The poet Robert Burns, watching a louse crawl around a rich woman's head, was inspired to write a poem that contains a line to the effect that we need to see ourselves as others see us.
I just read a blog by an Arab woman, obviously educated, that is livid with hatred for us for the destruction of Iraq. She dismisses the excuse of those who say they didn't vote for the present administration.
What follows is a summary. She says: "My problem is you. Your character, your behavior, your haughtiness, arrogance, false pride, denial, collective stupidity and ignorance, your way of life, which I find boring, distasteful and empty. You are ogres of consumerism, greedy, covetous, gluttonous, voracious, jealous, envious. You are nothing, and your nihilism contaminates everything else. You destroy and self-destruct."
She closes by saying: "Iraq is going down with its past and its future. I can only promise you one thing. However long it may take, we are going to take you down with us."
We Americans are very good at dismissing critics and criticism. We have such a high opinion of ourselves, we simply can't believe that normal people can dislike us, much less hate us. We can destroy whole countries, kill millions of people and then na´vely expect that the survivors will welcome us as friends.
The old saying that one reaps what one sows is just an accurate observation of the way human history plays out. We have sown and we are continuing to sow a lot of hatred for ourselves.
War is the most horrible thing one group of people can inflict on another. War destroys lives, homes, families, economies, cultures and the future. It kills and maims and impoverishes. The fallout from war is hatred, and like radioactivity its poison can linger for generations.
The victorious always think their victory will last forever, but the truth is that all victories are temporary. I would not take the lady's vow of vengeance lightly. She has an ally in that very collective stupidity and ignorance she criticizes.
Anyone who looks at the present leadership, both those in office and those aspiring to office, and feels good about the future is a heck of a lot more optimistic than I am. Corruption, both monetary and intellectual, is so deep and entrenched in our society that it will take a miracle for us to survive it.
Surveying the world, I see very few countries where the people have any reason whatsoever for liking us. They may be powerless at the moment to express their hatred, but power, like victory, is also ephemeral.
"Be careful who you step on, on the way up, because you're going to meet the same people on the way down." A character actor and semigangster said that in the 1930s.
One of our faults is that we have been conditioned by television and short political cycles to think in the short term. The truth is we have been players on the stage of history only for an instant. We have won the sprint, but the story of mankind is a marathon.
Should you ever visit Palestine, some Palestinian will almost surely point to the ruins left by the Romans and the Crusaders and say: "Where are they now? It took 200 years to get rid of the Crusaders, but they are gone and we are still here."
Ask yourself if you would fly to Iraq and, unarmed and unescorted, take a walk through Baghdad proudly displaying an American flag on your lapel. Hatred has a twin brother, and it's fear. We should stop harming other people so we can live without hatred or fear.
October 2, 2007
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2007 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.