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Movies, Malls and Fast Food

Trivializing America.


by Sal Rosken
January 2, 2003

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Movies, Malls and Fast Food_Sal Rosken-Trivializing America. In "US Gets the Cold Shoulder”, a recent BBC News Online article covering the wave of Anti Americanism sweeping the world, BBC correspondent John Leyne, a frequent observer and critic of America, posits the position that movies and fast food are the essence of the American contribution to world culture.

He writes, "If you want to find out what people love and hate about the United States, don't go to the State Department or the White House but rather go to that great American institution: the shopping mall. The mall is the home of American culture. It is where you will find the shops, the movies, the fast food chains that really are conquering the world. "

The mall is the home of American culture? While one would expect this sort of trivializing assessment from an ill educated, semi literate fanatic, it is discouraging to see it expressed by the BBC. And unfortunately, Mr. Leyne is not alone in holding this opinion of America. Today, most Europeans when asked what they think of when they think of America, after first calling us Power Crazy, for using the military might which has protected Europe and allowed it to prosper, (without having to shoulder most of the expense of it’s own national defense) will mindlessly rattle off Disney World, Hollywood, Levis, and McDonald’s.

So thoroughly has America’s image been tarnished by it’s enemies that the US State Department has hired a Madison Avenue flack named Charlotte Beers to improve America’s image, particularly in the Muslim countries. Ms. Beers’ solution was to produce a series of ill-received TV spots showing American Muslims enjoying the freedoms and fruits of American society. As bad as America’s image is in Europe, it is so positively demonic among the overwhelming majority of Muslims that any attempt to convince them otherwise was doomed from the start. Ms. Beers’ much-heralded TV spots are being derided throughout the Arab world as American war- mongering propaganda.

The conflict between the Islamic world and America is entirely cultural and religious and cannot be corrected except by the eventual capitulation of the forces of Tribalism, Totalitarianism, and Religious Fanaticism to the forces of Modernity, Democracy and Freedom. The antipathy of those who wish to deny Freedom to their fellow countrymen in the name of Religion is to be expected, but what are we to make of the Anti Americanism of the Europeans? How can those who profess to hold the same values and traditions as we, hold us in such low regard, particularly when we are defending and protecting those values and traditions virtually alone. The answer, as the song goes, is R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The Europeans (and from his comments apparently Mr. Leyne) simply do not respect us.

This is a tragedy and a great failure of American Foreign policy, but somewhat understandable as American inventions and innovations have become so commonplace and essential to modern life, and go so far beyond movies, malls and fast food, that people around the world take their existence today for granted, failing to realize the debt they owe America. And shame on us for allowing them to.

If the US State Department wants to improve the image of America let them hire Ms. Beers to produce a series of TV programs on the many truly revolutionary contributions made by America to Western culture and life, not in Arabic, but in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. These programs should show exactly how those enjoying the fruits of Western Culture, Free Enterprise and Democracy received them either directly or indirectly from America.

Here are just a few of the things Mr. Leyne and his European cronies, who believe American culture is nothing more than a trip to the mall, might learn from a series devoted to American contributions to World culture.

After a brief prologue covering Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations, Lend Lease, D Day, the Liberation of Paris, the Marshall Plan, and the American founding and funding of NATO, the TV program would in a series of episodes depict the lives and contributions of American thinkers, inventors, and innovators. The European audience would learn that the computers and the software they use to propagate their Anti Americanism; the electricity they use to power their computers; the electric lights in their homes which allow them to read well into the night; the refrigerators in their kitchens which allow them to keep perishable foods longer; the automobiles in their garages which give them greater freedom of travel; the telephones in their offices which allow them to communicate with almost anyone in the world; the radios in their dens which allow them to listen to music and ideas from around the world; the televisions in their living rooms which allow them to watch entertainment and news as it happens; the heating and air conditioning systems in their homes which keep them comfortable; the construction methods and materials used to build their homes; the stoves, ovens and microwaves in their kitchens which allow them to cook foods easily and efficiently; the machinery used by manufacturers to produce their clothes efficiently and cheaply; the agricultural processes, fertilizers, and farm equipment used by farmers to grow their food abundantly; the medicines, vaccines and medical equipment used by doctors to keep them healthy; the airplanes and flight control systems used by airlines to allow them to fly around the world; the innumerable mass produced goods which provide them with a standard of living which only a century ago was unattainable by all but kings and queens; and virtually every other modern day convenience they use to free themselves from the drudgery of a subsistence level existence were all either invented, or commercially developed by Americans, and equally important - made affordable by American mass production.

Even in the backward Arabian and Muslim world where America is so hated, many of these "American" contributions to the world are now available or becoming available.

The assumption that America is a land of wealth because it is a land of unlimited natural resources and thus the accidental beneficiary of prosperity is comforting to the Europeans, but totally erroneous. From it’s first colonial settlements, through it’s greatest period of Manufacturing to the present Service economy, America needed to import the majority of the natural resources required for it’s manufacturing and energy consumption. America’s truly abundant natural resource has always been and continues to be it’s people who have an undying fervor for Freedom, Democracy, Free Enterprise and the Separation of Church and State. The Europeans were and are the accidental beneficiaries of our prosperity.

America was able to provide Europe and now much of the rest of the world with a much higher standard of living as a direct result of America’s political, cultural, economic and technological infrastructure built and operated by the American people.

This is the true American foreign policy.

To trivialize these contributions by describing them as "movies and fast food" is not just ungrateful, but irresponsible.

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