November 25, 2006 · Lessig
I may spend too much time thinking about this, but how is it one reverses the hatred of a people after war? WWII was no doubt very different. But interestingly, Germans talk about this a lot — about the brilliance in the American strategy after the war to rebuild (what we weirdly call) “friendship” between the German and American people.
That strategy had a government component (2% of the GDP spent on the Marshall Plan) and a private component. The private component came largely through the delivery of “CARE Packages.” As described on CARE’s website, these packages were originally surplus food packs initially prepared to support a US invasion of Japan. Americans were invited to send these packages to victims of the War. Eventually, over 100,000,000 packages were sent by Americans over the next two decades, first in Europe, then throughout the world.
A German friend this afternoon was recounting this story to me — he too is obsessed with how to reduce Iraqi anger. But the part he emphasized that I had missed originally was how significant it was to Germans to know that these packages were sent by ordinary Americans. It wasn’t the government sending government aid; it was American volunteers taking time to personalize an act of giving.
CARE has given up the CARE Package. So too has it moved far from the individual-driven model of giving that marked its birth. But I wonder how current victims of war would react to a repeat of 1945-giving. A related idea has been taken up by a 10-year old from New Jersey. But what if every city in America selected sister cities throughout Afghanistan and Iraq, and individual volunteers from the US repeated what our parents and grandparents did 60 years ago?