Imbalanced compliments and criticisms: Attempts to separate Americans from their government


I’m normally tolerant of negative opinions on my country. I don’t like that they exist (I believe most people have some nationalistic sentiment toward their nation, hoping or believing it will be favorably perceived by much of the rest of this globe’s inhabitants), but, knowing the line between justified pride and unwarranted arrogance can be very thin, I don’t wish to engage in defenses of my nation where I might exaggerate its good deeds and downplay its bad ones, and make my self look embarrassingly foolish. But I do wonder if the negative views of foreign nations are more often than not fair within the relevant contexts of the issues that gave birth to their complaints about us. But my knowledge of history is minor, so a ready answer from myself does not exist, and what I do know and could learn might further embarrass me still, or force me into a debate over the quality of evidence.

But what actually bothers me more than the disapproval and animosity, is what I consider to be two major affronts to intellectual honestly, and thus respectful criticism.

First, The United States is a constitutional republic: A government comprised of public representatives, all of whom are constrained by, albeit amendable, constitutions, state and federal. Although not loyal to the literal definition of the term, it is what many people have come to accept as a form of “democracy.”

Understanding that, the attempt to establish a distinction between the people of America and its government, so as to give some absolution to the former, is a peculiar but often not strongly believed tactic of America’s critics. Obviously, that’s done so the people of America will not feel themselves attacked by the accusations made against their government. But that claimed understanding can also come off as being disingenuous and condescending: are our critics seriously trying to assure us they don’t believe there is great indifference, apathy, laziness, etc., among Americans by and large, and that we aren’t accountable for what our government does. Do they believe us to be hapless pawns?

The second offense is the half compliment.

While sincerity isn’t always easy to ascertain, sweet words that apply broadly and have little or nothing to do with the history, including any positive actions by America’s government, of our nation, don’t come across as complimentary of Americans as we are, but instead of any nation’s people who are of a friendly manner. Also, it doesn’t show balanced judgment to proclaim America’s hills, valleys and forests are lovely and idyllic after having subjected our nation to myriad condemnations; even with a praise of our character, it’s not equitable.

If the intent is to not come across as anti American people, talking well of what we’ve done as a nation, not just our hospitable nature and our land’s topography , goes a long way toward validating that intent. Otherwise, it would show more respect on our critic’s part to not bother, and just solely condemn us.

To me, it’s analogous to insulting a person’s parents while telling him he has a lovely garden and well mannered kids.


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