From 2002 to 2008, Americans traveling overseas suffered the ignominy of Bush administration policies. While right wing apologists would never understand or condone it, we Americans who considered President Bush to be an embarrassment to our nation felt the need to apologize for and distance ourselves from our government whenever we traveled abroad. For just a short window after the election of Barack Obama, we once again felt the embrace of the world. America had regained respect and acceptance in global business, cultural centers and social engagements. Today that respect is vanishing as the far right wing of American politics is once again defining our global image. At the center of this shift is the American media that continue to focus on debate rather than performance, and on political confrontation rather than on substance. Consistently, our media fail to fully validate the qualifications and agenda of those they put forth as opinion leaders. They fail to explore the financial motivations of consultants, research sources, and others who pose as experts. They exploit discontent and destruction and allow images of America that do not reflect the majority of its people or its politicians to be disseminated internationally.
Granted, Italy's Sylvio Berlusconi is far from a role model and consistently is a source of international humiliation for many Italians. The government of England's Gordon Brown is likely to be toppled in the next Parliamentary election. And Russia's leaders are far from above reproach. But the issue is not the leadership. It is the press and its presentation of America and Americans. No major world power engenders such bewilderment for the actions of its population as does the United States. Even Iran, for all the bluster and secular radicalism of its government, has gained respect globally for the actions of its people in speaking out against tyranny. A primary reason is that the press itself has not controlled the message. The people have, through Twitter and online communications.
In my recent international trips, it has become apparent that the United States is once again being defined by the agenda of the far right. Unlike the Bush years, when we were defined by our military policies, we are now being defined by the vitriolic hated toward President Obama that is perceived to be at the core of the health care debate.
On my recent trip to Europe, a friend commented, "The United States seems to constantly shoot itself in the foot. Just when international opinions toward you are improving, you seem to find ways to shoot yourself." She compared the election of President Obama to 9/11 in the context of two events that coalesced world opinion in support of America. And she compared the bitter health care debate and the non-stop well-reported attacks on our President from the right wing to President Bush's invasion of Iraq, in terms of the impact both have had on turning opinions against our country. Laughingly, she drew the image of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
King Arthur: [after Arthur's cut off both of the Black Knight's arms] Look, you stupid Bastard. You've got no arms left.
Black Knight: Yes I have.
King Arthur: *Look*!
Black Knight: It's just a flesh wound.
As the right wing of American politics self-destructs, it fights on absurdly. It continues to believe it is in the right and will continue to destroy our nation no matter what the cost.
An ex-pat friend in London asked me this week why Americans seem so polarized, more so than when she moved to England from New York at the height of the Vietnamese war. The only answer that makes sense is "money" and greed. For more than a decade America has experienced the greatest transfer of wealth ever from the middle class to a tiny fragment of the super wealthy. The forces of corporate wealth are so desperate to retain their control that they exploit the passions of Americans toward abortion, illegal immigrants, death panels, Acorn and any other handy social issue they can muster up. They misrepresent the truth, foster paranoia, and redirect attention from moral and ethical righteousness to selfish and outlandish protests. And behind them stands the press – not just Fox News and the right wing apologists. A press that fails to investigate, fails to seek the truth, fails to serve the people. It is a press that seeks profit rather than truth, justice and the American way. There are many members of the press who are doing their best, but the winds of economic reality are in their faces, not at their backs.
Jackson Merritt has been writing about culture and counter-culture for nearly four decades. Jackson has been an outspoken advocate in Washington for increased media commitment to children's educational programming and for an improved media content ratings system. Jackson can be contacted at email@example.com
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