Monday, January 26, 2009

Foreign and Domestic Policy

Being a Pakameristanican can be a frustrating experience sometimes. Two animals jumping about in one skin, and even more confusing, two brains trying to co-exist in one head. The whole half-partridge, half-quail thing again.

Take discussions of politics. When I think about or talk about Barack Obama, my heart leaps up at the sheer "American Dream"iness of his rhetoric, and I am naively idealistic enough to hope that he can actually make real change domestically. But then I look at the drone attacks in Waziristan, and my stomach starts to turn. And holding both of those views simultaneously is exhausting enough. But trying to discuss American politics, or America, with anyone who can't at least see the possibility of both views is simply paralyzing.

My brain gets short circuited when I am told that Uncle Sam isn't much better than the Soviet or Chinese governments. For one, while I have always seen the world in shades of gray, there are definitely lighter grays and darker ones. And the difference is significant. So I find the comparison to be unjust, in terms of degree. But also, I see the difference in ideals as quite significant. And people in Pakistan are wont to view American ideals as mere rhetoric and hypocrisy. Which I know not to be true. American governments lie to their public, by omission, and by deliberate distortion of the truth. What the American people are actually guilty of is not caring enough to figure out when their government is lying to them about things that don't appear to affect them directly.

I am similarly dumbfounded when people talk about Pakistan as if it's turning into a hotbed of fundamentalism. The oversimplification in that is simply mindboggling. Of course, the fact that I am currently living in Pakistan means I have to put up with less of this sort of incomprehension and mindlessness than the anti-American kind.

How do you explain America to someone who has never been to the US and who has only experienced the US in terms of its foreign policy? So these are people who are by no means ignorant, who know more about more parts of the world than most educated Americans I have come across, and who hold America and Americans (as a group, not necessarily as individuals) in contempt because of their view of the US as imperialist.

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