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Why the World Likes Kicking the U.S. Puppy

Commentary | VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES

January 22, 2005|Susan Campbell | Susan Campbell is a freelance writer from Los Angeles.

The character of the American people resembles that of a friendly chocolate Labrador retriever puppy, eagerly approaching acquaintances and strangers alike, giving from the heart with glee. But the rest of the world seems to hate Americans because they perceive us as being not so warm and cuddly.

Lately, we've been in the doghouse.

Americans didn't have to be shamed into contributing generously to relief efforts in Asia, but are we required to give until it hurts to prove our charitable character?

The American people step up when help is needed, but must we always provide a banquet? Our economy is already being bankrupted by the U.S. government's misuse of funds in a senseless war. So we can't afford an open-wallet policy -- even if the world's opinion of us sinks further.

Our charitable character makes us vulnerable. We have too much trust and remain optimistic, generous and good- natured -- despite the widespread criticism we have received.

After disastrous events fade from view, we quickly get amnesia. Our citizens return to business as usual in a short time, because we are resilient survivors.

Presumably, the rest of the world feels contempt for the perceived short attention span of the American public. It might suspect that we're suffering from a collective attention deficit disorder. The truth is, we're just always looking for the next big thing. Americans continue to move forward, but that's not a character defect.

We give away the whole enchilada to any foreigner who immigrates to the U.S. in search of our fabled American dream. But the members of the global community probably despise us because they think we're greedy workaholics who are prone to neglecting hearth and home to pursue the almighty greenback, while they put family first.

The citizens of the world likely conclude that we are a nation of conspicuous consumers who can never acquire enough material possessions, even as numerous displaced casualties overseas are scrambling to survive another day.

The Asian disaster hasn't humbled Americans into adopting a more modest lifestyle. We're spoiled by all the creature comforts, while tsunami victims are struggling to sustain their lives.

Americans may soul-search to discover why we can't seem to win in the world's opinion, but the bottom line remains: Although our detractors might resent us, many of them yearn to live in our country. While we're sipping the heady wine of a prosperous and progressive society, those in other nations often keep sucking on sour grapes. Their envy should not be our problem.

The American character has apparently endured a universally generated bad-publicity campaign. But we should hold our heads aloft, not hang them in shame.

We lavish love like a Labrador puppy and open our wallets when any region requires assistance. The charitable character of the American people is like the pick of the litter. We enjoy playing, but we will bite when provoked. That's what keeps our nation strong.

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