America-bashing not limited to other countries

May 1, 2006

Excuse me for possibly being a little thin-skinned, but sometimes all this America-bashing really annoys me. When I was a little boy, I was taught to stand every morning and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, to be thankful for all the opportunities this country had given to me and my family, and to understand my civic duties such as voting and helping to care for the less fortunate.

Excuse me for possibly being a little thin-skinned, but sometimes all this America-bashing really annoys me. When I was a little boy, I was taught to stand every morning and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, to be thankful for all the opportunities this country had given to me and my family, and to understand my civic duties such as voting and helping to care for the less fortunate.

Both of my parents were aghast that segregation could exist in the United States. But they both fundamentally believed Americans were well-intentioned, that our democratic system promoted freedom at home and around the world, and that our country with its compulsory education was the land of opportunity.

According to these critics, Americans are replete with faults. Seventy percent call us "greedy." Half (49% to be exact) of the respondents say we are violent. We are categorized as "immoral" and "rude" by 39% and 35%, respectively. Fifty-eight percent claim we are not religious enough. Nearly seven of 10 people (69%) in this country who responded to this scientifically conducted poll say that we are "generally disliked" around the world.

Nobody (who's normal) loves to be criticized. But perhaps it cushions the blow for me a little bit to know that the country whose citizens hold the aforementioned opinions is none other than these United States.

I have spent more than a few minutes wondering what it means that we have so many negative opinions of ourselves. Does this reflect a basic pessimism about our system and our motivations? Or does it reflect that our aspirations to become something that our human failings make so difficult to realize?

Reference

Peter J. McDonnell, MD is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Times. He can be reached at 727 Maumenee Building, 600 North Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21287-9278 Phone: 443/287-1511 Fax: 443/287-1514 E-mail: pmcdonn1@jhmi.edu