Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Why do some people get a pass for rudeness?

Seraphim at Minor Clergy tells a story that captures the self-righteous disdain that certain people here and elsewhere express toward the United States:
In Greece in December of 2003, I ran into a large number of pious Orthodox Christians who held a position which startled me. In a way similar to that of many fundamentalists in this country who like to assign eschatological roles to modern day nations, depending on how the world is ending at that particular moment, I met more than a few Greeks who argued that the United States was the anti-Christ. I do not subscribe to that viewpoint -- generally I hold to the notion that God tends to be neutral toward nations, and discourage hubris in thinking about, for example, the US as God's chosen nation. Still, these were devout Orthodox Christians, who were perfectly loving and welcoming to me personally, but sincerely held to this notion. The United States, they declared, was an international bully. It seeks only oil. It was not that they necessarily trusted Arabs themselves, but as one person put it, "We know how to deal with Arabs. We have been dealing with them for over a thousand years."

. . . .

The point of the anecdotes is that our brethren elsewhere see our wars in a very different light than we sometimes do. I think it is important that we explore the issue from their perspective, informed by two millenia of worship and history.Why are we right, and others wrong? Are we more Orthodox? Are we more theologically sophisticated? Or, a painful thought, are we simply unable to substitute the eyes of Christ for the eyes of American society?
Suppose instead of a thoughtful, compassionate, humble person visiting Greece, it was a Greek visiting America. Suppose some pious, sincere Americans said to this Greek, "It's nothing personal, but the European Union is the ten-headed beast from which the Anti-Christ will come, and while you people are flattering your egoes with your socialism and kowtowing to terrorists and sucking up to dictators, while you ignore evil happening in your neighborhood, you depend on the United States to save you first from the Nazis and then from the Communists without so much as a thank you."

If I heard that an American had said that, I would be embarrassed at the ignorance and boorishness of my fellow countryman. But would the Greek go home and say, "I think it is important that we explore the issue from their perspective, informed by two millenia of worship and history. Why are we right, and others wrong? Are we more Orthodox? Are we more theologically sophisticated? Or, a painful thought, are we simply unable to substitute the eyes of Christ for the eyes of Greek society?"? I don't think so. The Greek would agree with me that Americans are boorish and ignorant. So why aren't foreigners ignorant and boorish when the tables are turned?

Let's take their points one by one:
  • The United States is an international bully -- Look at the difference between the outcomes where the United States intervened and where it did not: West Germany vs. East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall and then after. North Korea vs. South Korea. Japan vs. Vietnam (where we bailed out before we had finished fighting back the Communists). Taiwan vs. China. Look at the amount of aid we send overseas, most of it to people who turn around and spit on our shoes. Look at our "bullying" of Germany; when we talk about removing our troops, they squeal like a kid who got pinched by a lobster.

  • The United States seeks only oil -- Before the war, the U.S. petroleum trade group lobbied to drop the sanctions against Saddam. It would have been much cheaper to leave him in power and just buy the oil. On the other hand, Greek Cyrpriot Benon Sevon is a linchpin in the U.N. Oil for Food scandal, which enriched Saddam's military and luxurious lifestyle by selling oil shares to France, Germany, Kofi Annan and his son, Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church.

  • They know how to deal with Arabs; they've been dealing with them for over a thousand years -- and very successfully, too, especially over the past half-century. Which is why the following groups have conducted operations against foreigners inside Greece: "the Kurdish PKK as well as the Palestinian May 15 Organization, Abu Nidal group, Popular Struggle Front, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), PLO, and Black September, and also Lebanese Shiite groups." As an example of how well the Greeks have dealt with Arabs, consider the outcome of the terrorist slaughter at the Munich Olympics:

. . . in August 1973. Two members of the PLO’s Black September organization pulled out machine guns and grenades at Athens airport, killing 3 people and wounding 55 passengers. The duo then seized 35 hostages, but soon surrendered to Athens police. After a one-day trial, a Greek court sentenced them to death.

In February 1974, three gunmen hijacked the Greek freighter Vory at the west dock of Karachi port in Pakistan, threatening to blow up the ship and kill two hostages if the Greek government did not free the two Arab terrorists of the previous attack. As part of a deal, which emerged in April 1974, the convicted terrorists’ death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. Later the Greek government pardoned them and, in May 1974, they were deported to Libya at the request of Tripoli.

International terrorism and hostage situations were something new for the whole international community. The junta was inexperienced and hesitant in trying to free the hostages, since a failure might have damaged its image. Making a compromise was intended to save the hostages, preserve relations with radical regimes and groups, and get the government out of a crisis. Concessions were also intended to avoid future attacks against Greece, though arguably appeasement had the opposite result.
Someone with a bit of distance may be in the best position to point out our sins, corruptions and failings, but it's helpful if the one doing the critique has some information besides American movies and television, Eurocrats and the BBC. And to call another country the Anti-Christ in this situation looks more like adolescent petulance than deep and abiding spirituality.

Speaking of spirituality, how about that Church of Greece?

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