Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What it takes to become anti-American - not much.

Over the week-end, I got a chance to talk to an old acquaintance of mine I have known for years. He's a very nice fellow, very gentle and fun-loving. He's been to the US a few times and has met some great American people (including the American co-writer of this blog!)
He is a regular French guy, now married to a Muslim Lebanese. For some reason - obviously due to the traumatic history of her country, she is very anti-Israeli as well as anti-American and, it turns out, my friend has also espoused her radical views. He now has a virtually hateful rhetoric about the US and Israel, to the point that it becomes impossible to even bring any reason or sense into the conversation. It just blows my mind that someone can change so much, without having even experienced any particular trauma first hand.
I ended up asking him how he would feel if, say, people in Ivory Coast or Rwanda were against against him solely on the reason that he is French. I asked him how much he knew and how responsible he felt about the actions of his government in Africa. He answered he had not voted for Chirac - to which I said it didn't matter since he wasn't doing anything to change the situation anyway.
He basically acknowledged that it would be unfair to judge him as individual for the action of his goverment whose policies in Africa he wasn't asked about and even knew about. My point had been made.
J2T has already commented on the question of collective vs. personal responsibility and I think this is a good case in point. To be fair, the views expressed by this friend are not representative and certainly more extreme than most people in Europe or France. I would even venture to say that most people here are NOT anti-American and can still see the difference betwen people and their government. But I think his views are a good illustration of how many people probably feel in the Middle-East and the lastest news concerning Israel and the Palestinians will certanly not help.


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