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Conservatives Demand U.S. President Act Like an “Ugly American”

First, a disclosure: I’ve worked for small and Fortune 100 companies, dealing with internal and external customers around the entire globe.

Based on my experience, I can tell you that any rational, sane business person expecting to sell products or services overseas understands business people in other countries prefer to close deals only after establishing a relationship with a foreign business and not with complete strangers. There must be an opening for deeper dialog and understanding based on mutual trust before commitments and money flow readily.

Establishing this trustful dialog also means being respectful of each others’ cultural differences.

Making a sincere effort to learn enough of a foreign language to be polite and making a conscious effort to learn something about their history are hallmarks of respect.

Simple use of customary protocols in greeting like shaking hands with Americans or bowing to Asians are also signs of respect.

Yeah, it works both ways. People from other countries don’t necessarily shake hands right away; touching another person’s bare flesh is awfully intimate, isn’t it? And yet Americans expect and demand this intimacy in greeting complete strangers, even between strangers of different genders.

Conservatives who pout and whine about President Obama’s acknowledgment of other cultural norms of civility exemplify "ugly Americans" who embarrass us as a nation. They’re like toddlers who have a tantrum when they don’t get their way; nobody wants to give in to somebody else’s coddled child who cannot be bothered with minor civilities required to earn someone’s trust.

And that’s exactly what I see in John McCormack’s performance today on MSNBC — the prototypical "ugly American" whose demands for conformity to our American cultural norms while on somebody else’s turf make it more difficult to earn trust and do business.

It’s because of President Obama’s polite observation of other countries’ customs that his trip overseas was an unqualified success.

He treated the leaders of APEC countries like respected global trading partners, not like contemptible mortal enemies; he certainly didn’t act like a needy, spoiled child who must be accommodated and cannot be trusted to act with care and reason in future dealings. He set the tone for open discussion in the future without being confrontational.

I’ve seen many critiques even here among FDL community members expressing dismay that Obama did not bring up human rights issues with China during his trip. Uh, hello? If a stranger you never met before came calling upon your home and told you shortly after meeting you that you were ugly and you smelled, what would you do, especially if the person who said that to your face was ugly and smelled?

This is not exactly a formula for a successful, long-term relationship built on trust, yes?

Our country has lost any moral authority because of its own record of civil rights violations; have we forgotten the poor of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, how we failed them? have we the conduct of some of our troops and contractors in Iraq, let alone the rather fraudulent manner in which the war itself was sold to the United Nations? And what about rendition and torture and assassination squads? These are just a sampling of our more recent challenges; you can bet that other countries are able to recite a much longer list of human rights infractions by the U.S.

We’re dirty with regards to human rights, and we’re in no position to insult other countries hosting us by calling them out on the same.

Knowing and understanding this, it seems perfectly obvious that President Obama was intent on opening a door to further open dialog in the future, by being the perfect guest instead of an "ugly American" at this early stage in his relations with Asian countries.

It’s irrational and ridiculous that conservatives like McCormack insist President Obama act not like sane business persons might when dealing with their largest potential customers and bankers, but as if he owned the world and could afford to disrespect the countries the president is visiting for the first time. It’s as if conservatives don’t want our president to be respected and admired by leaders around the world.

Oh, wait…

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Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, FDL community member since 2005, geek since birth.

Fan of science and technology, wannabe artist, decent cook, successful troublemaker and purveyor of challenging memetics whose genetics may be only nominally better.

Assistant Editor at Firedoglake and Editor at The Seminal.