January 3, 2005
America's detractors: biting the hand...By Bob Weir
Weir thinking about it
For some people, and some countries, the US can do no right. In the wake of the tsunami and earthquakes in South Asia, critics wasted no time in referring to US aid as "stingy" and "delayed." Even though the US began with an initial aid package of about $35 million, while still trying to assess the need and organize for a much greater commitment, the UN Undersecretary—General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland suggested that the United States and other Western nations were being "stingy" with relief funds, saying there would be more available if taxes were raised.
"It is beyond me why we are so stingy, the Norwegian—born UN official told reporters. Accusing westerners of enjoying burgeoning economies, he said politicians in the United States and Europe "believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It's not true. They want to give more."
Countering the verbal brickbats on "Meet The Press," Secretary of State, Colin Powell said:
"It's been seven days and in seven days, we have launched a carrier battle group. We have launched an amphibious battle group. We have contributed $350 million. We have assessment teams all over. We have energized the private sector. We have put together a core group that has assisted these nations. The nations involved are very pleased...."
Referring to US critics as "Rolodex rangers," because they always seem to come from the same anti—America list, Powell reminded them that America has a well—earned reputation as the most generous nation on earth.
"It's testimony to the superior marketing and business acumen of American companies. We punch 200 percent of our business weight,"
says John Quelch, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied and written about global brands. The success of companies like Coca—Cola, McDonald's and Apple have created wealth and jobs, not only in the United States, but overseas as well. But American brands also generate resentment, copycats and fierce competition.
"Most astute people around the world realize that America is very vulnerable. Its economy is held together by the ability to attract investment and capital. The whole of the American system, which has been a glowing success story, could come to an end very quickly,"
says Kalle Lasn, editor in chief of Adbusters, a counterculture magazine that encouraged boycotts against American brands after the U.S.—led invasion of Iraq.
"It is time for the backlash, time for the American economy to get its comeuppance,"
says Mr. Lasn, a native Estonian who now lives in Canada. Yet most experts agree that the US is the locomotive for global growth. If we were not providing that stimulus, it's very likely that the rest of the world economy would slip back into recession. All of which poses the question: If not for wealthy countries like the US, who would there be to aid disaster victims?
"On Armenian television, a young man wearing a Charles Barkley basketball jersey and a stocking cap raps about society's injustices in fluent Armenian. Hollywood blockbusters dominate theater marquees from Brussels to Beijing to Buenos Aires. Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are among the most recognized people on the planet."
Another study revealed that America has more churches, synagogues, temples and mosques per capita than any other country on earth. That amounts to about one house of religion for every 865 people. In addition, more than four in five Americans tell pollsters that they believe in God, and more than 40 percent of American Christians say they attend a religious service at least once a week. By contrast, weekly religious attendance hovers at about 15 percent in Italy and 5 percent in France. Only 21 percent of Europeans rate religion as "very important" in their lives.
Could it be that such adherence to faith makes private philanthropy in America one of the most powerful and effective aid programs on earth? American private charities are set to spend more than $200 billion this year, and more than half of US adults will work on volunteer projects, putting in an estimated 20 billion hours in donated time. There may not be any discernible link between economic success and religious faith, but it sure seems to work for America.
Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City policy department. He is the editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. BobWeir777@aol.com