I’m beginning to look into study abroad options because Washington, D.C., is no place for a government major – when in Rome, study American government. But, with the exciting options, I just can’t decide.
For example, how can I refuse an authentic taste of Italy at an English-speaking villa catering to Georgetown students at Villa le Balze? (“Balze” – that’s Italian. Exotic, isn’t it?) Georgetown won’t let me use all eight semesters to explore the various study abroad opportunities, so I did the next best thing.
I surfed the World Wide Web to get a feel for what it’s like being an American abroad.
I stumbled upon the “Pew Global Attitudes Project”: a collection of worldwide public opinion surveys that assess people’s views of their own lives, the current state of the world and important global issues. I’m sure you’ll be as shocked as I was to learn that not everyone keeps a framed photo of President Bush on his or her mantle; not everyone has “Born in the U.S.A.” as his or her ring tone; not everyone loves Americans.
In a July 2008 article titled, “Where in the World is the Welcome Mat Still Out?” the Pew Research Center recorded worldwide opinion of Americans. The article noted, “The countries that Americans most like to go to are, for the most part, countries that like Americans” (this suggests that some foreign nations actually take kindly to American visitors, which surprises me because most American tourists I run into are extremely obnoxious).
Among examples of these “American-loving countries,” the Pew survey lists Britain (70 percent of those surveyed had a high opinion of Americans), France (64 percent), Japan (65 percent) and Germany (55 percent). I hate to rain on Pew’s parade, but I don’t think 55 percent is a very encouraging statistic. Likewise, I have reason to believe that the percentage should be significantly lower for France – obviously Pew didn’t interact with the same French people I met over there.
But before you get all excited about those statistics, I’ve got some bad news – the Global Attitudes Project reported, “Between 2002 and 2007, the number of people with a favorable view of the United States fell in 26 countries out of the 33 where trend data are available.” For example, there is a scarcity of welcome mats in Mexico, Spain, China -in China’s defense, welcome mats are unneeded because you have to take off your shoes before entering – and Muslim countries.
Our relationship with predominately Muslim countries is more complicated than that. Let’s break down these countries’ general anti-Americanism step by step.
First, where do you hate us? The following list from the 2007 Pew survey refers to the percentage of citizens that hold an unfavorable view of the United States: Indonesia (44 percent), Egypt (69 percent), Jordan (63 percent), Pakistan (80 percent), Palestinian Territories (86 percent) and Turkey (87 percent). Cross those off your study abroad wish list.
Second, why do you hate us? Using information gathered from the 2006 and 2007 Pew surveys, Andrew Kohut and Richard Wike of the National Interest magazine examined the causes for anti-Americanism in the Muslim world. These include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on terror, our perceived ulterior oil motives, our support for Israel and the perception of America as over-powerful and threatening. In short, “they hate us for our freedoms” doesn’t cut it anymore.
Third, how badly do you hate us? This passage says it all: “In a 2005 Pew study, Muslims from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan and Indonesia consistently characterized Americans as greedy, violent, rude and immoral.”
I’m disappointed to see you calling us greedy, Indonesia. Especially after the U.S. government gave you $950 million and the American public and NGOs gave you over $1.8 billion after the 2004 tsunami/earthquake.
Fourth, is there any good news? Though the United States as a country is unpopular in the Muslim world, “the key tenets of democracy and globalization are widely embraced.” Muslims tend to support international trade and capitalism and praise U.S. scientific and technological achievements. Thus, we’re doing some things right in their book (the Quran).
Here is another piece of “good news,” if you want to call it that: Data from Pew suggests that confidence in Osama bin Laden has fallen sharply. From 2003 to 2007, Bin Laden confidence levels have dropped from 56 percent to 20 percent in Jordan, 59 percent to 41 percent in Indonesia, 72 percent to 57 percent in Palestinian Territories, 46 percent to 38 percent in Pakistan and 20 percent to 13 percent in Kuwait. I’ll let you decide if that’s good news.
Fifth, how do we make it up to you? Kohut and Wike end their depressing analysis of the Muslim world on a hopeful note. They write, “Because of the unpopularity of President Bush, a new administration may be given a fresh look by many Muslims in 2009.” Which administration? Pew’s 2008 survey found that, in the Muslim world, “Obama receives more positive reviews than his Republican opponent, but ratings for both candidates are largely negative.”
Only 20 percent of Turks show confidence in Obama (if that sounds bad, compare it to McCain’s 5 percent confidence rating). In short, a large percentage of the Muslim world will continue to dislike us even if our president is Barack Obama – a man who condemns the war in Iraq, promotes compromise with Iran and is even rumored to be a closeted Muslim. What’s it gonna take?
It seems there’s nowhere left to study abroad. I guess I’ll just stay here and enjoy my big, happy American family. But wait, the Party Pew-per strikes again: “Americans also were asked in the 2008 survey for their opinion of Americans. Half have a very favorable view, and 38 percent have a somewhat favorable opinion. But 9 percent of Americans – one in 11 people – say they have only a somewhat or very unfavorable view of the American people.”
It seems they hate us here too. Guess my only other option is home school. Wait, I’m receiving a survey from my parents that they don’t want me there either.
Andrew Dubbins is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at dubbinsthehoya.com. BREAKING NEWS appears every other Tuesday.