It’s hard not to pick up a newspaper without reading a headline that includes the term “Anti-Americanism.” Sadly, I think we see it so often, we hardly even notice it anymore. Maybe it was because I was feeling an extra burst of patriotism coming off the July 4th weekend, but something happened to me yesterday that made me stop and think about this concept and how truly outrageous it really is.
I boarded my weekly flight to Miami yesterday and saw something that was remarkable mainly due to its total lack of remarkableness. After I boarded, a group of about 30-40 people ranging in age from 13 to 60 boarded wearing matching tee shirts. The tee-shirts had the name of the community service trip they were on to Honduras. The reason this is so unremarkable is that I see it just about every week on that flight since Miami is the major hub to Central and South America. Maybe it just struck me a bit more yesterday because my own 15 year old daughter was returning that morning from a 3 week trip to Peru, during which she wielded a pick axe to dig the foundation for a greenhouse for poor Peruvians to grow vegetables. But, this is a scene that plays out every day in airports around the world. American citizens getting on planes to go to faraway countries, some of them fraught with danger and illness, to help our fellow human beings. We are, with nobody in second place, the most charitable country in the world.
This got me thinking more deeply about “anti-Americanism.” In addition to the daily deeds performed by average Americans like the ones I see flying to their community service trips, America has literally saved the world on multiple occasions. If you don’t believe me, Google World War I, World War II, or The Cold War. Better yet, jump on a plane and go visit the American Cemetery in Normandy. I did that for the first time last summer and was literally overwhelmed with emotion for what my fellow countrymen sacrificed more than 50 years ago to save the world from the grip of fascism.
Hey, I have no doubt that George Bush’s Texas swagger turned off some folks in the Eurozone. But, he also spearheaded a war that put the Taliban on its heels and ousted one of the world’s most dangerous dictators. I also have no doubt that President Obama’s Three Blind Mice approach to foreign policy is off-putting to many around the world, but even he managed to capture and kill the world’s most dangerous terrorist. So, forgive me if I institute a zero tolerance policy on anti-Americanism.
In my firm, we have a metric we call the arrogance to accomplishment ratio. I think the same concept can be applied to countries. The idea is to have that ratio be as low as possible. Mathematically, there are two ways to do that. You can lower the numerator or raise the denominator. Or both. Perhaps America hasn’t done as much to lower the numerator as we might. So what. Our denominator around the world is so high it doesn’t matter. To the extent we’re a bit arrogant, it’s because we’ve earned it. No other country has done as much to help the rest of the world as America has in the past and does every day now. I see it every Monday as those community service groups head to South America. Foreign aid from public and private sources runs about $50-100 billion (with a B) per year. So, to my friends inside and outside America who may find themselves feeling some anti-Americanism: STFU.