This past summer I was out with my friends in the downtown area of Karachi, Pakistan known as Saddar. While driving, I noticed some political graffiti on a wall. Someone had sprayed the slogan “go America go.” This slogan may be misunderstood as one that is meant to cheer on American effort in the War on Terror. However, it was an anti-America slogan demanding that the United States leave Pakistan and discontinue its presence in my home country’s northern areas. I immediately dismissed the graffiti as extremist right-wing rhetoric and continued driving.
But the graffiti’s message stuck with me. I thought about how Pakistanis view the United States and the accuracy of their perceptions. Although that slogan doesn’t speak for all of Pakistan, surely anti-U.S. sentiment has been on the rise.
Over the past year I’ve lived in the United States and seen a side of this country that the majority of Pakistanis probably haven’t. I believe ignorance contributes to why people in Pakistan are so critical of America. Instead of fervently criticizing the country, Pakistan should learn from America’s history — a history that is rife with political and social activism for domestic and international matters alike.
Nothing was handed to the American people on a silver platter. Every right was hard-earned and contested, from ending segregation to granting women the right to vote. Pakistanis have to learn to do the same. In my opinion, misinformation and a lack of insight leads people to create a monstrous image of America.
I later understood that there’s a reasonable explanation as to why an increase in anti-American sentiment may be justified — beyond just lack of information. America is a country of two faces. Domestically, America is a secular, open and tolerant country, at least by law. Internationally, it portrays itself as a power to be feared and, for some people, loathed. While Pakistanis don’t know about domestic America and its people, it seems that Americans aren’t aware of the face their country shows to the world.
There’s a severe information deficit on both ends. Through the previous year, I hardly saw a mention of drone strikes in mainstream American media. The public seems to be oblivious to the fact that innocent lives are lost in drone attacks that the U.S. government carries out in Pakistan and Yemen. The only times media mentions the drone strikes are when a high-profile target is killed. The tragedy of innocent lives lost is rarely reported, and there’s very little debate and discussion on this topic.
I was appalled by the unprofessionalism in American news reporting. News feels more like entertainment.
Anderson Cooper, one of the most prominent anchors on American television, has a segment on his show AC360 called the ‘RidicuList’ where, as the name suggests, truly ridiculous information, such as videos of dogs singing on YouTube, is shared on prime time television. The media seems to have forgotten what it once stood for. American media in the past inspired activism: Students right here at Michigan and at colleges around the country, such as University of California, Berkeley, once protested and organized sit-ins on their college campuses. They fought against the Vietnam War and the draft. They are responsible for bringing an end to injustices committed by the government. Today, in these very universities, students have forgotten their own history.
When I returned to Pakistan this summer, newspapers and news channels were inundated with headlines about drone strikes and their consequent death counts. In Pakistan, drone strikes are seen as inhumane and immoral. When an area is attacked, houses are destroyed. When a drone attacks one location, people cannot rescue the survivors as they tremble with pain on the floor because there’s usually another strike in the same location soon after the initial strike. Such acts of brutality are what cause people to view the United States as a monster.
I don’t wish to impose my political views on anyone. I simply recommend that Americans should demand more information. They should expect better and more professional journalism. Demand to see the face of America that’s concealed, and be critical of both images.
Sharik Bashir is an LSA sophomore.