Ryan Lochte: An Ugly American Or A Sad Product Of U.S. Policymakers?

Ugly American

The Rio Olympics are now over. The competitors have arrived back in their own countries and TV companies worldwide have returned to screening their mediocre programming of old movies, half-baked sitcoms, and third-rate ‘reality TV’ shows.

The Olympics were a success. At least, they were portrayed that way, and for most viewers there wasn’t too much external controversy to detract from the events themselves.

One man’s name did make the headlines and it wasn’t for winning a medal. Ryan Lochte, a U.S. swimmer, disgraced himself and his country by a drunken altercation in the early hours of the morning with security guards at a local petrol station. Not content with trashing the premises’ restroom, he then lied to police and made a false statement concocting a story of being robbed at gun point.

The next day, realizing there may be repercussions, he abandoned the three colleagues who had accompanied him on the escapade and caught a flight back to the United States. Unfortunately for Lochte the media had picked up the story and it made banner headlines around the world. Now we learn the Brazilian police are charging him with making a false statement and he could be extradited and face time in a Brazilian prison.

Of course, that’s unlikely to happen:

The US and Brazil have an extradition treaty which Brazil has flouted in the past. Authorities in the US could take the same stance if Mr Lochte is found guilty. ~ BBC [1]

The U.S. government is quick to protect those of its citizens who behave badly in other countries. It’s probable they’ll do likewise with Lochte. After all, wasn’t this just a case of four young men out for a night on the town who became embroiled with over-officious foreigners just because they were having fun?

No, it wasn’t. It was four men in a foreign country who showed disrespect and arrogance towards their hosts. At least one of them caused damage to property, threatened those who tried to stop him, and then made up a cock-and-bull story for the police when they became involved.

Ryan Lochte showed himself up as the epitome of the ‘Ugly American’. It’s a well known and oft-used phrase to describe certain elements in American society, particularly when they’re abroad on vacation or business. It stems from the spoiled brat image, the kid who had too much, who was brought up to believe he was better than anyone else – particularly if the ‘anyone else’ was a foreigner, or as U.S. officialdom derisively calls them – an alien.

It may be that Lochte shouldn’t be blamed too much for his behavior. After all, he was only aping his nation’s political policies. The U.S. has coerced governments in over sixty countries worldwide into accepting U.S. military bases on their territory. Most are bitterly resented by the populace. The attitude and behavior of many U.S. servicemen in these bases towards the local people can leave much to be desired. ‘Ugly American’ behavior by military personnel is a frequent cause of media attention in many countries:

Okinawa protest

Tens of thousands of people on the Japanese island of Okinawa have taken part in one of the biggest protests against US military bases in recent years, weeks after the arrest of an American base worker in connection with the murder of a 20-year-old local woman…

…Okinawa’s anti-base governor, Takeshi Onaga, told the crowd he regretted being powerless to prevent crimes by US military personnel, two decades after the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen…“We had pledged never to repeat such an incident,” Onaga said. “I could do nothing to change the political system to prevent that. That is my utmost regret as a politician and as governor of Okinawa. The government … must understand that Okinawa residents should not suffer any more from the burden of the bases.” ~ Guardian [2]

US military personnel have committed over 5,800 crimes on Japan’s Okinawa Islands since the territory was returned to Japan in 1972, according to police figures cited by protesters rallying against US presence in Japan’s southernmost prefecture…[10% were classed as ‘serious crimes’ – RJA]

Mass protests are regularly staged by the island’s inhabitants over incidents of alleged rape by US armed forces’ personnel stationed in Okinawa. The Japanese government has started taking action to address the concerns. In May, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government is set to create a special interdepartmental commission for preventing crimes committed by US military base personnel. ~ Sputniknews [3]

And that’s an example from just one base. The exact figure isn’t known, but it’s estimated the U.S. has between 700 and 800 military bases worldwide.

We need only to remember the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib Detention Center in Iraq to realise America’s powerful military presence throughout the world is perpetuating the ‘Ugly American’ image demonstrated so admirably by Ryan Lochte.

America’s determination to utilize its military to globalize the world and bring all nations under its control and influence may not appear so threatening as the aspirations of the radical Islamic group, Islamic State, but it’s certainly breeding an unattractive example of citizenship, as characterized by Lochte.

That’s unfortunate for the majority of Americans who are decent, friendly, warm-hearted people. Sadly, it’s easy to become tainted by the actions of a few, particularly when those actions are highlighted by the world’s media.

Lochte’s paid for his arrogance. Due to his prowess as a swimmer, sponsors once rushed to do business with him . Now, they’ve deserted him. One of his co-patriots on that early morning rampage was fellow swimmer Jimmy Feigen. He paid $11,000 to a Brazilian charity in settlement of his case. It’s not likely Lochte will get away with less.

However, it’s a cheap price to pay for the damage he’s done to his country.

[1] “Brazil police charge Lochte over robbery claim” BBC, August 25th 2016

[2] “Thousands protest at US bases on Okinawa after Japanese woman’s murder” Guardian, June 19th 2016

[3] “US Military Personnel Have Committed Nearly 6k Crimes in Okinawa Since 1972” Sputniknews, June 20th 2016

2 Replies to “Ryan Lochte: An Ugly American Or A Sad Product Of U.S. Policymakers?”

  1. 74% of American base in Japan exists in Okinawa (relatively small island), which would be a crime of Japanese government.

  2. Masa – certainly, the Japanese government has been overly compliant with regard to these bases, but the U.S. can be mighty forceful in getting its own way in such matters. I’m not sure your government has much choice, and American dollars can be very persuasive.

Comments are closed.