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Jewish World Review June 28, 2000 / 25 Sivan, 5760

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg
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America bashing becomes international pastime -- PATRICK STEWART, the British actor who achieved international fame as the French captain of the USS Enterprise in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," says that "A lot of America's global actions stink." He finds it "laughable that the U.S. considers itself the land of opportunity" and asks "How can you be truly free when there is so much poverty and poor education?"

That's a funny question since it was America, after all, that made both Stewart and his son, an actor on "3rd Rock from the Sun," stinking rich. But Stewart is simply practicing the America bashing that has become fashionable all around the world.

Rarely does a week go by that an anti-American protest doesn't sprout up somewhere around the globe. Just this week protestors made ruckuses in South Korea and Haiti. Next week, it could be Mexico City or Beijing. And nowhere in the world does America bashing have more elite respectability than France, where some of the most popular books have titles like "Who Is Killing France? The American Strategy," "American Totalitarianism" and the best-seller "No Thanks, Uncle Sam," written by a member of the French Parliament, who concludes, "It is appropriate to be downright anti-American."

Many nations complain that America is an empire. Shockingly, this criticism comes mostly from two places: nations that used to be colonial powers and nations that used to be colonies.

But America, with a few complicated exceptions, never had any colonies. The one place that could claim to be a colony, Puerto Rico, has been offered several chances to vote for either independence or statehood. Puerto Rico likes being a colony.

As for the rest of the world, we walked away from it after World War II. Perhaps what bothers so many former empires like France, Belgium or Britain is that we never wanted what they killed millions to keep. Nevertheless, critical nations claim that America is a different, more pernicious kind of empire - a cultural and economic bully. The United States is dedicated to "the organized cretinization of our people" remarked Jean-Pierre Chevenement, a former French interior minister.

In this age when we are not supposed to be overly smug, let me be overly smug. Most of this anti-Americanism is based quite simply on snobbish jealousy of the success of American popular culture around the globe.

What bothers European pointy heads is not so much that Americans make crappy films, books and food, but that average Europeans love our films, books and food. Half the spots on the French best-seller list are taken by translations of American books. American films repeatedly dominate the top-10 box-office hits throughout Europe and the world.

McDonald's alone is a state-sanctioned pinata for left and right wing radicals throughout Europe. In the past six months, at various World Trade Organization and World Bank meetings, English, French and Swiss protestors looted franchises in their respective homelands. French President Chirac recently declared, "I am in complete solidarity with France's farm-workers, and I detest McDonald's." Jose Bove, a radical folk hero in France, received a paltry 20 days after he demolished a franchise. And yet, McDonald's has enough French customers to keep 800 stores open and 45,000 beef producers in business.

All nations will have things to disagree about. But America is easily the least-bullying, the least-imposing superpower in the history of the world. We do not force anything on anybody. If elitists around the globe cannot accept the fact that we earn our success and popularity, that's not our fault.

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