how the world sees america

Calling Global Bloggers: What Do You Think of America?

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Bloggers and adventurous readers from around the world: How do you perceive America and why? Share your thoughts here.

I'm traveling to discover people's stories about their connections to America first-hand. But more stories shared in this forum will only help to understand how the world sees America. From personal anecdotes to political analysis, feel free to send in up to 500-word pieces to america@washingtonpost.com or post them on the comment thread below. I'll check them out, learn from you all, and post the best every week or so.

London blogger J. Clive Matthews, who I met while I was exploring England, has gotten us started with this piece on how Gordon Brown's England might see America. Check it out and join in.

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Comments (10)

Charlie, USA:

"America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." -- Alexis de Tocqueville

But why it is the job of America(ns) to be good, and why is the rest of the world not held to the same standard?

For me, I'm just proud of my freedom, and the fact that I won't judge you -- or anyone -- until I have a chance to sit down with you, drink a beer, and have a nice chat. Most likely, we'll get along just fine. Which, as Tocqueville said, is one of the most important factors that makes America great. We don't care who you are...as long as you mean well...you are our friend.

Amar:

Thanks guys for this. Quick thing: if you're a blogger, make sure to leave your URL here, or email me it at amar{dot}bakshi{at}gmail.com so I can use it when I feature you. Amar

Vinay:

Growing up in suburban Mumbai in the in the late nineties, me and many of my peers had a fair bit of exposure to America, primarily from these sources - friends moving to America (parents migrating); pop-culture exports - rock bands, MTV, Hollywood, relatives settled in US visiting; and later in late teens when some amongst us were examining educational opportunities in US (and many went ahead/are planning to pursue MS/MBA in US; American TV - especially the sitcom friends was a huge influence all through our teenage years into early adulthood - it "taught" us alien "concepts" like dating! - pretty bold considering that our parents "got to know" their spouse only after their wedding! I still remember how me and my friends used to "headbang" to metallica, Nirvana...; A recent source of influence (more so in south india) has been the large numbers of IT workers visiting US on short-term visits; MTV Grind was almost like porn to us! (even my dad got hooked to it!); Today, except from a rare 80 year old socialist/commuist and politicians keen to appease moslem minorities, scarcely anyone in india dislikes the US; the hate happens when news stories like Ganesha printed on footwear, US missionaries convert tribals, and hindu temple vandalized make it here; but most of us here know that these are fringe incidents; americans by and large believe in fairness and justice.
and liberal ppl.

Niall Conlon, Dublin, Ireland:

Americans may be hard pressed to believe it, but it's tough for a European like me to hate America. After all, who could hate a country that gave the world John Wayne, Kurt Vonnegut, Fred Skinner and Tony Kushner? Look around Europe and you'll find American movies, books and music topping the charts. In truth, Europeans stopped looking at these products as American a long time ago. America is in the very air that we breathe, and because of this, we consume many of the myths that America feeds her young.

I remember the day that the first Gulf War. I was seven years old at the time, and attending a primary school in rural Ireland. Our teacher came in and announced that the war had ended. This came as something of a shock to my class since we hadn't really noticed that a war had begun. As one we asked, "Who won?" and as one we cheered when out teacher replied "America"

It was only after the cheering died down that one bright girl spoke up and asked "But teacher, who were they fighting?"

What I hope this anecdote illustrates is that if you grow up in Europe, you grow up believing that America is good and its opponents are bad. How could we think otherwise when Superman, Captain America, Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker and Mr T are our heroes?

The problem is that while we devour America's myths in our youth, sometime around adolescence we regurgitate them. It's hard to stomach the idea that America values all life regardless of race, colour or creed, when it drops bombs into neighborhoods where children sleep.

When its president approves of the regular use of torture and is then re-elected, it's hard to believe that Americans value human dignity. It's hard to believe that America supports democracy when it ousts democratically elected leaders and supports dictators. When it abducts our citizens, ignores our governments and dismisses International law and opinion, you come to see that the American government doesn't value Life and Liberty, it values American Life and Liberty. The rest of us, we're merely a means to an end.

This realization generally leads to a feeling of betrayal and disillusionment. The Emperor has no clothes. Having believed in the lie, you resent the liar more than you would have had she told the truth in the first place. Russia and China never promised to save us. They never claimed to value our lives in the same way that America did. They were always the bad guys with dodgy accents who were trying to kill GI Joe. What more could you expect from them?

We all hope that one-day America will become the country that it has claimed to be, but looking around the planet, it seems as though that day is moving further and further away. Unless something changes, relations between Europe and the US will continue to cool. Whether or not that's a bad thing, only time will tell.

Zoltan:

"America": you probably mean USA ? It can't have escaped you that "America" is a continent, or 2, stretching from north to south.

Platon wrote that before talking about something, you - those discussing - must first check that the words used represent the same for all participants. Now there's a problem with "America" if you think hard.

And please try to make technically just phrases, where you call someone with from France a "french", same for "german" or "hungarian", and same for someone from the USA. And you'll probably notice that there is no equivalent to "hungarian" for the USA. Should it be Usaian ? And once you start writing and naming things the way they are, you might realize WHAT the problem with "Americans" is. They don't exist.


Jessica: "Is jogging an American trait? Sarkozy got flak for it." No, he didn't get flak for that. And he isn't really a jogger. When he was filmed drunk during the latest G8 summit, he said he was exhausted because, being late, he climbed the stairs running. And when you see him walk you cannot think he is a sporter. So he wants to be filmed jogging to show an image, and that's what people ... erm, dislike.


Danny Bernardi:

If America was a person what kind of person might it be? How different might he or she be to someone from Europe. As an Englishman living in Italy the view from here is slightly different. Most Italians and other non-English Europeans think that because our two nations speak the same langauge and go to war together we are one in the same.

If America was a person what kind of person might it be? I think like any person it would have a mixture of good and bad characteristics. Most English and Italian people really believe that the American economy and society give you a fair chance. Most of the Americans whom I have met fail to understand that in the UK for example class still plays a part in where you will end up. Class is not to do with money but more linked to the bed in which you were born. To be upper class does not mean you are wealthy and to be working class does not necessarily mean you are poor. It is difficult to be more socially mobile in the UK and so we look with envy at what can be achieved by someone with a little hard work and a good idea in the USA. Entry to the older professions in the UK can still depend, in part, on which school you may have attended. I have written a piece about this phenomenon entitled, 'Old School Tie Strangles the Professions'at http://dannybernardi.wordpress.com/tag/society/

If I met Andrew or Anna America in a pub I would expect to meet a large person who was louder than the average Brit. Such a person might be very keen to tell you all about themselves and their achievements. Andrew or Anna America would also want to impress upon you that he or she was deeply committed to their family and might even let slip that they undertook good works in the community.
In other words they would always be 'on'. Brits are 'off' in social situations especially and find it troubling to reveal too much about themselves on first meeting. They are also a bit suspicious of someone who needs to be 'on'. In other words ... if you are successful and happy and worthy then you probably shouldn't need to go around telling people. Most Brits would also think that Andrew or Anna would not know how to laugh at themselves. Laughing at oneself is seen as being an extremely important quality. If Andrew or Anna could not do this a Brit would think this, 'a very bad show'. Understatement is respected in the UK. I once spent a whole night with someone who told me he was a jobbing doctor who did a bit of surgery every now and then when nobody else could be found to do the job. Turned out he was a top brain man who had saved about eight lives that week!
God Bless America and all who sail in her. Andrew and Anna would probably be no better or worse than anyone else ... just different. Your environment moulds you and perhaps in a young nation, such as the USA, identity is more important. But identity is not always what you do or what you have got. When a culture is young such things achieve more significance for citizens. Here in Italy everyone knows who they are-they have thousands of years of culture and history on which to draw. There is no crisis of identity ... but then most people kind find a job!

Danny Bernardi:

If America was a person what kind of person might it be? How different might he or she be to someone from Europe. As an Englishman living in Italy the view from here is slightly different. Most Italians and other non-English Europeans think that because our two nations speak the same langauge and go to war together we are one in the same.

If America was a person what kind of person might it be? I think like any person it would have a mixture of good and bad characteristics. Most English and Italian people really believe that the American economy and society give you a fair chance. Most of the Americans whom I have met fail to understand that in the UK for example class still plays a part in where you will end up. Class is not to do with money but more linked to the bed in which you were born. To be upper class does not mean you are wealthy and to be working class does not necessarily mean you are poor. It is difficult to be more socially mobile in the UK and so we look with envy at what can be achieved by someone with a little hard work and a good idea in the USA. Entry to the older professions in the UK can still depend, in part, on which school you may have attended. I have written a piece about this phenomenon entitled, 'Old School Tie Strangles the Professions'at http://dannybernardi.wordpress.com/tag/society/

If I met Andrew or Anna America in a pub I would expect to meet a large person who was louder than the average Brit. Such a person might be very keen to tell you all about themselves and their achievements. Andrew or Anna America would also want to impress upon you that he or she was deeply committed to their family and might even let slip that they undertook good works in the community.
In other words they would always be 'on'. Brits are 'off' in social situations especially and find it troubling to reveal too much about themselves on first meeting. They are also a bit suspicious of someone who needs to be 'on'. In other words ... if you are successful and happy and worthy then you probably shouldn't need to go around telling people. Most Brits would also think that Andrew or Anna would not know how to laugh at themselves. Laughing at oneself is seen as being an extremely important quality. If Andrew or Anna could not do this a Brit would think this, 'a very bad show'. Understatement is respected in the UK. I once spent a whole night with someone who told me he was a jobbing doctor who did a bit of surgery every now and then when nobody else could be found to do the job. Turned out he was a top brain man who had saved about eight lives that week!
God Bless America and all who sail in her. Andrew and Anna would probably be no better or worse than anyone else ... just different. Your environment moulds you and perhaps in a young nation, such as the USA, identity is more important. But identity is not always what you do or what you have got. When a culture is young such things achieve more significance for citizens. Here in Italy everyone knows who they are-they have thousands of years of culture and history on which to draw. There is no crisis of identity ... but then most people kind find a job!

Danny Bernardi:

If America was a person what kind of person might it be? How different might he or she be to someone from Europe. As an Englishman living in Italy the view from here is slightly different. Most Italians and other non-English Europeans think that because our two nations speak the same langauge and go to war together we are one in the same.

If America was a person what kind of person might it be? I think like any person it would have a mixture of good and bad characteristics. Most English and Italian people really believe that the American economy and society give you a fair chance. Most of the Americans whom I have met fail to understand that in the UK for example class still plays a part in where you will end up. Class is not to do with money but more linked to the bed in which you were born. To be upper class does not mean you are wealthy and to be working class does not necessarily mean you are poor. It is difficult to be more socially mobile in the UK and so we look with envy at what can be achieved by someone with a little hard work and a good idea in the USA. Entry to the older professions in the UK can still depend, in part, on which school you may have attended. I have written a piece about this phenomenon entitled, 'Old School Tie Strangles the Professions'at http://dannybernardi.wordpress.com/tag/society/

If I met Andrew or Anna America in a pub I would expect to meet a large person who was louder than the average Brit. Such a person might be very keen to tell you all about themselves and their achievements. Andrew or Anna America would also want to impress upon you that he or she was deeply committed to their family and might even let slip that they undertook good works in the community.
In other words they would always be 'on'. Brits are 'off' in social situations especially and find it troubling to reveal too much about themselves on first meeting. They are also a bit suspicious of someone who needs to be 'on'. In other words ... if you are successful and happy and worthy then you probably shouldn't need to go around telling people. Most Brits would also think that Andrew or Anna would not know how to laugh at themselves. Laughing at oneself is seen as being an extremely important quality. If Andrew or Anna could not do this a Brit would think this, 'a very bad show'. Understatement is respected in the UK. I once spent a whole night with someone who told me he was a jobbing doctor who did a bit of surgery every now and then when nobody else could be found to do the job. Turned out he was a top brain man who had saved about eight lives that week!
God Bless America and all who sail in her. Andrew and Anna would probably be no better or worse than anyone else ... just different. Your environment moulds you and perhaps in a young nation, such as the USA, identity is more important. But identity is not always what you do or what you have got. When a culture is young such things achieve more significance for citizens. Here in Italy everyone knows who they are-they have thousands of years of culture and history on which to draw. There is no crisis of identity ... but then most people kind find a job!

The Black Lantern:

Europe's best-kept secret is that the model for their dream of EU federalism is America, the most successful multi-ethnic experiment ever undertaken and, ladeeeez and gentlemen - the winner!

Jessica:

Here's a post I'd like to see from a Frenchman or other. Read about it in this paper a while back actually. Is jogging an American trait? Sarkovzy got flak for it.

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