I’ve been asked my more than one person to respond to the Open Letter to America, which is currently burning up the internet so fast, you’d think it was written by rtm.
I am reminded of a time in my own life when I got a letter from someone I really cared about, telling me what I refused to tell myself: I was an asshole.
Set the wayback machine circa 1988 or 1989. I am on top of the world. I travel in limos and fly first class to events where hundreds and sometimes thousands of people scream for me. Everywhere I look, I see my face staring back at me from Teen Cheese and Non-Threatening Boys magazines. I am getting more fan mail than anyone else at Paramount.
I am also desperately unhappy.
In the summer of 1988 or 89, I had this huge crush on a girl from school. She was really beautiful, sexy, and fun to be with.
We dated a few times, hung out a lot, and I was really falling for her. Then one day she stopped returning my calls, and coming over.
I was crushed. I didn’t understand what had happened.
Then one morning I got a letter from her. In it, she told me, as delicately as possible, that she just couldn’t be around me any more. I was arrogant, rude, ungrateful for what I had, and I treated her like property. I was demanding, overbearing, unwilling to listen to or respect other people’s opinions. I was a dick, an ass, a jerk. She described to me a person I wouldn’t ever want to sit next to on a bench, much less be.
I was stunned. I took the letter to my best friend Darin, and showed it to him, looking for comfort. He’d help me feel better about this frigid bitch, I thought.
When he was done reading it, he asked me what I thought. I declared, with righteous indignation, that she “didn’t know what the fuck she was talking about”, and that she could “fuck off, because it was bullshit.”
Darin looked at me, and he said, gently, “Wil, you should read it again, because she’s right.”
I looked at him, he looked back at me. This was not the reaction I was expecting.
“What?” I asked, wondering if maybe I’d brought the wrong letter.
“[Her name] wrote you this letter because she cares about you, and she doesn’t like what you’ve become. Frankly, none of your friends do. So you can read it again, and take it to heart, or you can blow it off, and continue to alienate yourself from everyone who cares about you, including me.”
I really respected Darin. He was (is) the most tolerant, patient, loyal, honest person I knew (know). His words, added to those I held in my now-quaking hands were a Rosetta stone. Everything I didn’t like about myself but was unwilling to address was all on those 3 sheets of hand-written 8×10 spiral-bound notebook paper, translated by my best friend into language I could understand.
A door was opened in that moment, and I had a choice to make: walk through and face myself, or ignore it and walk past.
I walked through, and on that day I began the process of re-evaluating my life, my priorities, and most importantly my attitude. It was scary, it was uncertain, it was vital. It was a long process, taking nearly 6 years, but it started that day.
People ask me all the time why I haven’t ended up dead or drug-addicted, or in trouble in the law. The answer is still written on those sheets of paper, long-lost but not forgotten.
To this day I carry more than a little bit of guilt for the way I treated her. I’ve been able to apologize to everyone else who I’ve wronged in my life, but never to her. Maybe she’ll read this and hear me say “Thank you, and I’m sorry.”
So, back to the Open Letter. Do I agree with all of it? No. I think some of it is wildly off-base, and I think the message would be listened to by more people who need to hear it if it wasn’t so inflammatory.
On the other hand, I think that America has an opportunity to walk through an open door, and take a long hard look at ourselves. The simple fact is, America, most of the world really doesn’t like us. We’re arrogant, irresponsible, and unaccountable. We loudly an constantly remind the world that we are a Superpower…well, with great power comes great responsibility, right?
The great thing about America is that We The People have a voice, and the louder that voice, the more insistent that voice, the harder it is to silence.
Let’s raise our voice, and walk through this open door. It’s scary. It is uncertain, but it is vital that we do. It will be a long process, but we can do it.
I’ll take the first step, with this Thought for Today:

“If you succeed through violence at the expense of other’s rights and welfare, you have not solved the problem, but only created the seeds for another.”

201 thoughts on “Europa”

  1. Wow, we actually beat a pro to the punch! see what im talkin about: …>its entry number 2 for that day, scroll down.
    but we really dig the parallel that you drew, Wil, because it is a flawless one. No one can really argue that this is exactly how America looks to others. If only we (i use ‘we’ loosly) would admit it, we could really be a superpower because we would be at least respectable then.
    But still, its fun to think that Won Bizlo and the Secret Scarf Society beat Wil Wheaton and Tom Tomorrow to that story…dont ya think? maybe the organisation is going somewhere. If ya wanna check out our shit, it can really get your revolutionary blood moving:
    keep writin, foolio.
    Funk Noka Norton

  2. The McDougall letter, Mr. Wheaton’s commentary on it, and the responses to his commentary posted at this site convinced me to write out an idea that had been floating about my brain for the past few months. I decided to post it here first, since it was listening to this discussion which egged me into finally writing it.
    I apologize for the length, and please let me know your opinion ([email protected]).
    Dave the Bully
    Dave and his friends Tom and Sally find a table at La Cucina, renowned for its cheese pizza.
    Tom: Oh man, I haven

  3. Wll,
    I didn’t know you had a blog. Thanks to Tom Tomorrow ( for turning me on to it.
    Actually, I believe the open letter to be fairly right on, as it pertains to ‘mainstream America.’ It does not, however, take into account the millions of us who are awake, aware, active, and basically dumbstruck at the blindness and/or numbness of the rest of America.
    The numbness is understandable, to some degree, as we have been thru alot in the past 80 or so years. The whole history of America is quite tumultuous.
    The burning question though is: HOW DO WE DO IT? Do we all move to the west coast and secede? Do we march and rally in the millions? Do we take up arms? Do we hope and pray for reasonable people to vote for and hope they don’t sell out or get chewed up and spit out like Cynthia McKinney?
    The True Majority of Americans, who strangly seem the most voiceless, have progressive ideals, and believe in what we were told this country was about. All the US govt’s actions move unequivically against those ideals. The present administration is only the most obvious and straightforwardly malicious.
    So I put the call out to web surfers, bloggers, progressives, and the rest. OPEN DEBATE ON WHAT TO DO!!! We no longer need to wonder if the gov’t is fucked. It is. Our nation is in trouble. Only we can save it. WHAT DO WE DO? LET THE SERIOUS DISCUSSION BEGIN! Before the blood flows.

  4. um, yeah, very nice, but unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it. Maybe the Canadian is right. Maybe Wil is right. But right or wrong, what are we going to do? I guess we can vote the offending government people out of power. Well, gee, that sounds good, but won’t the supreme court just “elect” the president anyway, regardless of who we choose?
    So we can vote. But it won’t do much good. What else is there? We can move I guess, but that doesn’t really work because we may be assholes, but most of the other people out there are even bigger assholes than us (at least to outsiders). Not to mention that, given the current economic climate of the world, it is next to impossible for foreigners to find work in most countries, so how would we buy groceries?
    So we can stop buying gas-guzzling swine mobiles. I am all for that. My car gets very good gas mileage, when I drive it, which is maybe once every other week because I have the luxury of living close to where I work and I can walk, everyday, rain or shine, hot or cold, but most people can’t do this. We can also turn off the AC at home and turn off the lights when leaving the room.
    We can take up arms against the government. Yeah right. That would last like what, all of ten seconds?
    One thing to keep in mind, that alot of people posted is the sentiment that “But I personally am not a fat overbearing asshole, and neither is anybody I know…”. Yes, there are alot of assholes out there. But there are quite a few decent folks too. Keep in mind that when you see someone being an asshole, you are only seeing a cross section of their story. They might not really be an asshole, but just having a bad day. Practice tolerance.
    I wish the rest of the world would realize that yes, our government sucks, but there is not much that we can do about it, so it does not help things to treat all Americans as if we were all assholes and personally responsible for the world’s problems. The government of China purportedly sucks too, but nobody bitches at the chinese people (at least that I am aware of) to change their government.
    So my advice on what to do is this:
    Americans: Chill out. It is going to get better, but its going to happen slowly. We are coming out of *the* bloodiest, most war torn century that history has ever known. We are probably going to be feeling the effects of it for many centuries to come, but it is going to get better. Be excellent to each other and party on, and teach your children well. Don’t expect results to happen in your lifetime, but it will happen.
    The rest of the World: Chill out. No one needs your whining right now. We can’t help what our government does anymore than you can control what your government does. I know we *say* that we can just vote and it all will go away, but that is just stuff we tell grade schoolers and immigrants. Its not the truth. Even if you could use your vote to exercise some sort of power, the choice of people to vote for consists mainly of assholes, because they are the ones who have the money and the lust for power that it takes to be elected. Be excellent to each other, and party on, and teach your children well. Look to technology such as the internet, providing free information to whoever can access it to provide a true enlightenment.
    We will get through this, but it is going to take thinking of ourselves as humans first, and americans or chinese or whatever second.

  5. I know by now no one is listening or reading due to the insane amount of comments and that nothing really matters BUT….
    I have always thought of myself as on top of the game, able to discern the insanity from reality in that when I watch the news I can sort of see the spin and I feel at least aware that what I am seeing may not be true.
    In other words I’ve not been a real activist since I think I know what’s going on. This “open letter” actually gets my blood to boil. It actually makes me think I should be doing something instead of talking about it. It might have actually worked.
    On another side though I can look at this Canadian or any foreigner who finds this govt. as ill repute, I can say to them “why not do something about it? Overthrow our govt! Go to war with us! Remove our evil dictator!”
    You see if we (the world) had not gone to germany to remove the nazis from power the germans would not have done it themselves… They could not see the forest through the trees.
    By the way, hello Wil. Glad to see an icon with a conscience and a pulse!

  6. Oh – wow! Back in 1989 the school I was going to had a field trip for the Art & Cinema Clubs (the former of which I belonged to) to go to the Paramount Studios for a guided tour. As we were passing by the studio that STNG was filmed at, a door opens and out comes Wil.
    I of coarse screamed out “Wesley!”, and when Wil turned around and noticed us he had that look of “Oh crap – tourists…” look on his face. He forced a smile, waved and then quickly walked into the makeup trailer and shut the door.
    All I could think was, “That’s it? Where’s the love?” I understand he was in the middle of work but he made our group feel like lepers. I didn’t like Wil after that anymore, but now I have to say that I’ve been turned back around.
    Wil Rocks!

  7. Seemed a bit shrill to me.
    Certainly the USA is fucked up. Look at who is running things. Look at the bribery of all of our government.
    Console yourselves Canadians. We are going down and we will take you with us.

  8. Why is it “whining” to express fear, doubt and worry about the actions and attitudes of a powerful and potentially dangerous country like America?
    I say “potentially dangerous”. Why?
    Well, look at it like this. America has more nukes than anyone else, and is the only country to have used them in anger, has a massive military budget and a history of becoming involved in other countries affairs if the outcome could benifit America. This countries Government is waving the sabre of war and pointing the finger at anyone who pisses them off, and trying to justify war against them.
    Example: Iraq. Saddam is a brutal dictator, no question. He is responsible for many atrocities. however, we are expected to support a war with Iraq, not because Saddam is a psycho (so is Henry Kissenger), but because he MAY be stockpiling nuclear and chemical weapons. This accusation os coming from a country which HAS stockpiles of nuclear and chemical weapons. No-one has presented evidence of this, instead we are expected to follow blindly. This looks to be a sham, a cover for some other reason for a war. Why has no-one actually proven to us that those weapons exist? To go to war now would be like beating the crap out of a man in the street because he MIGHT have a knife. Damn right I’m worried.
    My Government has been assumed to be willing to follow the US in whatever the US wants to do. That arrogance is amazing. It truly is. I would be happy to gut Saddam and spread his giblets over the sands, IF IT WERE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. Stop lying and trying to smooth over the situation. He won’t become more of a monster just because you say he’s evil every 3 seconds.
    Why do you people act so suprised when other countries speak out against you? If you fuck with a people enough, they will want to fuck you in return.
    I’m sick of this divide, to be frank. I personally think that humanity has reached the stage that we can go beyond all this hatred. But until America stops thinking of the world and the peoples of the world as its own personal resource, and remembers that we are all human, no matter our race or colour or creed or nationality, then we will continue to have the current situation. And the cycle of violence will continue.
    We cannot obtain true peace by wading through a river of blood.
    We cannot solve problems that we do not admit exist.
    Every time we justify a death by marginalizing the truth or by saying that “it saved lives in the long run”, then we run the risk of becoming less human. For every Hitler or Bin Laden (why are we going after Iraq if we don’t have him yet) who has earned damnation (fuck Im gonna laugh at those two when I get that Condo on the Beach beside the Lake of Fire), there are thise who didn’t earn retribution.
    If you won’t see whats wrong, you can walk blindly off the cliff.
    Maybe all the people who are “whining” are actually tring to tell America something it needs to hear. Not just for the good of America, but for the world.

  9. Now there’s one seriously fudged Canadian. Can you say, “Too much X-Files?” Thought so. The guy must get all of his news on the TV and think that that is all that goes on here. Not quite. And I hate it when people make the comment of , “America has a terrible crime rate”. Honestly, I think we’re just better at SEEING the crime and catching the criminals. “If ya sees Engines be careful, if ya don’t sees Engines, be more careful”.-The crazy guy off of The Rifleman, unless I’m having a memory lapse.
    America is far from perfect, but the human race is far from perfect. We never will come close in my opinion to being anywhere near perfect as a race of peoples. And frankly, I can only see dividing us up into nice little groups, like countries, as a way of holding us back.
    As a rule though, Americans really don’t care what anyone thinks of them. If you hate me, tell me about it, I’ll listen, then shrug and walk away. Why? Because you are no better, and I know I’m trying to be better. Meanwhile you waste time that could be spent bettering yourself telling me about myself. I think someone once said something about taking the plank out of your eye before you try to remove the splinter from your brother’s. Some famous guy back in the day. (Sarcasm there for the religiously inclined folk)
    And sure a lot of our officials are crooked. But the way I see it, if you ain’t running for office to make it better, you have little right to publicly complain about it. One saving grace to that might be constantly writing your reps and telling them what you think..which is kind of a good idea.
    In the meanwhile I say we ditch the President, and the entire Judicial branch, and just have the whole country vote on individual laws via a intRAnet made specifically for that purpose. But hey, that’s this madman’s views.

  10. Well Wil,
    I think you hit the nail on the head quite quarely. I tend to find myself divided between wanting to do what I can to improve or perhaps educate America about it’s effects on the world, and wanting to escape to someplace with less bullshit. The problem with the second option, and the response that I give to those who don’t like my opinions and ask me why I don’t leave America is that I would not wish to be subjected to our foreign policy.

  11. I read the letter, and I appreciate your POV Wil. Yours is definately a unique one, and I applaud your honesty.
    With regards to the “Open Letter” I’d have to agree that the general gist of the letter is accurate. It’s inflamatory and accusatory tone, however, make it’s valid points almost moot.
    What I’d really like to see is rather than a “YOU SUCK AMERIKA” letter is a letter that outlines where and why we suck, and some suggestions on how to correct those problems. Criticizing is all well and good, and being scared is certainly appropriate, but eventually you have to calm down and back it up with some suggestions or at least intelligent rhetoric, lest a person or ideology starts looking like a missive written by a tempermental 3 year old.
    BTW Fluffy? You had stated that with regards to the use of nukes America, “… is the only country to have used them in anger.” I suggest you read “Truman” by David McCullough. You may be referring to some other usage of nuclear bombs that I’m not familiar with, though.

  12. I’ve not been reading this site for several months as I’ve been dealing with moving cross country, my new job, and other stuff.
    Just want to say this was a good note to come back in on. Stories like this remind me of why I started to read in the first place (and no, it wasn’t because of your fantastic Brooklyn accent in Toy Soldiers).

  13. I find myself going back and forth between indignation and “well, it’s true.” I have always prided myslef as a strict Reoublican, in the vein of “the government that governs least governs best.” It is indeed sad that both major parties are so very similar yet give nothing worthwhile to the country. It is also unfortunate that events have changed the face of the United States in the past 50 years and that it has come to this.
    But I wonder, what model is there to follow? I find it interesting that a gentleman from a country such as Canada proposes we march on Washington. What purpose would that serve? If this were to happen to Canada, or perhaps Great Britain, would you recommend the same tactic? What would the government really do? Assuming that the government of the United States does have all this power, would it not just call up the armed forces and chase everyone back home? Or shoudl people martyr themselves until the rules change? Because if I remember correctly, the British populace couldnt muster enough force to stop an invasion of a rogue biker gang much less overthrow the government. And Canada is not very far behind.
    Far be it from me to jump on a soapbox and proclaim that free ownership of guns are the solution, but by making a population impotent and unable to defend itself without government intervention – does that not make them completely subservient to the will of the government?
    Maybe America will continue to wallow and live as it does. Perhaps a breakdown of family values and lack of personal accountability is forever beyond our reach. But where else do we have to look for inspiration?
    We do have to get our act together and stamp down on corruption. No doubt about it. But people also have to believe in themselves and realize that they do not have to be sports stars or millionaires to be happy. That kind of attitude and gluttony is making us what we are.
    Enough rambling. More power to you Wil for finding an inner peace. You could have turned into some idiot who constantly wanted to regain his former fame, but you choose to live comfortably in your skin. I do not agree with all your views but I sure as hell admire your values and your ethics.
    George F

  14. alot of people seem to be upset by the way the author uses the blanket of “all americans” to get his/her point across. Just because the author is speaking about Americans (I remind myseld that people on two continents are Americans, not just those from the US) does not mean that every American is like that. If you are not like the Americans the author speaks about, then you don’t have to identify with it. But, answer this, aren’t the majority of Americans like what the author says they are? How many people read the front section of the newspaper at all before, or after, they read the sports section? Freedom to alot of Americans is being free to be able to watch wheel of fortune at night and being able to drive your suv to mcdonalds and back in time for it to start – everything else is just extra, but we defend our self indulgence fiercely. We say the important thing in life is to be happy, whatever form that happiness takes and no matter who gets hurt in that pursuit, so most people consider their responsibility to end by the time they walk out of their jobs at the end of the day. What I’m trying to say is that if you don’t feel that letter was talking about you, don’t get upset, realize that there are many, many people in this country who are exactly like that. Maybe what is getting you upset is a sense of guilt for not spending more time dealing with the people who are just the way the author says. Brushing off the sterotype as inaccurate only makes you complicit in the behavior and attitude of the people the letter was really talking about. Did you vote last year? When was the last time you chose not to follow the advice never to get into a conversation about politics? Not having a conversation out of fear that it will get ugly is a capitulation to those whom(?) the letter is talking about. If you don’t know anyone like the Americans written about, then you must surround yourself with people who are just like you and only like you, because those people are America. It is our American lifestyle that got us into this mess. It would be excusable if we were unable to know about the rest of the world or unable to help them. Today one will not know what is going on only if one choses not to see. One is unable to help if one is unwilling to risk our creature comforts to share with the rest of the world. If this doesn’t describe you, I’d like to know where you are hiding, because I’ve been all over this country and seen the selfishness that is our habit. Just don’t disregard the letter, talk to the people who are like that and lead by example.
    hippiecrate in NYC

  15. One of the comments on this list throws out two adjectives for our nation: 1) sick 2) evil, and likens the two. I agree that the majority of people you’ll meet in this country are neither cocky nor obnoxious, but at the heart of our nation is our government. The general populous, yes, is doing just fine.
    Other nations and cultures, however, don’t view us on a person by person basis. Broad stroke generalizations are made about us based on governmental action and policy. And make no mistake, power hungry leeches that will do anything to inflate their wallets or office size are up on the hill right now making policy most certainly not on the basis of the greater good of many…this is as gently as I can put it.

  16. I’ll second what hippiecrate in NYC said above: I believe the “Open Letter to America” is indeed applicable to many Americans. Most Americans only seem to care about how much is going in their mouths or in their wallets. That’s it. Anything else…least of which being the self-destructive path that this entire civilization is rushing down headlong, will be violently shoved outside of the realm of consideration. “Who cares what my actions are doing to the world?” they will say: “AS LONG AS I GET MINE! Now where’s my next fix going to come from???”
    Me, me, me…now, now, now…gotta, gotta, gotta have it. The ethos of brutal egoism that now permeates this culture.
    In addition, along with this ethos of brutal egoism seems to be an increasing amount of hatred and violence, which is increasingly manifesting itself in things such as road rage, office rage, etc. [Seen the violent crime rates lately??] Every day I see people driving like friggin’ maniacs in their SUVs cutting people off left and right, while American flags are festooned on their antennae or {ironically) “United we Stand” stickers are on their rear bumper. Then you turn on the talk radio and hear nothing but hate-filled souls saying things on the order of pleading for the killing of all the Muslims in the Middle East, nuking the place, turning the whole area into a parking lot, and so on. The people I work with, by and large, have the same attitudes.
    It’s getting uglier and uglier out there folks. Hell, if this keeps up, I’m moving to Canada!

  17. Quote:
    I agree with wil and not the letter.
    Your friends are really important so trust the things they say
    Got news for ya. Canada *is* a friend to America.
    We just want you to cut back on the smacktalk and take yourselves down a notch. You’re more fun to be around that way.
    Anyway, if I was a Merkin Citizen I’d vote ‘Wil for President’.

  18. Jill.
    I’ll read that book once I find the time (I have 3 differan books on the go just now, and tow of them are heavy going) but thanks for the pointer.
    I suppose my words “only country to use them in anger” as regards nukes, were poorly chosen and innacurate. Hey, I was a little drunk. What I meant was that as far as I know, America is the only country to have used Nuclear weapons on live human targets in a wartime situation. There have been numerous threats and near-launches, but I think that Hiroshima and Nagisaki were the only actual real cases were nukes where used to deliberatley kill other people.
    Its hard to state a single, strong and overriding reason why America scares me. There are many many incidents and reasons that all add up to a picture of a country that I cannot with consience abide with. Considering that I quite like Americans as a people (most of the Americans I have met have been warm and friendly, generally nice people), this is a little hard to stomach. I think that part of the problem is that even the most intelligent people drop in IQ and humanity when you get enough of them in one place and give them something to hate. its a principle that says that a mob is only as intelligent as its most foolish member.
    Its proven by all the “lets kill all muslims” attitudes that are in America just now, and its proven by all the “Amelica Suks ass” bitching that never goes further than name calling.
    Bill Hicks once said that Life is a choice between fear and love. We can either spend more money on weapons, and on locks for our doors and cower in fear because our governments tell us we should, or we can understand that humanity can go beyond all this petty bickering. I don’t know if it would work, but heres my solution. Instead of merely pointing out Americas myriad flaws, the countries of the West should rise up and work WITH America to help America heal itself, for the wounds are deep. That way we might be able to fix all of our problems, and get past our limited, isolated viewpoints and go onto something greater. It could only happen if we work together, and stop jeering from the sidelines, and actually DO SOMETHING POSITIVE.
    All this hatred and violence needs to stop, otherwise we will never get out of it, and an ever increasing cycle of death will become our only future.

  19. Great work. Everybody hates to hear themselves criticized, and it’s even more unpleasant when we have to agree with the critic. I really hope America (or at least those responsible) are mature enought to listen to the letter- not as a personal insult, but as a truthful critique.

  20. This letter, and Wil’s response, reminds me of an abusive parent-child relationship. That letter was not fair, nor meant to be. It has little or nothing to do with America; much more to do about the authors feelings of helplessness and inadequacy. Wil sheepishly stated he didn’t agree with it. That’s too weak. For an abused child to overcome their experience with abuse they must come to realize that the abuse had nothing to do with him.
    Americans need to become more reflective, God knows we have created our share of problems, but I think Wil missed the mark by accepting the inflammatory remarks as a starting point. If any thing America is suppose to be about truth, rationality, and fairness….little was to be found in this letter.

  21. The U.S. military budget is larger than the sum
    of the military budgets of the next 25 countries
    combined. What do you suppose is being done with
    it? For ten years the U.S. supported Saddam
    Hussein in a war against Iran. We then
    manipulated Kuwait into provoking Saddam to
    invade, telling Saddam that it wasn’t our affair
    and wouldn’t intervene. This was all a setup to
    go to war against Iraq. If you disagree without
    learning the facts, then you are just being an
    asshole again, as so many Americans are who can’t
    be bothered to educate themselves about what is
    being done in their name and with their tax
    dollars, and why. The U.S. is now talking about
    preemptive wars, regime change, and the rest, none
    of which is or ever has been legimitate behavior
    in the international arena, and we wouldn’t
    tolerate any other nation doing the same; it is
    only possible because of that huge U.S. military
    budget that we all fund. Americans who approve of
    this or don’t complain about it are just like the
    “good Germans” who did the same with Hitler.
    So stop congratulating yourself about how you
    have changed and what a wonderful person you
    are and all the rest of this self- (and fan)
    serving crap; in the grand scheme of things,
    you’re still an asshole unless blow off this
    nonsense about it being “wildly offbase” and
    instead use all of your celebrity to speak out
    against the things mentioned in the Open Letter,
    the things that really matter.

  22. Wil:
    Nice thought for the day — however, it was (I must admit) ‘some’ violent acts in our nations’ history which placed YOU in a position to have the life you’ve so richly lead and still are leading today. Perhaps you no longer ride in LIMOS but you have folks mailing you computers for crying out loud!
    Indeed, those many brave long before your time and with courage that neither yourself nor myself most likely have today paved out paths for us to walk in freedom through great violent acts and often times at the cost to many others. Again I will state, were it not for those violent acts, where would Sweet Uncle Willy be today? Talk. You do it well. Thank God for those brave men and woman that talking is the only weapon you need today.
    Make a difference, Wil. Go out and shake the hand of a VET who had far less choices and freedoms in his youth than you and I had in ours’. Shake his hand and thank him or her for his/her ‘acts’. You owe him/her that much.
    Then go and take a long look at your family and ask yourself how it is you have such riches and treasures. The answer in part lies within some acts of incredible violence. And that is just fact.
    Try a higher road. You still have have a few pages left in your letter to read.

  23. A begging question comes to mind after reading the mean, flagellating diatribe hiding what could have been a beautiful and compassionate plea of national intervention: What are we to do about it? My initial one-word advice to all of the citizenry who were touched by the so-called open letter, both reactionary to its negativity yet able to see into its hard truths, is VOTE.
    How many of you, who see the dire need of addressing these grievances, have bothered to vote in every state and federal election in which you were eligible to do so? How many are fully informed of the issues, of politicians’ records, of the consequences of voting for Candidate A or against Amendment B. If I had to venture a guess, it would be a relative few. And if I were to second-guess your reaction to that, I imagine the usual complaints of corruption, complication, disaffection and ennui for starters. But listen to yourselves, and then read your hearts’ reactions to the open letter again. And let me point out that the current system, the corrupt one, is trying to disaffect you and thrives on the ennui of an intellectually and spiritually fat and lazy populace.
    The tools to make the kinds of changes necessary to veer from this path of national selfishness and self-righteousness are at our disposal, always have been. Educate yourselves, organize yourselves, communicate with your communities. And not just amongst your peers in this borderless land of network ether; break your fingers away from the keyboard and pry your pupils from the monitor and television more often. Use them to open the door and look outside again to your neighbors, friends and family. I don’t just write this with a finger pointed either, I am wholly guilty of it myself. We need to take back what we have now long turned our backs on in favor of AOL chatrooms, must-see TV and eBay auctions; we must take back our country and constituion.
    This is what we can do about it. Let’s stop with the irresposible slacker delusion of political helplessness and hopelessness and get back into the participating in the process of what America’s founders had so sagaciously foresaw as necessary to the future of civilization: Of, by and for the people. Failing that, our fate and infamy is well-deserved. What else but bloody revolution would work?

  24. As a Canadian I’d like to fill you in a bit. We’ve always supported our friends and neighbours. On September 11th countless Americans were taken in to Canadian households when their flights got cancelled. Our emergency crews were over the border and on route to ground zero shortly after the event. We cried real tears at what we saw happen on CNN. American flags outnumbered Canadian flags for weeks. Our armed forces have fought beside your guys in Afghanistan. Several of our snipers were responsible for saving American lives in Operation Anaconda. They would currently hold US decorations for valour if our government decided to allow it. Our troops have died in Afghanistan at the hands of American pilots. We still stand with you. We have died beside Americans in almost every conflict since the turn of the century.
    However, I (like a lot of the Canadians here) think that some self reflection for Americans on the subject of American society as a whole is in order. McDougall painted a bleak (in some places paranoid) picture of the US. I think as individuals you have to ask what have you done to contribute to that picture, or to dispel it?

  25. I think it’s kind of funny that some of these guys act like the US gives out so much money to the world. Just about every country in Europe gives out more money in foreign aid a year that we do.
    ANYWAY, don’t diss Wil for speaking his mind and being critical of his leaders. I don’t know how well you paid attention to your history class, but you may recall that’s how this crazy place got started.
    I forget which one it was, not sure if he’s on any of our money, but one of the OG’s once said something to the effect that for a citizen of a democracy, criticizing those in power is not only a right but a DUTY.

  26. I read your open letter. I think that most people could find the same wake up call if they lived in another country for awhile. I am an American living in Europe right now. Everyone I meet has an opinion about Americans and a story to tell and has no problem telling me all about it the moment they meet me.
    I try to be a sympathetic ear. No matter how hard I try, i am not a walking country. But I can’t shake it. I used to let it get to me, but now I enjoy getting an outsider’s perspective. It’s true, the US is not liked. I feel like I have learned more on foreign soil than I ever did in high school history class.
    It’s a good start for developing self-awareness for anyone.

  27. Wil,
    Thanks for your honesty. This is rare these days. Much of what you had to say is unpopular in this post-9/11 world but often what is popular isn’t right and what is right isn’t popular.
    I have to think back a few years ago when a friend of mine told me that I wasn’t all that. She said I never listened and that I beat a dead horse to death proving my point. At first I thought what she had to say was bull and I let her know in no uncertain terms. The more I thought of it the more I realized I should listen more and speak less. You have one mouth and two ears, listen twice as much as you speak. I also realized that I should make my point and move on. If I have to harange some one to death maybe what I had to say wasn’t worth much to begin with.
    I have seen arrogant people that think they know all and have all the answers. The problem is with those that have all the answers is that they don’t ever listen to the questions. This attitude can be found in religious fundamentalists and political ideologes. They should give their harange a break. How often do we have to hear the same story? It was like the story of Monica Lewinsky. Enough is enough!
    Problem is that we can see clearly the faults of others but not so clearly the faults of our selves. Americans are shocked about the gender segregation found in certain Islamic societies but are blind to the racial segregation that exists in American society. Yes it still exists and no a law passed outlawing it did not legislate it away.
    Christian fundamentalists excuse certain attitudes and behaviors of their ancestors by saying, “they had a different mind set” and “you can’t judge past behaviors by current standards.” Okay. But what of gladatorial combat in ancient Rome or human sacrifice in the Aztec Empire? What about the lack of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, Iran and China today? In China the good of society comes before the good of the individual. Unregulated and unregistered religion is devisive and disruptive in the society.
    Well I think I made my point. I just wanted to say thanks Wil for an insightful letter. Good luck in your current endevors. BTW I thought you were great in Star Trek. In the original seris you had a multi-ethnic and multi-species crew, what is so far fetched in having a younger crew member function as a full fledged member?

  28. How about instead of blaming America for all the worlds ills, you send an “Open Letter to China” and talk to them about forced abortions, insanely high pollution, and other crimes against their own people? Or maybe Iraq for gassing it’s own people? How about Somalia for starving each other to death?
    But maybe you’re right. Driving an SUV is alot worse than jamming a needle full poison into a baby’s head as it’s born because it’s a second child.
    Everyone loves to complain, but no one has a solution. It’s called whining.

  29. Angelwwolf wrote:
    When the American government looks out for what is in the best interest of it’s people, the other countries hate us for it.
    When the American government takes care of other countries, the other countries hate us for it.
    Could it be jealousy? I think so.
    It’s not about jealousy at all. Of course other countries have their problems as well. But in my opinion, the USA is to the late 20th and early 21st century, as Britain and Europe were to the 19th and early 20th century. It’s all about power and who can control what.
    The USA doesn’t help other countries out of the goodness of its heart. There are all kinds of conditions involved when another country is given aid. All those conditions benefit the donor country, and to be honest, it never usually does the receiving country a lot of good. It just puts them in debt to the donor, and gives the donor power over the other country.
    Yes, the author of the open letter went WAY over the top, but like many others who have posted here before me, I agree with the basic sentiment of the letter. The USA needs to look at why other countries are so against them, and it’s not about jealousy.

  30. Actually, the U.S. does lots of good things for other countries, no strings attached, that we never hear about. When I was living in Nicaragua in 1999 they had 1,200 Marines land with construction equipment and they rebuilt hundreds of miles of mountain roads so the farmers could get the coffee harvest off in time and to market. They also deepened the drinking water wells, while they were at it. At about the same time, a group of US Air Force surgeons organized themselves and came down to do free eye surgery for poor children. This kind of thing doesn’t make the headlines. All over the world, Americans are legitimately doing some good things. (Some of them are even Republicans.) The real problem with America is pretty simple. The real problem is that the big companies have such a stranglehold on power that they turn every politician into a jingoistic servant. That’s also why there is no hope of having a decent medical system in this country, ever.

  31. now *here’s* one you should submit to This American Life 😉 what a good metaphor. I wish everyone could hear what you said here — I think it would win a lot more converts than the editorial it’s responding to.

  32. I think it’s amazing that so many of you are dismissing the open letter as “wildly offbase”…. didn’t you understand Wil’s analogy?
    There is a real Canadian out there whose thoughts and opinions are encapsulated in that letter. Those sentiments are what he thinks, and that’s how he sees America. And as an Australian who just spent the last two years in Canada, I can say the feeling is quite widespread.
    You can either completely disregard his letter as wildly offbase, or you can accept and acknowledge that people around the world, even America’s friends and allies, feel this way towards you.
    A very wise person once said to me “If someone is angry at you, listen to them VERY VERY carefully.”
    America, most of the world hates you. You can go on pretending they don’t, or concluding that they must be crazy or wrong…. or you can LISTEN to them. You can consider their opinion and try to establish why they feel this way and what you might be able to do about it.
    There are millions of people out there who feel this way. Don’t be so foolish as to disregard it without honest and genuine consideration…. or hatred for America will just continue to grow every day.

  33. -133-
    I’ve been trying to put across that exact same point for months now. Most of those who replied were of the opinion that the reason for the widespread dislike of America are bollocks, so the person trying to explain them should be ignored.
    We get accused of blaming America for all the worlds ills. We’re not, we’re blaming America for all the problems that IT has caused. I know when something is the fault of my own country and not America. I study my peoples history. Why would I blame America for something it has not done?
    There is little point in sending an Open Letter to China or Iraq, they have regimes in power who would not listen. America is a million times more likely to listen to critics that Iraq, thats why the letter was written. America is capable of listening and human enough to do so.
    So what if some of the exact details in the letter are “off base”? The real message is that America is hated throughout the world, and it needs to understnad why, and learn to change.
    For everyones sake, including America

  34. Hi Wil. It looks like I’m “Comment 187″. Whoosh. I am impressed if you make it through all of these and still have time for family, life and maybe even a moment to yourself. 😉
    Your willingness to begin the journey 6 years ago and look at yourself in a moment where it wasn’t at all flattering to do so… your willingness to tell us all about that moment… and finally your willingness to share the story with us to allow us to have an insight into something that without your experience we might not have had…

  35. I have a lot ot say about the letter and about wil’s brilliant response. Sadly others have already said it so very well. Most of the comments I’ve read are in my opinion spot on. (Those which are balanced and objective, like Wil’s article.)
    My comment now is addressed to those peole who like to talk about patriotism as if it means that one must love everything about their country or they are not patriotic.
    As someone who volunteered to risk my life serving in a Ranger battalion for my country and its ideals, I invite anyone come and tell me that I don’t have the right to say that I am very dissatisfied with my government and its leaders.

  36. From those opposed to the letter, amongst the thoughtful responses, there’s been a lot of comments such as “this is the best damn nation in the world”.
    Even if true, the implications of this are not what you want it to be.
    A number of indexes could measure the US as top dog – standard of living, wealth per capita, levels of starvation, cars etc. None of this is that surprising when you look at what the US starts with- immense natural resources and a whole ton of space, temperate conditions all contribute to making it the land mass with it all. Plus, it has no significant rivals on the landmass, and hasn’t suffered invasion in any real sense since its inception, and peace builds stability.
    Being born an American is a little like being born in a country manor to landowning parents a hundred years ago. You have a massive privilege. As a result, you can afford to live a rather less ugly life. Its not something to be particularly proud of; its just what you started off with. What you should be proud of is what you’ve done with that.
    And what do you have to do? You don’t have to do anything, you can keep it all for yourself. As surely lots of lords did way back when, collecting their rent, foreclosing property, sleeping soundly at night. Not even cruel, just self-interested.
    But basic old fashioned morality cuts against that. The Victorians knew it – there was a growing realisation that the plight of the poor, the child-workers, the mentally sick, the prostitutes, even the violent criminal, was not something to be accepted and ignored. The moral imperative was recognised, and produced many of the reforms that shape modern states. An analogous motion was occurring in the US, no doubt.
    It seems to me we reach a new moral imperative. That the USA with its privelage, is obliged to improve conditions in the rest of the world. Without the hissing and fussing about its priority to protect business, or the military-industrial complex, etc. According to one contributor, the US already funds half the world. Well, if you look at stats, of the 20 biggest contributors to world aid (indexed against GNP), the US comes bottom. It gives more than all the others, but compared to what it can afford, it gives the least. That isn’t really good enough.
    But I think the point of the letter, plus the debate afterwards, is that its not so much what america should/shouldn’t be doing as how it perceives itself. How do I see it?
    As a wealthy playboy/dilettante, too much money, not realy aware of the where and why of whats around. Not bad, just thoughtless. A person with a vocation round the corner, a mission to do real good, the hard way (e.g. not “bombing tyrants”and running away) – but one it hasn’t discovered yet. If America picked up its responsibilities and without fanfare started pulling its potential weight, I would be the first to trumpet it as the best nation on earth. It’s positioned to do it.

  37. I always had the feeling back then you were probably a dick in real life, Wil. Nothing personal; it wasn’t genetics. Nine point nine people out of ten would probably end up the same in those circumstances. It is good to know that you came to terms with it, and that you have at least one good friend to stick you to it.
    As for this land of ours, we are good at heart.
    But we are no saints. We have it damn good. Try living abroad for a while. Not on a base, but as a civilian. It may surprise you how you feel on return. Fact is, we are way too damn apathetic as a population. True, our nation does many great philanthropic things. But what did you do to bring that about? Huh? I thought so. It was already taken care of.
    These great philanthropic acts are however, no moral justification for anything by any means.
    This Canadian cat was a bit over the top. But he did have a point. And while I would never say that folks who fly a plane or two into a skyscraper are right, I wouldn’t simply dismiss their outlook as psychosis. Where does that come from?
    I submit our rulers have erred time and time again, yet not every time. We may stand proudly by all the good things this nation does. But consequently we owe it to ourselves to face up to our sins. Can’t think of any? Look up Wounded Knee for starters.

  38. I’d like to know.. exactly what is factually incorrect about Mr. McDougall’s open letter? It seems to me that his facts are about right. And if we, as Americans, are singled out unfairly, it’s simply because we are, as my 11th grade English textbook put it, as did a Puritan settler, “A City Upon A Hill”. Well, we’re on the hill. We’re leading the way. And we’re looting, raping, and murdering our way to the top.
    If you aren’t part of the group that’s getting rich off defrauding investors.. If you aren’t advocating increased military expenditures.. If you aren’t a racist cop.. well, aren’t we all tolerating a system that allows these things to continue? And, if we aren’t part of the solution, then aren’t we part of the problem?
    What really disturbs me.. is.. why aren’t Americans saying this? At least, no one in the mainstream. Sure, there are some firebrands in say, The Nation. Or, Adbusters. Or, maybe, Harpers. But, why do I have to go to Canada, or the UK to get mainstream dissent?
    I’d suggest an excellent work by a Mr. Chomsky and a Mr. Herman.. “Manufacturing Consent”.
    God knows CNN isn’t telling us anything worth hearing.

  39. The next time a Canadian tries to make you feel guilty for America’s maltreatment of other nations, our disregard for land and nature, or our cruelty towards other cultures, direct him/her to this URL:
    Let me quote from the page:
    “For many natives, life has been a cycle of racism, poverty, and deplorable treatment by Canadian institutions where their land, their culture, and they themselves were subject to being wiped out. The Kanesatake natives chose to fight back. But they were also fighting for something many natives desire: sovereignty. For many natives, this means being treated as distinct nations within or in partnership with Canada as a whole. Sovereignty is seen as the way in which natives can preserve their land, culture, and themselves.”

  40. I am sorry to say that, the “Open Letter” is right. Most of the world doesn’t like you, because the US is an irresponsibly behaving behemoth.
    – The US wants exemptions for US citizens from the International UN Court, but feels free to overthrow and replace governments and officials they want to see discarded and prosecuted.
    – The US produces most of the CO2 in the world, even more than the 350 million people of the European Union, but does not want to ratify the climate treaty almost all nations of the world signed.
    – The US sanctions hacker acitities for its legal arms and its industry, even if the machines in question are not within the US and US jurisdiction, all the while luring two Russian hackers into the US for hacking a US machine.
    The US is generally the most disliked nation in the world, not because it’s powerful, but because it doesn’t act like a just teamplayer.

  41. When I read the Open Letter, it hurt to read so much truth. I’m an American living in Ireland and am exposed to many viewpoints other than that of the Stars and Stripes. While I hate to generalize, I’ve always said that America needs to look at itself hard in the mirror before we can even try to tell other countries how to run their own nations. Our government has made some horrible decisions and has committed horrible acts. But Americans are good people, this I know. We are hard workers; we still like to fight for the truth. There are many Americans who do not like what our leaders do. I think the metaphor you make Wil touches a lot of us because it’s something we can more easily identify with. You’ve put it on a more personal level. However, I think the Letter has succeeded in getting our attention and has at least made more than one person stop and think.
    I know Americans care about the rest of the world, but it’s hard to convince the rest of the world of this point when our own Leader is the only major world leader not attending the Earth Summit this week. What kind of message does that send?

  42. responding to the original “open letter” article as well as Wil’s article…however one personal comment for Wil, is simple, I’m extremely delighted that you have this site now, and I’m very sad that you won’t be in the movie…That was the only reason I was going to go see it…with that said, on to my puking rampage of sorts……ahem……
    I sadly and completely agree with the opinions made overwhelmingly clear in this article. I as an American, am decidedly sickened by the lack of awareness, spreading like a plague, in this country. The deeds done by Mr. Bush are disgusting and absolutely convuluded! The day I heard he was elected I cried rivers, and refused to come out of my bedroom for two days. The country was bad enough before he took over. I am proud to be a human…a spiritual and awake human being…but ever so ashamed to be called an American. The people here as a whole mean well by their deeds and opinions, however, ignorance is bliss “they” say. I however refuse to be ignorant. The citizens of the US are very smart, compassionate people. Sadly, however, by stubbornly holding fast to the voices of the past, or opinions they half-heartedly understand, or simply what they’ve been “brought up” to believe in, they (as have I at times) completely miss the truth. The truth is simply this… you are what you believe you are, until someone else walks into the room… perception is everything. Looks like a duck, smells like a duck, feels like a duck….but is it a duck? If it is a duck, is it alive?
    Lastly what I have to say is… If you feel the way you do about something it is valid. If someone else feels something different, it too is just as valid. You cannot help the way you feel, but you can help the way you listen, understand, accept, perceive, and act.
    Ember Ryan, Minnesota

  43. Here’s a quote from Mark Twain that helps me keep my head on straight when thinking about politics:
    You see, my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions, or its office holders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags–this is loyalty to unreason, it is pure animal; it belongs to monarchy, was invented by monarchy; let monarchy keep it.

  44. This is a comment on the open letter from the Canadian.
    I am a Canadian. I disagree with the approach and sentiment in the open letter. It is accusational and based entirely in emotion rather than in fact and critical argument.
    I am ashamed that a Canadian would so arrogantly post such words. I agree that there are problems with the Foreign policy of the United States, and there needs to be a review of those policies. An attack on our neighbour is not only disloyal, it is also hypocritical. Canada enjoys much security and wealth, simply because the United States is our biggest trading partner. The actions of the United States affects Canada in every way. To think that we are not part of the cause is ignorant.
    Canada sent soldiers to fight in Taliban, remember? We didn’t have to send soldiers. And I don’t think that we were coerced into going.

  45. I had not seen the “Open Letter” before and was directed to your site by Tom Tomorrow. I am impressed with both your candor and wit.
    To me, an American used to speaking her opinions in hushed tones in the aisles of the health food store, the library, the bike shop, the letter rang eerily true, its content a precise echo of quiet conversations among like-minded friends. Never before had I truly understood the national temperment that allowed such horrors as blacklisting and internment camps within our precious borders. Today, I live in fear that “unpopular” opinions might lead those of us who understand our freedoms to lose them entirely.
    In response to the person who quoted Twain: Here, here, never worship institutions or people. However, what is left for us that hasn’t been spoiled? What have we allowed our land to become, our leaders to lead us to? I am embarrassed and ashamed that so many of us feed at their bloody trough, lick our tainted lips and repeat “God Bless America” like a nightmare mantra.
    I am also sorry for my cynicism.
    Wide Awake in America

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