Canadian's views of United States still echoes

Canadian's views of United States still echoes

July 4th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

EDITOR'S NOTE: A reader, reflecting on the tough times the United States has faced over the last six years but emboldened about what is still good and decent in the country, wondered if it would be appropriate to reprint "The Americans," which was a commentary given by Gordon Sinclair on radio station CFBR 1010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on June 5, 1973, and printed on these pages several decades ago.

It was written after the last Americans had left Vietnam following a divisive war, when the country was experiencing economic turmoil and natural disasters had wreaked havoc across a number of states.

Space doesn't permit reprinting all the words of the broadcast, but it is certainly fitting to examine some of them in light of the 41 years since it was first aired.

•••

"This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least-appreciated people in all the earth.

"As long as 60 years ago, when I first started to read newspapers, I read of floods on the Yellow River and the Yangtze. Who rushed in with men and money to help? The Americans did.

"They have helped control floods on the Nile, the Amazon, the Ganges and the Niger. Today, the rich bottom land of the Mississippi is under water and no foreign land has sent a dollar to help. Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.

"When the franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it.

"When distant cities are hit by earthquakes, it is the United States that hurries into help. ... Managua, Nicaragua, is one of the most recent examples. So far this spring, 59 American communities have been flattened by tornadoes. Nobody has helped."

The 2013 edition of the World Giving Index listed the United States, in spite of its poor economy, as No. 1 in giving. The survey indicated proportionally more Americans gave of themselves in some way in 2012 than in any other country. The United States also was listed as tops for helping a stranger.

"You talk about Japanese technocracy and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy, and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy, and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times ... and safely home again. You talk about scandals, and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everyone to look at. Even the draft dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, most of them ... unless they are breaking Canadian laws ... are getting American dollars from Ma and Pa at home to spend here."

Since the broadcast, the country has endured Watergate, the late 1970s recession, the Gulf War, impeachment of a president, 9/11, the War on Terror and the Great Recession. Yet, the country is still standing, its government has not collapsed and its people live relatively safely.

Indeed, in the recent past, Americans even camped in city parks and on courthouse lawns to protest against social and economic inequality, when the standard of living for the poor in the United States includes more living space -- air conditioned living space, too -- than the average European, a car, two color televisions, cable or satellite service, and the latest video game systems. That's the protesters' right here, though, but they would be jailed for doing so in some other countries.

"When the Americans get out of this bind ... as they will ... who could blame them if they said 'the hell with the rest of the world'. Let someone else buy the Israel bonds. Let someone else build or repair foreign dams or design foreign buildings that won't shake apart in earthquakes."

Yet, even 40 years later, in fiscal year 2012, the United States spent $48.4 billion in foreign aid, including $31.2 billion in humanitarian assistance, according to the United States Agency on International Development.

"Our neighbors have faced it alone, and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles."

Thankfully, the United States, troubled as it is today on its 238th birthday, will not thumb its nose at the rest of the world and remains the ideal of countries across the globe. If its people can recapture the personal responsibility, work ethic and generosity of spirit of its Founding Fathers and previous generations of Americans, its best days will still lie ahead.