It is almost inevitable, that in a time of prolonged crisis, that a nation should look beyond its own borders in search of someone to blame. For America in the 21st century, any attempt at placing blame on China or Mexico or even the Middle East is misplaced for a simple reason: America has more influence on the world than the world has on us.
Say that out loud a few times and let it sink in. Our ability to project power is unprecedented, and the effect of this has been a radical shift in cultures around the world. American industry and money has become the paradigm by which the world does business, and what we see beyond our borders are echoes and reverberations of our own history and social essence.
The Tijuana Speakeasy
In Mexico, we re-live our tortured past of prohibition. Rather than liquor, the plants we have helped them ban have created thriving black markets and criminal cartels. Hardly any different from our own all-American organized crime families of the 1920s, Mexican gangs are instead an unintended product of our own foreign policy goals. Depicted as a violent influence on America, it is our money that funds the production of drugs and it is our weapons that they're purchasing back with the profits.
For many tourists, Mexico is also America's narcotic speakeasy. The gateway city of Tijuana is a well-known destination of all sorts of yankee-doodle-hedonists. Far from the armored SWAT teams of U.S. drug enforcement, many a young adventurer trusts that a few green dollars is enough to get them out of trouble with Mexico's often-corrupt police.
To the extent then that Mexican drugs and gangs are a problem in America, they are a problem because of America...
Immigrants are Capitalism
The other common complaint about Mexico is that the immigrants are an economic drain on our domestic economy. The myth is that they come here for the sole purpose of soaking up welfare payments and enjoying our lavish social benefits.
Wait a minute... What lavish social benefits?
Mexico is much closer to achieving universal healthcare coverage, and America isn't exactly known for generous welfare benefits or any sort of long-term public support. Instead, immigrants are the type of people who are willing to take big risks and invest hard work in the hope of eventually profiting from their productive behavior. If that sounds familiar, its called the American dream - something we used to celebrate back when we were the immigrants.
China's Gilded Age
Across the Pacific, China is experiencing an era of sustained economic booms that is unprecedented. Well, its almost unprecedented because America did it first.
In the time American historians categorize as the Gilded Age, we managed to go from a fairly backward rural society to the world's #1 manufacturer of industrial goods. The era was marked with miserable working conditions, extreme gaps between wealth and poverty, corrupt individuals fighting for favorable government concessions, and a strong pressure for the marginalized members of society to conform and contribute.
If they're taking our jobs, its because we long ago abandoned those 12 hour work-days and child labor profits. It doesn't make much sense for us to be jealous of them, unless Americans are just that intent on turning back the clock and living in a "simpler" time. By simpler, I mean you wouldn't be able to afford the computer you're reading this from if you really had to compete with Chinese laborers for a blue-collar job. That isn't China's fault, its just a fact that 19th century jobs don't provide enough money to buy and maintain 21st century technology.
King George - Bush of Arabia
Some historians and military strategists might let you in on a big secret of America's foreign policy: In the years following World War 2 and the collapse of the British Empire, we effectively assumed unofficial control of England's remaining colonies. For a little more back history: As a result of World War 1, the Ottoman Empire was defeated and carved up into European colonies. During World War 2, England and Germany battled over control of the region.
After the war, and absolute American victory, we moved to quickly implement a policy of "twin pillars." By creating an unbreakable alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran, we would cement our control over the region, securing access to cheap oil and controlling the public opinion in a way that kept out Soviet influence. There's no doubt that we intervened to set up a friendly regime in Iran, and there's little argument that our action triggered a wave of blowback that has lasted for generations and likely to persist well into the future.
It shouldn't sound too surprising that the colonies would eventually resist King George and demand full independence.
Its easy to blame someone;
Its hard to really fix a personal problem
We're tempted to look outward and find a scapegoat, but the best we can do is see our own reflection in what we dislike about the world. The last 100 years have been one of unquestionable American ascendancy, and the force we project is many times stronger than the influence we receive.
Sure, we eat tacos and fried rice now, but even those are extremely Americanized products that might not be recognizable in the nations they supposedly originated from. At the same time, they know exactly what a McDonald's cheeseburger is supposed to be. Its convenient to blame Mexican and Chinese labor, but we're the ones with the advantage of designing global financial systems, printing the reserve currency, and deploying the world's most powerful army to secure our national interests.
So the next time you're tempted to blame some other country for America's economic or political problems, just remember how little influence they've truly had on our path and decisions. This may lead to some difficult choices in regard to our domestic policies, but we're going to have to address these tougher conflicts before we can truly progress to the next level of our national - and individual - potential.