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Death to America? Be careful what you wish for
Patrick Asare -- Author of 'The Boy from Boadua' Patrick Asare -- Author of 'The Boy from Boadua'
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Wyomissing, PA
Sunday, May 12, 2024


Thousands of students have set up encampments on American college campuses in recent weeks to protest against Israel’s war with Hamas. The pro-Palestinian demonstrations are aimed at forcing school administrators to divest university endowments from companies that do business with Israel. The other goal of the protesters is to apply pressure on President Biden and his administration to withdraw U.S. support for Israel in the war.

A thought occurred to me a few days ago as I watched television coverage of the student protests. It seems as though most people in the Arab world, and indeed in many other places, equate official Washington with America. Unhappiness with some U.S. foreign policies has over time developed into outright hatred for all of America. The animosity is so strong in much of the Arab world that ordinary people there are often seen trampling on the American flag, setting it on fire, or using knives to rip it apart. These acts are usually accompanied by chants of “death to America.”

There is fierce debate in America about the methods the students have employed in their encampments, and whether they constitute peaceful forms of protest. The ways in which university authorities have handled the demonstrations have also come under heavy scrutiny. What is clear is that these young Americans feel so strongly about what is going in Gaza that they are willing to disrupt their education, and that of their fellow students, to shine a light on it. Their actions have also inspired similar protests at university campuses in other countries, including Canada, the U.K., France, and Australia. These students on American college campuses have obviously mobilized a global movement for the Palestinian cause.

I would argue that since the war began seven months ago, ordinary Americans have done a lot more for Palestinians than Arab nationals and their leaders have. The few protests that people in the Arab world have attempted to organize against Israel have been quickly squelched. Authorities in those countries do not tolerate any form of protest. They fear that whatever the cause is, such demonstrations of discontent could easily morph into demands for political freedoms at home. So they don’t take chances. Consequently, even though the plight of the Palestinians should be of most concern to them and their people, Arab leaders are happy to wait for average Americans to highlight the suffering.

This failure of the rest of the world to acknowledge the crucial role that the real America plays in global affairs is something that has long fascinated me. In America, people are allowed to say almost anything they want. A “death-to-America” chant is reported to have occurred at a rally organized by a Muslim group in Dearborn, Michigan, last month. This broad accommodation of speech allows ordinary Americans to frequently take up causes on behalf of people everywhere.

The fight against apartheid in South Africa is one that often comes to mind. I consider the current leaders of South Africa to be particularly poor students of history when it comes to showing gratitude. They get into bed with Vladimir Putin because of the support their country received from the Soviet Union during their struggle against apartheid. There seems to be no recognition on their part that today’s Russia is not the country that helped them during that period, and that the current occupants of the Kremlin are not in the business of liberation, but rather of colonization and prisoner-taking.

Beginning in 1972, the newly formed Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) embarked on a campaign to get the U.S. government to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Joined by various grassroots organizations across America, the CBC worked over a fourteen-year period to get the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act passed in 1986. The legislation called on the South African government to release all political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, in exchange for sanctions relief. President Ronald Reagan tried to veto the Act but was overridden by a Congressional supermajority (78 to 21 in the Senate and 313 to 83 in the House). Obviously, large numbers of non-black lawmakers voted with members of the CBC to override the veto. Therefore no one can say that it was merely a matter of Black Americans showing solidarity with their fellow blacks in South Africa.

Quite clearly, a majority of Americans at all levels of society were against apartheid. They teamed up and worked assiduously to help bring down the oppressive regime. The Soviet Union provided support to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and so did America—in a big way. When South African leaders of today go around calling America an evil imperialist power and actively collaborate with our sworn enemies to harm us, they insult the millions of kind-hearted Americans who stood with them for decades.

The al-Qaeda terrorists who flew airplanes into buildings on September 11, 2001, killing thousands of innocent Americans, also had the death-to-America mentality. Their victims included many of the ordinary people in this country who regularly champion the causes of the oppressed and the marginalized in other places. Those who radicalize young men and women in the Arab world should learn some of these basic truths before spreading their hateful messages.

The fact is that without America, the lives of millions of people around the world would constantly be under threat with no escape avenues. America either speaks up for them, or provides refuge to some of the most persecuted when all else fails. When some of these same people call for death and destruction in America, they essentially wish harm on themselves as well.

We Americans don’t always get the credit we deserve for what we do in the world, but we should be proud of ourselves. I have seen enough of the world to make me convinced that ours is indeed the indispensable nation. To borrow the late Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor’s words (from the lyrics of her most famous song), nothing compares to you, America.

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