Intolerance and ‘Anti American’ accusations [Archives:2003/660/Viewpoint]

August 18 2003

Looking into the history of the old dictatorships, and studying the way dictators used to threaten their people, we can easily realize that they used the term 'anti nation's interest'. This was a justification used against anyone who may have a different view than that of the ruler.
However, this era is long gone, and only a few dictatorships in the world continue to use this evil scheme. Nowadays, a person can easily criticize his government and ruler and give a totally different opinion without being accused of being unpatriotic, unfaithful, a traitor, or acting against his country's interest. Democracy is the magical word that not only defends the right of bringing about different opinions, but also promotes dialogue and diversity of opinions.
Americans are lucky for having a constitution that grants them great freedom in expression and opinion. Their first amendment to the constitution gave them unlimited freedom, which is yet another great advantage. The American constitution is close to perfection, as it guarantees that no American can or should be accused of being 'unpatriotic' for any reason related to opinion. This is a wicked thing of the past and not used today except in a few dictatorships.
After giving such a long introduction, I am sad and upset to realize that the 9/11 terrorist attacks have had a negative effect on 'some' and not all Americans. The effect was resembled in intolerance towards different opinions. Antiwar demonstrators in the USA were thought to be different. Some have even been accused of not being faithful Americans.
Well, there is one thing I can safely say. Those who reject the freedom of others in expressing their opinions freely are the very ones acting against America. They are distorting the basis that the American culture of understanding and freedom was built upon. They are contradicting the themes of equality and tolerance brought in the constitution. Those people are acting against American interests.
America is a place where various races of various backgrounds believing in various religions are all living in peace and harmony.
I personally have lived in the USA for a long time. I learned from the American society that freedom of expression and opinion are basics that should never be denied. Any American can oppose his president or US government when it comes to foreign or domestic policies and that person remains a genuine American with all his rights preserved no matter how bizarre his opinion may be. This is the spirit of America that I was taught. It was even in the book 'The American Way' that I was once given as a gift by AMIDEAST when I was admitted a Fulbright scholarship in the USA for higher studies once in the past.
A few years later, I find an American person calling Yemen Times an 'Anti American' newspaper because the paper published opinions and articles against war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was told that American values constitute respect of others' opinions, while I find today that Americans working in some sensitive locations in our country are bringing the phrase 'Anti American' just because we are against certain policies that the current US administration has undertaken.
I fear that such actions will not be helpful in enhancing American relations with the rest of the world. This is not supposed to be, as people can have different opinions, but that doesn't mean that they have become enemies.
The personal experience faced in such a matter reflects the deep wound that 9/11 has caused to the American society. Nevertheless, it can also be a beginning for a deeper understanding of the rest of the world. We saw the USA as an example to follow in terms of democracy and freedom. The U.S. administration should not now divert from the path drawn by the country's founders, who focused on freedoms and human values.
I just wish that what happened the other day when an American called Yemen Times 'Anti American' and the accusations against other free media enterprises and governments by the US administration of being Anti American would merely be a hiccup in the American history, which was full of moments of struggle and fighting for freedom and liberty for mankind.
I know American people can overcome this difficult time.
They surely will.