Over the past few years, I’ve developed a habit of watching and listening to right-wing television and radio programs — “The O’Reilly Factor” and Pat Robertson’s “The 700 Club” have always been two of my faves. But I don’t watch because I agree with their views (I’m one of those liberals they hate so much for ruining their country.) The real fun lies in the spectacles they put on: how O’Reilly spins facts into “facts” or just makes shit up on the spot, or Robertson’s astonishing ability to frame every political issue within the context of the Christian Bible.

Joel Hoard

But lingering just below the radar, there exists a man who makes the O’Reillys and Robertsons of the world look like Marxists. He calls himself Michael Savage, and his nationally syndicated radio program “The Savage Nation” boasts a listenership in the millions. MSNBC aired a short-lived television version of the program in 2003, but that came to an abrupt end when Savage called a homosexual caller a “sodomite” and told him to “get AIDS and die.”

In case that doesn’t paint a clear enough picture of Savage, his beliefs could best be described thusly: White, conservative, Christian, heterosexual Americans are the only worthwhile human beings on the planet, and everyone else should die. He called for the nuclear bombing of a random Arab capital, has unedited, uncensored videos of Americans being beheaded on his website and recently said the 150,000 people killed in the tsunami disaster in South Asia, many of them Muslims, got what they deserved and they don’t deserve our help. After all, he asked, where was Sri Lanka after 9/11?

Of course it’s all an act to some extent, and anyone with a conscience can see that Savage is a hack and a nut job, but simply dismissing him as such would be to pass on an incredible opportunity to explore what is presently America’s number one problem: its superiority complex.

Savage verbalizes what so many Americans believe in secret or, at the very least, on a subconscious level, which is that Americans are a super-race that exist on a plane far above that of every other nation. We have more money, our style of government is superior, our religion is better and so on. The rest of the world be damned.

It’s inherent in the fact that so few Americans make any effort to understand other cultures in the least. It’s in the way we look down our noses at every nation that doesn’t employ a U.S.-style democracy. And, perhaps saddest of all, it’s in the way our government handles our foreign relations, represented in recent years most heinously by the Iraq War.

Following the tsunami disaster, the United States had a tremendous opportunity to show the world once and for all that it cared for people other than its own. Our offer of $35 million, was dismissed as stingy by U.N. Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland. So in response to Egeland, we added a zero on the end to make it a cool $350 million.

To the U.S., $350 million is next to nothing. It’s our way of saying that we helped without even really helping much at all. I’m not for a moment suggesting that the U.S. should be responsible for bailing every impoverished nation out of every jam they encounter, but when a disaster of this magnitude occurs, we owe it to our fellow man to help out as much as we can.

But that brings me back to my original point, which is that we don’t even view those affected by the tsunami as our fellow men. We see them as lesser beings or, to borrow Savage’s term, “sub-humans.” If 150,000 Americans were killed in a natural disaster, we would expect the world to weep for us and observe a 40-day mourning period. When it happens to 150,000 brown people in the middle of the Indian Ocean, sure it’s sad, but these things happen. It’s like Jon Stewart et al. say in “America (The Book):” “2,000 Massacred Congolese = 500 Drowned Bangladeshis = 45 Fire-bombed Iraqis = 12 Car-bombed Europeans = 1 Snipered American.”

Now more than ever, Americans need to think globally and consider what is best for the world rather than what is best for America. I’m proud to see that Americans have already donated millions of dollars to disaster relief efforts, but money is one thing, and respect is another. Only when we hold true respect for all people can we make real progress. Until then, as far as I’m concerned, we’re all a bunch of Savages.


Hoard can be reached at j.ho@umich.edu

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