More on why Europeans hate us
By Prentiss DavisHelen and I have been hanging out in Europe, trying to find out if the Europeans hate us as much as John Kerry says they do. The natives were almost universally friendly, even after learning that we strongly supported President Bush. We learned that most Europeans harbor serious misconceptions about America, and many view our country similarly to the way a Michael Moore or George Soros does.I suspect much of the problem is the news media – theirs and ours.Working in China, I spend a lot of time watching CNN International, so much that I regularly want to smash my TV. The bias is shocking, and often portrays a distorted view of most issues and events.I was in China during the 60th anniversary of the Normandy invasion and President Reagan’s funeral. During his funeral, CNN viewers were repeatedly reminded of the Iran/Contra scandal. We were told that the Reagan administration ran huge deficits (apparently with no help from a Democrat controlled Congress). Reagan generally was portrayed as a likeable, if incompetent, figure who acted his way through the eight years of his presidency. It was also suggested that Reagan may have been responsible for the AIDS epidemic.Watching the Normandy coverage, one would get the impression that the British and Canadians landed in Normandy with help from the Free French and that the Americans were hardly involved. During the Normandy coverage, a German diplomat tried to say some complementary things about the United States. He was interrupted by the CNN interviewer, who reminded him about “all the bad foreign policy coming from the Bush administration.”I had dinner with a documentary film maker in Reykjavik and I mentioned my displeasure with CNN. She was surprised and reminded me that “CNN was America’s news service and that CNN voiced our government’s view of events.” I assured her that this was not the case, but the fact is many millions of people around the world view CNN as a quasi-official U.S. government news agency. Is it any wonder foreigners have a distorted view of America?I have a number of friends who work in Western Europe and speak the local languages. They tell me that the news outlets in these countries often present a shockingly distorted version of events in America and are generally anti-American. They also insist that this was just as true when Clinton was president as it is with Bush.In England we watched a lot of BBC, plus the usual local news. Much of it indistinguishable from a “Saturday Night Live” skit. But BBC particularly had a strong anti-American slant to much of its coverage.So let me share some of what I learned in Europe. Someone mentioned that our economy was doing very poorly. I replied that was nonsense; all our indicators were up, we were enjoying strong growth and low unemployment. (In much of Europe, the official unemployment rate is around 15 percent and growth has been nonexistent for years.) My European friend replied that, “Yes, unemployment is much higher in Europe, but unlike in America, the governments take care of the unemployed.”I reminded them that our gross domestic income per person was around $38,000, while in France and Germany it was around $27,000.”Yes,” I was told, “But in America most of the wealth is in the hands of the very few.” It got worse.”You have 285 million people in the United States, and 200 million are below the poverty level. They can’t afford health care or an education for their children.” I was shocked.”Do you believe that there are people in America dying because they can’t get any medical care?” I asked. “Do you think poor kids in America don’t go to school?””Yes.”I tried to explain that medical care is available to everyone in America, including illegal aliens, even if we don’t have a national health care system like they do. I also pointed out that in the United States the various governments spend more money per pupil on public education than they do in countries like England, France and Germany. I don’t think they were buying it. What’s my word verses a daily dose of evil America stories from the TV and newspapers?It’s my opinion that many Europeans view news stories similar to what we see, but can’t know that much of the bad news seen on TV is simply overblown nonsense. Many Europeans feel that America is a violent, dangerous place where a handful has all the wealth and most people live in poverty without healthcare or education – a far cry from when our streets were paved with gold. It’s interesting to note that although America is awash with immigrants – both legal and illegal – most come from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, or Eastern Europe, few from Western Europe.Europeans repeatedly refer to our lack of a national health care system, oblivious to the fact that Americans get the best health care in the world and ignoring that Europeans regularly travel to America for specialized medical treatments. When was the last time you heard of an American going to Europe for medical treatment?Oh, and they think we’re mostly too fat. Well, they may have something there.Prentiss Davis is a Truckee resident.
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