad and sorry record for deception, disingenuousness, outright lies, distortions and criminality. Many here, including academics and the educated elite who are informed, can't wait for your Senate to impeach him.

"It is a consequence of the Bushovics that anti-Americanism here is probably at an all time high."
Maggie Churchward -- Devonport, Tasmania
"Sadly, there is a great deal of anti-U.S. sentiment here and unfortunately, some ‘rock apes’ display their anger toward U.S. tourists. Not often, but it happens. However, most Australian know only what the mainstream media tell them about what is happening over there so don’t have a full picture.

"I recently sent an e-mail attachment to a friend in the states. He works at a very well known university. My attachment said some very scathing things about the U.S. government. After reading about the wiretaps, I e-mailed him and told him to delete it because I had sent it in error!! How paranoid is that?!!"
Sammy Ringer – Maleny, Queensland
"Over the last 5 or so years, I have watched in dismay as a country whose people I love moves closer and closer to something that's really frightening and I run out of excuses for their behaviour. Radio and TV hosts who actively call for the death of anyone who disagrees with them (or is of Middle Eastern origin) - hey they even seem to think it's OK to suggest whole cities should be nuked!

"A president who uses concocted threats to take the U.S. to war. Uses same threats to justify torture, spying on U.S. citizens, detaining US citizens without charge, muzzling the press... whoa, this is getting way too depressing to continue. And though I am saddened by what's happened to the 'world's greatest democracy' I am double saddened by the fact that 'Sheriff [John] Howard' has been able to follow in his mate' s footsteps."
Alan Jones - Sydney, New South Wales
"I don't like to think of the U.S. as one country anymore. Like the Roman empire before it fell, the U.S. is now really at least two separate nations, geographically adjacent but culturally, economically and politically light years apart. I'm speaking of course of the Red States and the Blue States, which couldn't be more different if there were an Atlantic Ocean in between them.

"I'm headed to California on business this coming January, and I know while I'm there that I see eye-to-eye with most university-educated Californians on almost any issue you can name from birth control to Kyoto Protocol or foreign policy. We eat the same, look the same, consume the same media and entertainment, want the same things for our kids, and increasingly speak the same language. Sooner or later us enlightened citizens should use the internet to cobble-together some kind of virtual city state that we can all belong to."
Paul W. – Newcastle, New South Wales
"It's just the constant disgraceful actions of the U.S. President and his cronies that gets me and many other Australians so down.... I try hard to keep the American Government and it's actions separate from its citizens. But after Bush was voted in with an increased majority in 2004, particularly after the controversy of 2000, and the goings on with such depressing regularity, I must admit I am finding it increasingly difficult.

"Although I can't speak for any other Aussies, the general perception amongst the people that I associate with is that there is a real feeling of anger at the way the U.S. government is so hypocritical in its actions... I do feel this 'with us or against us' attitude is starting to divide the community. Ultimatums don't sit well with many Australians. We don't need to be anyone's 'Deputy Sheriff' in the region (the arrogance of that statement alone) and we certainly don't need to be dragged into a fight that has little to do with us, especially when the fight is based on evidence as dodgy and flimsy as Aluminum tubes and WMD's that everyone knew weren't there.

"The Democrats need a boot up the arse and the American people need to take their country back."
Nick Gadd -- Melbourne
"America's foreign policy (and no doubt domestic policy too - but I'm not qualified to speak on that) has made the world a more dangerous place, is hypocritical and driven by dangerous ignorant ideology. But at the same time, this is only happening because power in your country has been seized by a group of ruthless ideologues who are capitalising on the ignorance of the majority to advance their own interests.

"The current incarnation of 'America' is not the whole 'America.' It is quite plain that a vast number of Americans are in no way to blame for the actions of Bush and co. I'm sure lots of you are madder about it than we are, right? So it is entirely possible that at some time in the future America will once again take a position of positive leadership in the world."
"R" from Sydney
"George W. Bush is not America (thank god) and Aussies are smart enough to know that not all Americans voted for this awful man, so disdain for Bush doesn't necessarily translate into disdain for America or Americans.

"I sat and watched as 'Shock and Awe' beamed into my living room. Over the coming days I watched on American cable as America, a country I had always admired, waged a war of aggression on the third world nation with a fourth rate military. Worse, I watched and listened as (mostly) American anchors and reporters called the war like a football game, detailing every sophisticated weapon and it's capability with never a mention that at the end of them all lay untold death and destruction, innocents among them.

"And I wondered to myself: what happened to America? So did lots of others."
Anonymous - Via yahoo.com.au
"To be brutally honest, George W is probably the most hated man in Australia -- just in front of our own prime minister (who is making a late charge with his new IR reforms). It came as a massive surprise and disappointment when George won his second term, as it seems blatantly obvious that he is a complete moron."
Roy R. - Adelaide, South Australia
"I have mostly liked Americans (Yanks) when I have met them. Many of those I met were open and had a sense of humour. Those I did not like were the brash types. People that had little knowledge of anything outside the USA and told enormous porky pies, a bit like our mate George W.

"Australians generally get pissed off when people are not honest and open. Hidden agendas make us very wary. So you can discount our politicians for a start. I think many of us now know that we should have thought a little harder before charging after cousin George into Iraq, or any other war for that matter. But now we are there we will have to stick by you and see it out the best we can.

"But I have been lucky, I have met some damn fine Yanks."
Note: "Porky pie" is Aussie slang for a lie. In honor of my new friends, I will, for the remainder of 2005, refer to the White House Press Secretary as Scott "Porky Pie" McClellan.

Some Aussies were a bit more charitable, view Americans as favorably as ever and, in at least one case, overtly supported Bush.

Katrina Maguire -- Lives on a farm in Northeast Victoria
"Whatever anti-American sentiment is being referred to I haven't seen it. The left and its academics in Australia are anti-American, always have been and always will be. But I wouldn't worry about that – the left is anti-Australian too!

"I'm not anti-American. I love Americans but I do detest the Americanisation of Australia, not because I don't like American culture but because I love Australian culture and I don't want to lose it. That's about the extent of anti-American sentiment among ordinary Aussies, too, and I wouldn't even call it anti-American. So, don't worry about anti-American sentiment. Your friend John gained a mistaken impression."
Brian Baldo -- Lindfield, New South Wales
"Yes, we have our own 'left liberal intelligentsia' and those who advertise their moral superiority -- anti-Howard, anti- Bush, anti-Iraq war, anti-US, but I suspect they are not quite as vicious and destructive as so many US Democrat politicians, supporters, and activists. The Sydney Morning Herald (where I saw reference to your blog), was a once a great newspaper but now caters pretty well exclusively for the inner city elites and, I suspect, the sort of chattering class audience that you attract."

"The Sidney Morning Herald is marginally worse than the New York Times and constantly reflects its hatred of Bush and all the negative news it can muster about progress in Iraq -- you know the sort of thing e.g., there will be a new quagmire along soon, two new schools opened today but instead report the car bomb and so on. ABC radio and TV add greatly to leftist bias and anti-US sentiments in Australia despite its charter to cover stories and issues in a balanced way. As in the US, the media is overrun with left liberal commentators who don't seem to realise, or admit, that a thing can be true even if Bush says it is true.

"Despite this, Howard, probably Bush's greatest stalwart, has the majority of Australians behind him and, when the crunch comes, they trust him with their welfare and they believe strongly in the US alliance. Many of us admire Bush and Howard and believe in their efforts to not sit meekly at home behind closed borders and wait for the Islamofascists to strike and watch the democracy-free Arab world continue to fester and decline."
Hey, we're "chattering class." As Mohammed Ali once said "I don't know what that means, but if it's good, I'm it."

And we're going to end this on a somewhat light note with Owen Jones, of Port Macquarie, NSW who wins the award for shortest response and, because of his general irreverence, the guy I'd want to visit my first Aussie pub with. Says Owen:

"It seems like there’s a whole lot of hate here at the moment. Don’t think that Americans are anything special. We’re even hating ourselves at the moment. Why heck, I feel like beating the shit out of myself right now."