Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unilateral Love Affairs

I have learned through my professional work (musings about which you can follow on my other blog) that USAID is having a difficult time giving away $150M set aside for democracy-promotion in Egypt.

On a facial level, democracy around the world is in the United States' strategic interest.  Yet on a deeper level, it is ingrained in American's political DNA that people should be free, and freedom today means democracy. (What we actually mean when we say "democracy" is democratic republicanism, but that is beside the point.)

Because of this deep-seated belief, when we see others struggling for democracy, we identify with them.  We see what they are doing and say "hey, that's what we believe in," and intrinsically want to help.

And yet most Arabs don't see that we have anything in common.  The experience of recognizing common identity is unilateral on the American side.  Even when we are offering huge sums of money to help them, they would often deign to go it on their own.

What I find interesting about this unilateral experience is that it is exactly analogous to Mormons' experience with other Christians, especially Evangelicals.  When we hear them talk about the Savior, when they take the Bible seriously and literally, when we see them choosing to abstain from alcohol and premarital sex because they feel that is what the Savior would have them do, we see them and say "hey, that's what we believe in, too."  And yet the experience is almost wholly unilateral.  We identify with them, yet they do not identify with us.

It will be interesting to see how these parallel one-sided love affairs will play out, both in the Arab Spring and the Republican presidential primaries.  Will the Arabs welcome well-meaning American aid in their democratic urges, or choose to go it alone, despite the cost?  Will Evangelical Christian conservatives support a Mormon presidential candidate (or two) who identifies with many of their beliefs and way of life, or bitterly fight a man because he subscribes to an ideology they don't understand and are therefore scared of, ruining their chances of defeating Pres. Obama?  Time will only tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment