how the world sees america

How the World Sees America Thank Yous

Amar-Final.jpg
Driving Across the Border

I could well have spent this last year perpetually lost. And maybe I was.

From the hills of Srinagar to the coasts of Beirut, I jumped borders fast, and posted often. Without the guidance of regional experts, local journalists, friends and kind strangers, I never would have been able to get my feet on the ground as quickly as I needed to, find stories, and get some grip on the complex dynamics that define each nation's relationship with the U.S.

For your time, your help translating, your leads, your edits, your warnings, your explanations, your patience and your encouragement, thank you. Thank you for making this the most exhilarating and enlightening year of my life.

Thank you David Ignatius, Hal Straus, and Fareed Zakaria for making this happen.

Thank you Natalie Ahn and Lauren Keane for making it happen right.

Thank you Caryle Murphy for your guidance.

Thank you Maria Cereghino, David Waters, Nuzhat Naoreen, Tom Kennedy, Pierre Kattar, WPNI's design, marketing and PR teams, Dan Murano, Chet Rhodes, Sally Quinn, Jim Brady, Caroline Little, Don Graham and WPNI for your support.

In Los Angeles, thank you Bijan Ganji and family and Shahriar Meshkati for helping launch this.

In England, thank you to Daniel Goodkin and family, Paul Angelo, Alex Finerman, Hirsh Sandesara, Sasha Blaes, Rachel Mathews, Olga Fedorishcheva, Bill Emmott and David Goodhart.

In India, thank you M.J. Akbar, Ritu Puri, Mubasshir Ahmed, Muzamil Jaleel (in Kashmir), Sarika Bansal,Sree Sreenivasan, and Emily Wax.

In Pakistan, thank you Ali Sethi and Family, Ahmed Rashid, Ali Asani, and Khalid Awan.

In Turkey, thank you Afsin Yurdakul, Yigal Schleifer, Soli Ozel, Erkan Saka and Serif Derince.

In Lebanon, thank you Zvika Krieger, Faerlie Wilson, Joelle Moufarrege, Lucas Welsh, and Soliya.

In Israel and Palestine, thank you Mich'ael Yugupsky, Yossi Melman, Saul Singer, Lamis Andoni, and Sasha Polakow-Suransky.

In the Philippines, thank you Angela Makabali and family, Father Shay Cullen, and Glenda Gloria.

In Korea, thank you Shim Jae Hoon and Vivian Salama.

In Venezuela, thank you Ibsen Martinez, Moises Naim, Chesa Boudin, Elena Pereira, and Sandra Portillo.

In Mexico, thank you Leon Krauze and family, Edgar Marin Vaquero, Saul Garlick, Mauricio del Villar, Daniel Brena, and Doris Huang.

Finally, thank you readers, and commenters, particularly Bobbie Neal, Holiday Dmitri, Vic Van Meter, Zathras, JRLR, Ricardo Sanchez, Berry, Toro, Metin and Tom Wallach. You gave me guidance, feedback, moral support, fierce criticism at times, and consistently engaged in insightful discussion on the threads, making this project worthwhile.

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Comments (32)

Shalini Razdan:

Amar,

Congratulations! You proved to be both student and teacher in this grand adventure. Thanks for letting us learn along with you.

Pradeep East Kailash of RDU:

Amar,

US is the world's sole superpower. You, me and a lot of us on this side of the ocean benefit fully from it. Even when some of us critique it we still continue to enrich ourselves fully from it. The entire world outside US is really powerless to influence US until they get their act together. US's advances and postion on military and economics is so far ahead of other nations that until there is some balance we really will never see a major reason for US to feel a huge need to change.

US interests will dominate world events for generations to come. We will continue to stand and move forward head and shoulders above all nations.

I don't see likeablility of US as a huge factor for Americans to be worried about. What I want to ensure is that we have access to markets, travel and exchange oppty's and integrate culturally. Being a Supe Super Power will always carry a certain degree of negative feelings by other countries towards us.

regards
p./

Amar C. Bakshi:

Scotty, thanks for reading through so much of the site. Very few people I spoke to said unequivocally positive things about the United States, but very many of them had mixed feelings -- with some warm sentiments, and some skepticism. I think that mix comes across in many of the posts. If you are looking for very pro-U.S. posts, look at the Kurds in Turkey, at the Kashmiris, at pro-business Indians, and some of the people I speak to in the UK.

Scotty:

Amar,

I just found your blog today and I have read through almost all of your entries. One thing I've noticed is that you managed to travel to 10 different countries and talked with hundreds of people but not one of them had anything remotely positive to say about the US.

That is either one heck of a coincidence or you managed to actively seek out people who had negative stereotypes and ideas about the US.

Which one is it?

John Pair:

What a refreshing, positive, eye-opening, and informative adventure you have given me, Mr. Bakshi! I greatly enjoyed your presentation on C-SPAN tonight (March 28th) as well. How refreshing to hear positive answers to such questions as, "How can we improve our relationships with people around the world?". I particularly appreciated your anecdote regarding the 15 year old Lebanese boy and his Kansas counterpart. I plan to share it with students at the school where I volunteer my time as an Activities Director. It's a marvelous example of positive connections that we can make with others on very personal and local levels. I'm a 61 year old, retired middle school teacher and I'm thrilled with the fact that young people like you are stepping up to inform and educate the older generations.

NDR49:

I'm 58 years old. And I've got a news flash for you. Hating America is nothing new. In 1966 in Hollywood, CA, I was a regular at an upscale dance club on the Sunset Strip. Movie stars frequented the place. I was 16. A young boy whom I was dancing with blurted out, 'I'm from Australia and I hate America.' I was offended. That's your problem, I should've said. And since you are so race conscious, poor you, he was white. White. What can you learn from this? You ought to learn that some people hate America and do nothing. Others hate America and gather on the internet and spew their hatred or learn how to terrorize us.

NO JESUS NO PEACE!

Toscano:

The one word that comes to mind when I hear that many countries perceive America as evil is the word paranoia.

America was unjustly attacked many many times. We have finally responded and now the world perceives America as evil. What a load of crap.

Galina:

Thank you for doing this; I've been waiting for someone to do something like this for the past several years. To really listen to people from all over the world and to realize that what YOU do HERE matters to so many people; affect people's lives, individual narratives inextricably linked to the US policies. It is time people here take some responsibility for their impact on the world. :)

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi Bill, good point. But generally people make a distinction abroad between government and people. One of the most common lines I heard was I dislike your gov, but love your people. Poll numbers back this up.

I wrote about the inconsistency of that position here:

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/america/2007/10/love_americans_hate_america.html

Check it out. I'll excerpt a bit below:

*Over the last three months, I asked scores of people how they see America, and one answer came back to me again and again:

“I love the American people, but hate their government.”

A barber in London, a doctor in New Delhi, and a drag queen in Lahore said those words thousands of miles apart.

When I hear this, I push deeper by asking, “Well, is America a democracy, and if so then don’t the wishes of U.S. citizens, to some extent, get reflected in the government they choose?” The three types of answers that come back to me are far more revealing than where we began:

1) Americans are Victims. As Peter Underwood, a houseboat owner in England, said, “Americans aren’t actually free to elect their government; they are being ruled by an elite.”

2) Americans are Villains. Theater students in Lahore decided, “Well I suppose Americans are to blame too; they're just as selfish as their government.”

3) Americans are Uninformed. Looking at me instead of the road, my Keralite driver Reji Shokla said, “You Americans don’t pay attention to the rest of the world; you don’t understand what you have done to us.”

In answer one, Peter Underwood paints Americans as the pawns of a ruling cabal. So long "Beacon of Democracy" and "City on a Hill." Answer two claims we’re proponents of a callous government, so the distinction between the U.S. state and it's people collapses. (Polls show this happening). Case three, however, offers room for change.*

billofwrites:

amar,

first of all, a compliment for your brave work. (i hear a radio report on NPR today.)

but that said, you sounded shocked when a woman confronted "you" instead of america. and your reaction? she was -- your word now --"conflating" you with the american government.

well, excuse me, but as an american, you might recall that whole "of the people, for the people, by the people" thing?

yeah.

see, as an american, "you" ARE the government. and if "you" (and i, frankly) have allowed this government to get away with horrible atrocities (torture, rendition, civilian bombings, abu ghraib), then "you" (and i and "we") are all as accountable as the "good germans" during the third reich.

she ain't conflating. "you" just in denial, dude.

Nelson Agelvis:

Well, well! It's been done! Quite a ride huh? But, it was well worth it. You learned what you wouldn't have learned reading dozens of books about the places you went to, and all while meeting people along the way. You are now officially a citizen of the world.

Sasha:

Wonderful work, Amar - I wish I had been able to come along for the adventures!

Bob Holmgren:

Amar, I heard you this afternoon on The World. Interestingly you were incarcerated in the dictatorship of Mugabe's Zimbabwe yet seemed to feel that it was more important for the United States to taylor a message for their approval. Have you considered the consequences to the greater population of playing nice with dictators? Would that you had the courage to actually be a spy that apologize for a country that opposes such governments.

Edgar Marin Vaquero:

Amar,

Congratulations on this brilliant job.

It´s been a pleasure being part of this huge adventure in which so many multi cultural voices are heard and perspective became global.

A Fan:

Bravo! A splendid job indeed. Your posts were always beautifully written . The videos were works of art. I will miss them but can hardly wait to follow your next project.

Eric:

This was a thought-provoking and intriguing snapshot of sorts. Every country you went to had different perspectives, and yet commonalities that transcended boundaries and language divides. Salud!

I think I read that you were thinking of going around the US on a similar "fact finding mission." You should do just that- because the US is composed of many different voices and visions as well. I find it interesting that many of the folks you talked with in your travels gave descriptions of common American stereotypes...and then you somehow manage to run into those stereotypes stumbling out of a bar. Classic.

But folks in the US are not this monolithic group who are all big, arrogant, and loud. I'm from LA, and yet going to Georgia or New York is a traumatizing and exciting experience because the environment and the people are different, yet somehow familiar.

I think that such a perspective would help your international readers understand the diversity of the US a little better. thanks for your hard work and excellent writing. Haagounee (goodbye in navajo)

Colin:

Well done. I hope it's been fun.

Metin Talks Turkey, Newport Beach, CA:

Congrats Amar. It was a great journey for us as well to follow you in your travels. Thanks for bringing the local tastes and flavor to our attention to enjoy. And I wish you great success in your future endeavors, as we look forward to reading more of your writings . . . I am sure it was an enlightening experience for you as well, and for that your should be proud and consider yourself lucky to have had the opportunity.

kudzai:

Amar - it's been a real pleasure and a great thrill to be a part of your adventure, even if only virtually. I always look forward to your comments and perspectives from around the world - and I also introduced your blog to my students in Asia last summer and they too have become great fans.

Look forward to seeing what you will do next.

Great stuff!

The 27th Comrade:

I thought that this one time Africa's opinion - is there any such beast? - wold matter enough. I think it matters the most, but that's just me. How does Africa see America?

JRLR:

"Always leave a little room for error." (Chinese proverb)


Afsin Yurdakul:

Amar,

It was a wonderful experience for me as well. I am proud of you for completing this amazing journey and teaching a lot to your readers.

Promise we will take you out for a nargile when you come back this summer ;)

Best,

Afsin

Tom Wallach:

You have no idea how thrilled I am to be mentioned in the same post as David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria, two men whose work I admire incredibly, even where I disagree with them.

Excellent job seeking out the interesting story, and not just the obvious ones. Somebody has to be out there showing Americans that the rest of the world is as varied, diverse, and interesting, as we think we are.

(doesn't hurt to get someone with a brain out there representing the US either)

Daniel Armanios:

Amar:

In your words and respect for others often very different than you, you have taught me so much with your sincerity and genuine writing style. I feel your enthusiasm can actually be touched, and I feel I am walking with you on every journey.

You are one of the role models in my life, and my respect for you and your work increases daily. We really miss you man, and I know this is only the beginning of a boundless limitless future for you.

Holiday:

Thanks for the nod, my friend. And thanks as well for joining me on the foreign consulate and hip-hop circuit in Istanbul. T'was fun.

Bobbie Neal:

Congratulations, Amar! It's hard to believe it has been a year. You have done a wonderful job and I am grateful I was able to vicariously experience your travels. I have learned so much from you about the world and how others see us. I can't wait to read about what you do next.

Well done and welcome home.
B

Vic van Meter:

Sorry I can't say much since it's crunch time at studio right now. But thanks for all the traveling on our behalf so maybe we can figure out what the Hell is going on in the world!

Daniel:

Congrats on finishing such a stellar project Amar.

Elena:

Amar:

Congratulations for this big, and interesting, job you achieved successfully!!! Thanks for coming to Venezuela and writing about our reality!!!

You´ll always be welcome to our Caribbean Paradise!!!

Cariños,
E.

a fan:

congratulations amar for a job well done, i have certainly enjoyed reading your post and look forwards to your next venture

Mubasshir:

With his project Amar has done a wonderful job. He is probably younger than me (I am 25) but yet he has reported intricate details so marvellously that it defies my imagination!

I would call him a modern day Ibn Batuta,the 14th Century medieval-traveller. (One of the most remarkable travellers of all time estimated to have travelled at least 75, 000 miles).

All the best, Amar.

See the link: http://mubasshir.blogspot.com/2007/07/not-many-academics-in-us-believe-in.html

Albert Chang:

I'm proud of you Amar. It's been a thrill following along with you in your adventures. We've missed you.

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