China decries US 'moral authority'
By Tony Cheng in California
Many South Los Angeles residents say they are being denied their rights [GALLO/GETTY]
Nowhere personifies the American dream more than Los Angeles, California.
From the Hollywood Hills to the glittering boutiques of Rodeo Drive, the material rewards of success are easily visible, attracting millions from all over the world to trade in their rags for riches.
But according to the Chinese government, the American dream is exactly that, a myth perpetrated by the rich to keep millions locked in a cycle of poverty that is virtually impossible to escape.
In a report issued annually by the Chinese State Council, the Chinese government accuses the US government of "widespread human rights abuses on its own territory
", and says that US criticism on the human rights records of other countries is simply hypocrisy.
It is an accusation that rings true to Manya Anderson, an unemployed African-American woman living in the notorious South Los Angeles area, formerly known as South Central and infamous for its gang culture and high levels of crime.
Manya has a masters degree from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), but after a shooting at her last place of employment several years ago, she was forced to take a leave of absence, and she has not been able to find work since.
In what she refers to as a systematic degradation of the area, public facilities have been closed, hospitals shut down, and even grocery stores forced out, leaving fast food outlets the only source of food.
"The US doesn't have a leg to stand on in criticising other governments for [some] practices when it itself is engaged in them"
Alison Parker, Human Rights Watch
"I don't have the same rights as people on the other side of town," says Manya.
"If I had blonde hair and blue eyes I would be in a better financial situation today."
Of course civil rights have long been talked about in the US, but the Chinese government report suggests human rights are essentially the same, and minority groups, particularly African-Americans, are suffering now more than ever before.
"We have our faults but we have a functioning democratic system," concedes Robert Wood, a spokesman for the US state department.
But his response to the report suggests the current administration does not take kindly to criticism. "I'm not going to respond to Chinese government accusations," he says.
Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the US has lost some of its moral authority during George Bush's term in office
Once regarded as the world's policeman, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib have damaged global perceptions, something that many Americans seem to feel acutely.
"Holding people without trial for years on end at Guantanamo, using secret prisons and blackhole sites for interrogations, subjecting people to torture, the US doesn't have a leg to stand on in criticising other governments for those practices when it itself is engaged in them
," says Alison Parker of Human Rights Watch.
On the streets of California opinions are divided about how much the US should look to the outside world.
Orange County has the highest concentration of conservative voters in the US, and incomes are clearly high, with luxury cars parked in many driveways and yachts moored in the backyard.
With a jewelled "stars and stripes" badge adorning her blazer, one woman told Al Jazeera she wanted the next president to spend more time concentrating on domestic issues rather than worrying about the opinion of the rest of the world.
And when we asked whether the US should come under the same scrutiny as China, one man told us: "We're the United States. We make our own laws and should follow our own laws."
Map: US & the World
Video: Political protest invades Wall Street
Focus: Harsh words fly in final US debate
Send us Your Views on the election campaign
By contrast, Haight Ashbury in San Francisco has been famous since the 1960s for its hippies and liberal thinkers.
Pointing to the lack of gay rights, the failure of a social safety net and the growing gap between the rich and poor, many we asked felt the next president had much to do to repair the US's reputation.
"Nobody here is going to agree with anything the administration has done in terms of the war," one woman said.
"In terms of Guantanamo Bay, in terms of the way they deal with the poor, in terms of the way they deal with black people."
But as Americans prepare to go to the polls to decide their future, some feel there is not much to look forward to.
"Living is overrated," Manya Anderson tells me with a defeated tone, as she sets out for another day of job searching.
"I'm not looking forward to tomorrow," she says. "The rent is due."
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/ameri ... 56814.html
. is it a wise man, who knows that he is not wise
. it's good to have cynicism but not be cynical
. the more truth you live with, in your life, the stronger you are
. intelligence is merely an attitude to knowledge and learning