Your president is weak, he will die very soon. My friend tells me. Why do you say that? I ask not understanding. Your president won the election and did not kill the losers. It is a sign of weakness. In my country political opponents are not killed. How does he stay in power? The man asked in true shock. In Syria if you someone said the same things about my president as they said about yours his family would be killed. We don’t do that, we have freedom of speech we are allowed to say almost anything we want about our leader even if it is not true. My friend looked at me as if I had three heads. None of this made since to my friend. In his world you are the leader of the nation because you have power and the strength to use that power. If you let others talk about you in an unflattering light that person and their family must be made an example of or others might have the same idea and voice it.
Great example here! I use to points when I'm trying to explain this concept to Americans. First, most Americans don't realize the miracle that occurs here every 4-8 years. They understand the miracle of free elections which help choose the next leader of the US. However what they don't seem to understand is the miracle that occurs in November.
I've been asked by people in other countries, "I understand why the next president takes power, but why does the previous president give up power so easily?"
The fact is, it takes a Constitution like ours to create this miracle. It also takes a culture like ours, raising future presidents, expecting certain things from them. To us a president who refuses to give up the White House, and mobilizes a military to defend his position would be a criminal and a coward... in most countries, it would be expected.
The other example I use is the aftermath of Desert Storm. Westerners saw the Coalition humanely ending the carnage and offering a ceasefire agreement. Arab and Persian cultures saw cowards who would rather offer a peace plan than finish the job we started.
In the end, the Coalition left, Hussein was the one left standing. This empowered him. Then, Americans saw Prs. Bush Sr. voted out of office. Arabs and Persians saw Hussein out last him. This empowered Hussein even more. Westerners applauded as the UN agreed to allow Hussein to sell oil for humanitarian supplies and food. Arab and Persions saw the UN surrender to Hussein's demands. Later down the road, even though the UN knew Hussein was using the money for palaces and rebuilding his military, the UN agreed to further relax the sanctions... again, in the eyes of Arab and Persian cultures, the mighty UN was no match for Hussein's courage and stamina.
Just think how it looked to Arab and Persian nations when John McCain, a US Senator was rejected as a speaker at Columbia University, but Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not only welcomed, but invited... even at the protest of Americans. In other words, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was respected over a US Senator by one of our most revered educational institutions.
When we feel pride in our freedom of expression, all they see is that we respect their leaders more than we respect our own... We respect Arab and Persian culture more than we respect our own.