how the world sees america

How England Sees America

After a month in the UK, I get the sense that Britons feel America has grown up too fast for its own good; its muscles are larger than its brain. Culturally, economically, and militarily, America carries tremendous weight, but doesn’t know how to wield it effectively -- for its own interests or for the benefit of others.

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American culture doesn't always reflect well on us.
In my interviews, the average American came out looking like a pre-pubescent Don Quixote in a sandbox. We’re described as big-hearted, big tippers with an exceptional service culture and a willingness to aid lost UK tourists. But we're also considered somewhat childlike: poorly traveled, insular, fervent with unexamined faith, excessive patriotism and wishful thinking.

The good of this that is we believe we can accomplish anything, spurring innovation and making us work hard. But confidence can easily slip into arrogance. The notion that Americans are exceptional, having founded a city on a hill, particularly irks Britons, who remind me they abolished slavery first. Omnipresent American flags and recurrent politicians’ calls for God to bless America blend faith and politics in a way that violates our founding principles, I'm told. Certain Muslim communities are particularly wary of American religiosity.

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This poster flooded a Trafalgar Square demonstration.
If the problem were just American attitudes, that might be more tolerable, but with arrogance comes a pattern of destructive behavior which Americans too readily excuse themselves from on the premise that they're working overall for the good. This behavior ranges from rebuffing Kyoto to shrugging off civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But it’s not just Bush that’s the problem. Ever since World War II the British have been anxious about America's might. The U.S. rebuilt Europe and destroyed Nagasaki with little global resistance, after all. Today, America remains such a heavyweight that any change in the direction of its foreign policies can lead to big reverberations abroad.

Resentment toward America's blunted foreign policies also magnifies Britons' criticisms of U.S. domestic policies. America is often accused of ignoring its own poor and disadvantaged -- it certainly doesn't live up to the British tradition of universal health care. Incidents like the abominable emergency response to Hurricane Katrina reinforce this perception of a rich, indifferent American state run above the heads and wishes of its citizens. "Why don't Americans demand better?" Britons ask me.

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Omnipresent American flags dubbed "peculiar."
Internationally, Britons see Americans willing to overlook our own errors and ignore the nuances of local environments, resulting in poorly conceived policies that do more damage than good. The British Empire studied foreign populations for centuries to methodically divide and rule them. Americans act too hastily, or lazily, to do their basic due diligence, even though they aspire to democratically reform whole societies.

To many Britons, America's global mission for democracy seems particularly misguided and they complain of being dragged along unwittingly. "We're just an aircraft carrier for America," complains Peter Underwood, who lives on a canal boat. Multilateralism and European issues are becoming increasingly important here. Running around the world, and for that matter running the world, seem outdated.

Yet some like Tony Blair continue to advocate a strong UK role in taking on international responsibilities with America. Many conservative citizens, especially those I met around Lancaster, fully support a U.S.-UK alliance willing to tackle global problems. The "war on terror" is foremost on their minds. The fight must be taken to the enemy, they say. From hunger to terror, the global is local like never before.

But even among those who think America and England need to address global problems, few (save Niall Ferguson) believe America needs more power at its disposal to do so. Most here think it already has too much.

They also argue that might alone -- cultural, economic or military -- won't enable the U.S. to govern or change the world. The latter alone certainly isn't enough. America must instead collaborate with other nations. To do so in good faith, it must see itself with a bit more humility, look outward while questioning itself inwardly, and envision a multipolar world.

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Comments (37)

Sana Jamie:

Im a 17 year old British student and I love america! Ive always been fascinated in your way of life and even envied it sometimes, you seem to think into stuff alot deeper and the pranks you play, your traditions, your patriotism is just something i wish we had here. I hope Britian and America keep strong ties as allies.

Richard H.:

Geez, Rory is a perfect example of what annoys me about - some - Americans:

"Hey, thanks for the insight. By the way, WE WERE IN THAT EMPIRE." Get your facts straight Rory, you WERE that Empire! Why do Americans so easily forget that the first generations of Americans were Europeans? I'm sure the Native American Indians had clear views on the subject.

India: The British invasion and occupation of India was brutal but India was a barbaric and fragmented Country in that era (and it still has some way to go)and the things that British explorers and soldiers saw were very shocking so it is perhaps not surprising that they were so disrespectful to the Indians.

The division of India by the creation of Pakistan was largely engineered by Mohandas Ghandi who contrary to the popular story of him as a simple man who became a modern-day saint (that damned movie - which I must admit I loved - is almost as misleading as Oliver Stone's JFK) was a lawyer with political aspirations and a very dark and cruel side to his personality.

Slavery: Britain ended slavery before America. The reason slavery existed in Britain so much longer than America is that America simply hadn't existed for as long! In all those decades after the abolition of slavery in Britain, Americans were perfectly well informed of the moral argument against slavery; imagine if America were to bring back slavery today for the next 20 years, would the argument that "it's only a total of 100 years which is much less than Britain" wash? Of course not.

Another important point is that to 99.99% of people in Britain, slaves were not an asset. Rich people had slaves, ordinary people didn't. If you think competing with Mexicans for jobs and wages is hard how much harder do you suppose it was to compete with slave wages?

African Colonial States: A similar story to India,
Britain didn't have to leave those Countries but it did so partly due to ethical objections and also to avoid fighting rebellion; I suspect that America would have preferred to go to war rather than leave peacefully. And what became of those former colonies? Once the British left they fell back into tribalism and warlords once again took power, a problem that continues to this very day.


I like America a lot, but most of what Amar has wrote in that article rings true with my own personal sentiments. What's with all the flags? And why all the religious craziness? TV evangelists, Scientologists, Mormons.. can't Americans see how loony these people are?

American power does worry me, when the present invasion of Iraq begun I thought to myself "I'm sure I could do a better job myself" but then I thought "well.. maybe I'm being too arrogant, I suppose I couldn't really secure the peace and catch Saddam Hussein for less than 10 billion dollars"... What does the bill stand at now? You could have BOUGHT Iraq for less. I'm not sure America has even finished paying the bill for the Vietnam war.

Joe:

Why do americans refer to the revolutionary war whenever they are debating with british people? This is the kind of behaviour that causes people to think they are childlike and uneducated, anti-british sentiment in America seems to equal or top anti-american sentiment in Britain.

Reid :

Amar,
Keep up the good work. Cant believe Gibbs is gone .
All Hail the Redskins

Jack:

I am a British 17 year old. I love England. I really want to travel to the USA aswell, maybe even live there.

Its interesting to note that the whole way that England views America (as depicted in this article)is so simillar to the way that Ireland, Scotland and Wales views England.


Luke:

"...as someone who has spent a good bit of time in Great Britian and the US, I have yet to meet any American that desires to convince me that America is best. I've met alot of Europeans who feel the need to convince me that Europe is just as good as the States, just not vice versa."
-Ody

I completely second this. This reflects my experiences abroad in Europe so accurately, and is the source of great consternation for me.

I have observed many traits of Europeans, inquired into many of their views and tendencies. Many I find admirable, others puzzling and a few perhaps even antithetical to civil society... But I have never tried to judge a European for their social values, never convinced them they should be more like me, and I refuse to believe that Americans on the whole engage in this as well. I simply believe they do not (and frankly, many Americans themselves take a "wish-I-were-somewhere-else" mentality toward their own "provincial" culture.) American may very well be less informed than would be acceptable to European standards, but Americans at least do not presume that others should adopt their ways. If you don't believe me, try visiting the USA, with an objective eye, anywhere outside of new york city.

I have been considering these issues for some time. I have come to the conclusion that European views of the people of the USA are shallow and are not worth dealing with. The phenomenon is beyond the power of American individuals or culture as a whole to influence. And frankly, I am left jaded toward cultural dialog and fairly offended.

My love for my country has nothing to do with how the federal government acts. I denounce many of Bush's policies as being anti-American and antithetical to the core to the cultural spirit of its people. Europeans assume that American culture is found in total within the excretions of Hollywood, is at its core plagiaristic and uncreative. This nearly made me melancholy when I first went to Europe, looking forward to a opportunity to cultural dialog and exchange, to present an alternative American voice to that of Bush and Hollywood. And it's almost as sad that many Americans have bought into this bankrupted view as well, rather than seizing upon their own place within this culture to defend and engender our traditions and the beauty of our cultural experience.

Real Americans know that the American people ought to be defined by other things. The people of this land produced blues, jazz, bluegrass, Appalachian folk, dozens of traditional barbequeing techniques, many different sports, several entirely new religions, indigenous languages and dialects (Gullah, Cajun, etc.), Chicago architecture, and on and on. Americans, contrary to stereotype, are among to most innately cultural people I have ever seen. Film, vaudeville, skateboarding, musical theatre, surfing, etc. etc. Arthur Miller, George Gershwin, Philip Glass, David Lynch, etc. etc.

There is no point really trying to communicate with the rest of the world about what is actually indigenous to the American people. Foreigners largely misinterpret our intentions, our cultures and our lives. Americans live in a paradox: they are the target of so much of the world's attention, yet the subject of so little actual understanding. I sometimes ask of non-Americans what would remain of their views of America if the government were to collapse from within and Hollywood were to fall into the sea. At this point, they are largely at a loss. They assume that something like "indigenous" culture is something only granted to them. That Americans have no claim to cultural beauty, to a relationship to the land on which they live. We are intrinsically a "nation of immigrants," and thus only legitimate as the world's bastard. We are completely defined by their judgment of the Bush presidency.

Of course, the American government must be faulted in many ways. But the world will never move out of the rut of CULTURAL anti-Americanism, of which I consider willful misunderstanding or dismission to be among the worst kind, until it learns to detach their judgments of the American government's policies with the cultures and lives and struggles of Americans as they continue to live their lives. If the world at large can not do these things, than it is not the fault of Americans inherently. I hate to see myself turning inwardly and only having love for my own culture anymore, but I dare say this was forced upon me. While the rest of the world feels under political attack from the American government, Americans abroad are under cultural attack by people who wish to view their visitor with contempt and his culture as degenerate. I truly feel like most Europeans I speak with view my culture as more of an obstacle to winning me over to their perspectives. Time and again I was treated like I was a rare good apple coming out of a lower race of the human species. I have not had a single conversation with a European who was actually genuinely interested in gaining knowledge of my civilization, of which they really have little. The same kind of interest they expect me to have about theirs. Not one. And I seek out local people whereever I go. I must say, though I love much about the European cultures, this glaring issue makes me incapable of ever living there, of ever acknowledging Europeans as being "enlightened." How could I, if redemption is not possible for me, simply on the basis of where I was born? It isn't worth thinking about... Europeans, can we please stop trying to outdo each other? God bless the American people, to hell with Bush.

Stan:

The USA has been in an unusual position ever since the end of the cold war, and I think that most of the nations that were once an integral part of NATO are finding themselves wondering if they even need us anymore in any type of leadership role. We still have plenty of money and nuclear weapons and high quality television, but in the world of the 21st century, everything but the weapons of mass destruction are easily dismissed as old hat.
Economically, the EU has done wonders in transforming into its very own powerhouse. Socially, Europe has achieved a cohesion that hasn't been seen before, despite numerous obstacles and setbacks. It isn't until you look into politics with the US that some of the issues become more apparent.

The UK (and many other nations) cooperated with the USA following the end of the 2nd world war mainly because there was no one else to go to. The USSR was so large and Europe had been so devastated that there was little choice in the matter. Now, though, the USA tries to use tactics in international politics that are so outdated that the nation they were intended to be used on is no longer in existence.

We focused so closely on the USSR - we reserved all of our fear for them and other communist nations - that now nations that looked more carefully at the world stage before, during, and after the cold war are carefully backing away from the USA just in case it, too, crumbles in the same way. Rather than focusing on the general, we chose the specific. We chose selective diversity in our education, our economy, and our government. And now that it has become ingrained, it seems that it is only ourselves that will have to pay the price for these shortsighted policies.

The United Kingdom doesn't back away from the once sunny relation out of any hatred or malice towards the USA. Metaphorically, the USA and UK are "good" friends, but at the party that is international politics, the USA of the 21st century has shown up messily drunk and proceeded to pick fights with some of the other guests. No nation, no matter how staunchly pro-America, would tolerate this.
As a US citizen, though, I remain fairly optimistic that we'll remain for a long time yet. It may take a great shock to jolt us out of some of our ways, but I do believe that it's possible for us to overcome some of the problems that we have on the domestic and foreign fronts. We're having to reassess ourselves as a nation, and it isn't as easy as the more vocal critics would believe.

Amar C. Bakshi:

Betty, Maria, glad you like it! Keep in touch. I'm off again on Friday.

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hmm. John, I'll give it a shot and send you an email letting you know what I come back with. I'm flying through Germany through Turkey on Friday so I got a great chance to start.

Jon Kingsmen:

Did you really need one month in the UK to come up with your article?

Next time, next country... Watch U.S. Television for 30 minutes and chat with an air hostess, I am sure the result would be as useful and as shocking (oh!).

Allan Robertson:

I mostly like America, I don't buy the Anti-American line, it's just easy to play the victim America is big enough to take a few insults and deal with it. But I even though I do like America I also view it as a whole much like a 12 year old with a rocket launcher and a crack habit. Americans are not stupid but they are taken advantage of by their government and media witch can lead to ignorance.

MH Lee:

What Britons and Europeans form their opinions on is the constant anti-American media in their respective countries. Have these people actually had a one on one conversation with Americans? Just as they accuse us for not traveling abroad very much, Europeans do not travel to America very much either so how are they to know what we are really like? America is such a big country that even if they were to visit (most liekly New York or LA) it still would not be enough. What they see as arrogance and ignorance on the American side (Which I can agree with) I also see them as being condescending as arrogant as well. They love to hate us. If they didn't they would not have a target. Don't get me wrong, I don't have any illusions about our government. I just think that ALL of us can do with a bit more open mindedness and cooperation.

Maria:

I like this series very much. It is much more enlightening than the 'world news' that is on the main Washington Post pages.

BEtty:

Very interesting series! Thank you Washington Post.

Dan:

Interesting thread. I would be one of those "untraveled Americans", having never left North America. I have, however, lived with an Argentinian for a year, my brother-in-law is Salvadoran, and I've had extended contact through work, socializing, etc. with Brits, French, Romanians, South Africans, Arabs, Indians and various others. My best friend had a job for a long time that sent him to various countries in Europe and Asia, and we've spent late nights discussing his impressions of the people there. I live in one of the most monochromatic areas of the US (outstate Minnesota) and it's not unusual to hear three or more languages being spoken during a shopping trip. In New York you're likely to hear a dozen or more on the same trip. Not traveling first-hand doesn't necessarily mean total ignorance of the world.

The thing about America is that it's so freakin' BIG. And diverse. Any terrain you prefer, you can probably find a reasonable facsimile somewhere here. Any political culture. Anything at all. Even if you've decided you hate America, there are people in America you can identify with.

My own view is that this is the main reason many Americans don't see the justification of the expense of going to Europe or elsewhere for vacations or whatever. Why go to the south of France when you can go to California for cheaper? Why go to Norway if you can go to Minnesota or Michigan? Why go to London if you can go to New York?

The only reasons I normally hear people give for going to extra trouble to go to places like that are visiting family, historical significance, and "to broaden their perspective". The latter is usually heard from college kids or massively yuppified younger professionals.

All that said, the world's view of America doesn't really matter much to me (though it is of passing interest to know what they're thinking). I'll judge my country's merits on what I see it do, cross-referenced with what I know has worked historically and my own personal biases about what kind of country I think we should be. Hopefully the rest of the world would do something similar in the end.

Amar:

Keith,

I'm really delighted to have you posting on this comment thread. It's so important to have our military involved in the conversation, and some of my best friends are leaving for Iraq soon. I always find their thoughts on perspectives on America particularly insightful, moving, important. I really look forward to learning from your experiences and thoughts.

And I'd like to join in on drinks. I'll be passing back through DC for a few weeks in August and maybe I can post something about setting up a time to meet up and talk.

Stafford:

Amar:
Thanks for the post. As an American Soldier serving here in Iraq, it's fascinatitng to come across and read your posts online.

Having always had a passionate interest in international relations (I have a Master's Degree in the field) I love learning more about others rather it be through reading their words or meeting them in person.

Personally I love America. Being a native Virginian there is something about the sheer vast scope, beauty and people of America that cannot be beaten. Our rapid growth culturally, economically and militarily. I've travelled overseas relatively little compared to the other posters here, be it with the Marine Reserves (Macedonia for 2 weeks), the Army National Guard (to LSA Anaconda), or personal travel to France and Germany. But I often wonder when I have seen other cultures and lands just how the ole' USofA managed to grow and develop as we have over a span of just over three centuries. Having said that, I do believe that also the sheer size of America does insulate (for lack of a better term) the average American from the outside world. We're a nation of 300 million in an area vastly larger than western and eastern Europe. France, for example, is the size of one of our states - Texas, and that's not even our biggest.

I fully plan to travel to the land of my ancestors (England, Scotland and Ireland) in the future. I cannot wait to see Germany and France again, particularly the historic battlefields of WWI and WWII.

Agreed that sometimes our foreign policy leaves one scratching ones head and wondering "Wha???" But I do believe a great deal of that is founded on the experiences of the pre and post WWII events in Europe and elsewhere. The concern that appeasement will only further encourage a tyrant, no matter how big or small, runs deep in those over say 50 and those, like myself, who have studied history.

To Hap: Great to hear from a Canuck. I'll be moving back to Virginia from Arizona following my deployment and from one vet to another, I'll buy you the first couple of rounds if your travels bring you down to the Washington, DC area.
Keith

ODY:

"Look, we British think our country is the best in the World, Americans think that America is the best country in the World"

I think the rubber meets the road right here... as someone who has spent a good bit of time in Great Britian and the US, I have yet to meet any American that desires to convince me that America is best. I've met alot of Eurpoeans who feel the need to convince me that Europe is just as good as the States, just not vice versa.

Travis:

This isn't anything new. The British have been trying to play the Greeks to our Romans since the Cold War. Interesting series, though.

Amar:

Hap Stokes, love the comment. And I've been wanting to respond to this thread in some detail. I think two beautiful points have come up, that in retrospect I did not emphasize enough in this post: 1) the melting pot idea of America, and just how diverse it actually is; many of the Britons I met, esp. those who visited the U.S. said they were struck by things like the Latin American and Mexican American influences in Miami or LA, and the west African influences in NYC, and just how amazing mixed America was (esp. compared with more prevalent, larger pockets of one nationality or another in the UK). This was particularly a point among Muslim Britons in Blackburn.
2) the idea of teasing America for sport, and not in full seriousness; along with the idea of reading between the lines of comments. I think the sporty, light-hearted aspect of these conversations is an important thing to emphasize more fully, and that even as there is a lot of resentment toward U.S. policies, and some teasing of U.S. citizens, there is generally the underlying sense that Americans by in large are good, kind, generous people, like you Hap are saying. I did not get the type of belligerence toward average Americans as I did toward the government. That tension, between dislike for the government and generally warm feelings for the people, was a throughline in the interviews. Attempting to reconcile those two viewpoints is a tricky enterprise because at a certain level, there's just a divide there, that speaks to lasting connections between people even as there is divergent views about governance.
This is a blog post, but certainly an intellectual work in progress, especially as more countries are visited and more ideas are framed and reframed through different individual lenses. I appreciate the comments here, and regarding methodology, my next post should address that. I'm hoping to be as transparent as time allows in all of this (since I'm running a largely one man band right now) and am keen on taking a week in August to print out audio files of interviews in full and posting them on the site so those who are interested (and hopefully there are a few of you!) can go and listen through. Goodnight all.

Hap Stokes:

I am a 70 yr old supposedly retired Canadian truck driver (but ain't totally yet). For nearly 33 years my machines roamed all 49 US States. No matter what city, no matter what tiny town, from coast to coast. Maine to LA or Alaska to Florida, I've been in contact with those wonderful neighbours of Canada for 33 years. It is rare to meet (anywhere) a cruddy arrogant American, because they are just the nicest people on this planet.--Cannot say that about Ville du Paris though. The Canadian Army paid my vacations to 55 foreign countries, in about 20 of those lands I served alongside American GI's (plus those lovable Aussies & the comical Limeys also). Our guys shared a lot off bubbly with those Yanks. That's where I first got to like Americans (was serving in our army). God, I hate war! Yup, the Washington Foreign Policies often leave me scratching my rear bluejean pockets also. Man some of those USA foreign plans are DUMB. In fact dumb, and even dumber. But like I implied prior, the Americans are a good hearted people, and one of their foreign policies was rebuilding EUROPE with their own tax money in the Marshall Plan. I wonder how haughty some in Europe would be (today) if the USA had never spent billions, of the everyday worker's taxes to rebuild that bombed out mess (Marshall Plan) in 1945. Put me down as being a pal of those dumb Yanks. In fact I even love the English too. Thanks for the laughs London. Your big Canuck buddy-- Krazzee Hap, the Bren Gun man.

Anonymous:

Look, we British think our country is the best in the World, Americans think that America is the best country in the World. Do you know why? Because we live where we live. No American is going to convince me that America is a better country than Britain because I am British, and likewise no British citizen is ever going to be able to convince an American that Britain is greater than America because the US is the Americans home. This whole project is fundamentally flawed, sure people are going to have problems with America, but I sincerely doubt that many Britains focus on these problems when they view America. Yes America has problems, so does Great Britain, no country is perfect. I believe that this journalist is only presenting what he wants to present out of the information he has gathered. Look at the interview with the hotel manager, clearly it has been edited to make the interviewee say certain things, and what about the interview with the three school pupils on movies? I think they're telling the truth when they say that footage of the interview has been with-held, and that only the part of the interview concerning American film has been shown. I wish that Amar would show this footage and all the other, unedited footage from his interviews in some way. But aside from that, please don't start a war of words between the British and the Americans, both of our peoples view our own countries as the best that's all there is to it. We're allies, we have been for a long long time now, please don't base your judgement of the British on the work of this journalist who is investigating an issue that is utterly pointless.

Flavio:

Good Job Rory!!
Let's not forget the nice job the british colonialism model did in the middle east,Kuwait, Iraq etc...

trailing wife:

Ah, so you were treated to the facile British condemnation of all things American from the elder brothers, were you? I used to get that a lot when we lived in Frankfurt. You'll find a nice treatment of many of those cute little stereotypes in Jean-Francois Revel's _Anti-Americanism_, written mostly before, but finished after, 9/11. It's a slim volume, surprisingly easy to read given that it's written by a French philosopher, but then he supported his philosophizing as a journalist for Le Monde and other publications.

In the meantime: a surprising number of Americans *have* travelled elsewhere...or are from elsewhere, like your family. Most, however, are there on business, whether business trip, on an international assignment like we were, with the military, or visiting family and friends. Not so many come as tourists, and so are invisible to your oh-so-vocal commentors, who no doubt took a two week holiday to New York City or Miami Beach, and now think they know America. Nor do they realize that at the moment, according to US Census statistics, nearly a third of us speak more than one language at home, either because we're immigrants, or because we're first generation Americans like you, and Grandmama doesn't speak any English at all. I had the interesting experience at the trailing daughters' elementary school of teaching English to a little Indian girl who spoke only Hindi, because her grandparents played nanny while her parents worked. This gives us Americans a perspective on the world somewhat broader than your British friends, who'll have holidayed on the Costa del Sol and Province, and of course Miami Beach.

As for their concerns about the heavy-footed Americans tromping obliviously around the world, perhaps they can look to their own recent experiences for comparison. We were over there during the little contretemps in Yugoslavia. For over a year we watched as the Europeans, insisting that this was their neighborhood and their problem to solve, both did absolutely nothing and refused to allow the Americans to, either. It was finally when President Clinton put his foot down that the bombardment of Croat cities and the siege of Sarajevo were ended, and the peacekeepers went in. This does not speak well to the ability of Britain or the Europeans to accomplish anything at all without a strong push from those well meaning but feckless Americans. Or for a more recent example, the three years that the Britain, France and Germany negotiated with Iran to end their nuclear bomb program, which has resulted in Iran being perhaps within a year or two of aiming nuclear missiles at Israel and the heart of Europe.

Actually, the fact that you so naively believe the judgements of your British friends to be sound speaks to your American-ness. We are taught to the politeness of not openly contradicting others unless we are sure of our ground, and would not dream of insulting the language or culture of another without cause. Out there in the great big world, however, insulting Americans to their face is considered great sport, and serves to reconcile the speakers to the facts that the despised America is nonetheless a continued magnet for immigration, has a faster growing economy and lower unemployment than anywhere except the newest open economies like India and China, and provides more opportunity for both citizens and residents (legal and illegal), just as your grandfather understood. Else surely he would have commanded his offspring to emigrate to Britain or other points your European interviewees find so superior.

Patrick Huss:

Paris Hilton, George Bush, and Ann Coulter. This is the sum of all Americans that you portray in your post. Its no wonder your conclusions are skewed and condescending. If you, or the 'great' Britons you spoke with, find those characters to be representative of the American populace, then you and your sources are the ones who are poorly traveled. What possible good could come from painting with a brush so broad that you eliminate the contributions and opinions of literally millions of people because, to include them, would destroy the singular nature of your monochromatic musings?
Does America have problems? Of course it, like any nation, does. Does the current administration lack the intelligence to achieve its goals on the world stage? Apparently it does. Are all Americans responsible for this? No, we most certainly are not.
Of all the nations anywhere, America, because of its unique position as the "new world", is historically the most diverse and embracing society. That is what is lost in the keyhole snapshot of European prejudices you pass off here as journalism. I have no doubt that one could find an equal number of ignorant Americans to portray their small minded opinions of the British, but to what end?
Congratulations for finding a way to have someone else pay for your trip around the world, now if only you were committed to contributing something useful to the world instead of just cataloging the ignorant prejudice of the world's under-educated masses.

Proud:

Great job Bakshi! I am sure India will provide other insights -- some perhaps different and surprising... Still waiting for the next installment though, there is need to fill that 30minute void sometime between 8 and 10am, EST.

Anonymous:

Yeah actually Pakistan seperated from India after independence had been granted to the former.

Anonymous:

Yeah actually Pakistan seperated from India after independence had been granted to the former.

JRLR:

Amar, just sent you something relative to a suggestions I made recently. I received a message saying the material was being witheld for review by the blog "owner".

All the best.

G:

I do enjoy your postings and believe that your method of reporting has got to be one of the paths by which the global village needs to learn and communicate. This has got to be one of the ways in which a new understanding of different worlds will occur. America must learn from courageous youngsters like you Amar who go with humility and curiosity and a love of humankind to explore how one can improve the conditions that have deteriorated so rapidly since the fall of the Berlin wall.

Sarah:

I agree with Bill! Looking forward to India

Bill:

This is a brilliant, courageous post. Congratulations and thank you.

Ali Ettefagh:

A fair summary. Well done.

JRLR:

Hear, hear! Hears are ears...

JRLR:

Amar,

May I say it takes: 1. Courage to listen to all those views, 2. Lucidity to put them all together, and 3. Guts to submit that material for publication as is, i.e without being unduly judgmental?

I am glad to see that contrary to what I had suggested in my very first post to you, at the beginning of your journey, you obviously did NOT only find (and report on) what you might have been specifically after, from the start. However much your material might have been edited by you and by others, I must say it sounds (and is!) so much more valuable than embedded “journalism”…

Wait, I can do better than that, really: your summary is most interesting, truly impressive.

Congratulations, Amar.

Still there, all eyes and hears.

Rory Calhoun:

Oh, and one final comment about Britain ending slavery "first" since this appears to be a crude attempt to claim the moral high ground. Britain did end slavery first, in 1807 by act of Parliament. This is not disputed.

It is only fitting they did so first, however, since they STARTED IT first as well, all the way back in the 1500s under Elizabeth the First. Google "John Hawkins" and "John Lok" to see what I'm talking about.

England: ~350 years of slave trade
United States of America: ~80 years of slave trade.

Keep up the good work.

Rory Calhoun:

"But we're also considered somewhat childlike: poorly traveled, insular, fervent with unexamined faith, excessive patriotism and wishful thinking."

This is precisely the sort of condescending attitude that makes Americans not want to listen to Europeans in the first place. There's this assumption that we think and act the way we do because we just haven't "traveled" (read: grown up/turned French) enough. Wrong. For many of us, leaving the US just reinforces to us how special it is to live here. Personally I am always delighted to return home to a place that has a relatively uncorrupt police force, a literal Bill of Rights, and where I and my family actually have a fighting chance of moving up in society if we just apply ourselves and work hard. The alternative - a stultifying array of quasi-socialist regimes that reward people for going "on the dole" and punish them for succeeding - is the classic British rigid social structure, 'cept nobody even gets to be upper class anymore. Thanks but no thanks.

The pomposity of the average European is amazing. Just look at some of the terminology in this article:

"Internationally, Britons see Americans willing to overlook our own errors and ignore the nuances of local environments, resulting in poorly conceived policies that do more damage than good. The British Empire studied foreign populations for centuries to methodically divide and rule them."

Hey, thanks for the insight. By the way, WE WERE IN THAT EMPIRE. We know exactly how you tried to divide and rule, and we threw a lot of "tea parties" to commemorate it, didn't we. The British took huge amounts of pride in their Empire (that's what they tromped around calling it!) and even now despite their fatal adoption of multiculturalism secretly pine for the days of Empire. By contrast, the US is highly conflicted about its own overseas territories and will let them go if they democratically decide to leave (see: Phillippines).

The British stirred up disasters wherever they went. Put aside the American revolution, think about the violent partition of India and Pakistan: Britain. The collapse of a half-dozen African colonial states: Britain. I'm amazed they even mustered the gumption to defend the Falklands - and judging by the recent traitorous performances of their own "Royal" marines who were captured/holidayed with Iran they probably couldn't even defend London at this point.

If America does something objectively wrong, we deserve to be criticised. But complaining about us because you don't like the way we are doing something usually just means we're doing it right.

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