Exploring anti-Americanism

This year, the dust in Iraq will settle and the chickens will strut contentedly. This decade, hypothetically, there will be ten occasions where the U.S. is involved in something where they are only 50 per cent in the right. As for those who today are anti-American over Iraq, will they in that decade observe the laws of probability and side with the U.S. Five out of ten times? Or will it be zero out of ten? I believe the anti-American folks would wriggle out of that question of their bias. Oh, they might give “reasons,” symptoms, but the deep cause is something they cannot fathom. They don’t know their own hearts.

I first encountered such a mass of unconsciousness here on campus during the final days of South African apartheid. Most of us, granted, were more curious about Germans embracing the Third Reich than about white South Africans. Nevertheless it was so cool that our Students’ Union invited Ambassador Babb of South Africa to come and speak at the Mac Hall Ballroom. Or was it? During discussions at student clubs leading up to the visit it was agreed by nearly all that having Babb speak presented a terrible grave danger that 1) a white supremacist club might form on campus and 2) individual students might be converted.

This puzzled me. I’m not as popular as some, but I think I mingled enough to judge the level of fascism on campus: no supremacist group would form. I’m not as intellectual as some, but I had done enough meaning-of-life discussions to know that students would not suddenly convert to apartheid. Why didn’t others know that? When our Students’ Union guest from South America arrived he was steadily shouted down for two hours. In those two wasted hours I learned only that nonwhites carry a brown passport. So much for academia.

Those honest idealists who believed in grave dangers were not being dishonest with me but with themselves. It was not months but years later, that a medical student helped me to finally see their secret motivation: they felt angry and helpless with South Africa, and Ambassador Babb made a convenient target for them to do some badly needed venting. Too bad they couldn’t admit this need.

It would probably take me years (hopefully months) to fathom what need is causing the anti-American bias in people. In my quest I’ve already done half the work: I’ve admitted the “need” for bias is there.

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