Barack Obama and The Ugly American

November 12, 2008

bernddebusmann3–Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own–

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Fifty years ago, a pair of American writers published a novel that trained a critical spotlight on U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. The book, by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick, became a bestseller and its title, “The Ugly American,” turned into an enduring label.

It’s been a dual-purpose label, first primarily pasted on inept American officials abroad and later on the kind of traveler who would irritate the natives with boorish manners and garish clothes, feeding anti-American sentiments around the globe.

Will they disappear, or fade, after the United States elected as its next president a black man who has described himself as a citizen of the world? The euphoric international reaction to Barack Obama‘s victory suggest that America’s star will shine more brightly, at least temporarily, than it has in decades.

As Obama put it in his victory speech: “A new dawn of American leadership is at hand.”

Within minutes of the results, American television viewers were treated to what have become rare images from abroad: large crowds happily waving – rather than burning – American flags.

Cheers for a charismatic young man who said his election showed that “America is a place where all things are possible” came from countries where a similar feat is a difficult to imagine. A French president of Algerian extraction? A Turk as German chancellor? A prime minister of Pakistani descent running Britain? A Moluccan in charge of the Netherlands?

“Everywhere I’ve been this year – from Jerusalem to Japan to Colombia to Italy and back again – I’ve heard people essentially say that America is an overweight white plutocrat who is not only out of touch with the world but also shows no signs of wanting to grow closer to it,” the British writer Pico Iyer said in an essay in Time magazine.

The image, he said, was unfair but potent.

What better antidote to the idea of an out-of-touch overweight white plutocrat than a rake-thin black president who says he wants to “build new bridges across the world” and is seen by many as the incarnation of “cool.”


There are already voices who say the global goodwill Obama now enjoys cannot last and that there are limits to what a president can do to change the United States’ image. True enough, but there is no better example than President George W. Bush of a U.S. leader’s tremendous power to affect perceptions.

The speed with which he managed to turn almost universal sympathy for the United States after September 11, 2001, into almost universal detestation was remarkable. By 2004, goodwill had evaporated so completely that a British mass circulation newspaper, the Daily Mirror, marked Bush’s re-election with a front page that showed a picture of the president over the headline “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”american_nov2008-w

No such rebukes for the American electorate in 2008. What was remarkable in 2008 was how quickly Americans abroad sensed a change of mood. On the night of November 4, American expatriates posted jubilant messages to social networking sites like Facebook saying it was cool to be American again.

Some expressed relief at no longer having to pretend to be Canadian, a long-time ruse to avoid being stereotyped. It is particularly popular among Americans of backpack-travel age and among those traveling in areas where anti-American sentiment runs particularly high.

Numerous opinion polls have tracked the steady decline of America’s image. One, in April 2008 by the BBC and the University of Maryland, found that people in 23 countries saw the United States’ influence in the world more negatively than that of North Korea. Hello, Washington, you have a problem!

Almost all the surveys point to foreign policy — the war in Iraq, the scandal of the Abu Ghraib prison, Guantanamo — as the principal reasons for disenchantment. While that front has been static, private organizations have launched various initiatives to tackle the image problem on a more personal level.

The non-profit organization Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA), for example, has distributed more than 200,000 copies of its “World Citizen’s Guide” to corporate travelers, with 16 tips that are a mirror image of the behavioral patterns that earned Americans a boorish reputation in the first place.

BDA’s founder, advertising executive Keith Reinhard, is convinced that “our collective personality is one of the causes of anti-Americanism. We are seen as loud, arrogant and completely self-absorbed.”

Fifty years later, that echoes a character in “The Ugly American”: “A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land…They are loud and ostentatious. Perhaps they are frightened and defensive; or maybe they are not properly trained and make mistakes out of ignorance.”

Another job on the president-elect’s long list of things to change.

(You can contact the author at

(Illustration by Brice Hall)

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I have been an expat American living overseas for almost 30 years. Part of that time in Europe, Asia, Canada and Australia. I speak several foreign languages fluently and when in various parts of the world for any extended time, I dress to the customs of the country I am visiting.

The operative word is “visiting”. Unlike many of my American associates who come to these various places either to see me or to come on business, I have often seen a required criteria of the host country’s people to adapt to the American’s way of doing anything.

This “Ugly American” attitude is pervasive and I believe it is the basis for much of the anger and resentment that has fomented around the world toward us Americans.

Well the election of Barack Obama chnage things? Here in Australia – among the everyday citizenry – I see a new found respect and hope. Will American’s no longer be “up themselves”?, i am asked. I have no idea – but we can only hope.

Most people and colleagues I talk to globally are in a wait and see holding pattern.

I am too. But I can hope that American’s will finally realise that the world owes them nothing and that they will join the rest of the global community as equals rather than feeling above it all.


Posted by MizuInOz | Report as abusive

I lived in Germany for three years, from 2003 to 2006 (coming home to the States 4 times a year for 2 weeks) doing contracting work for a company there. While doing laundry in the hotel I was at, a Fin asked me a question where I thought he said “do you speak English?”. But his accent was so bad I did not realize he asked me “are you English?”. When I responded “Yes”, he said “Good, thank God you are not an American”. He continued to rant about how horrible Americans are.

I saw him several times throughout the next month and I never admitted that I was American, because I found this to be a rare opportunity for me to get a perspective from a European about Americans without knowing they are talking to one. He continued to rant about Americans every time he saw me, or anyone else that would listen to him (that was not an American).

There was a time that my wife and I went to visit Italy. My wife is second generation American, but all her grandparents came from Italy. As long as she did not speak, people thought she was Italian. I have a lot of German characteristics, so people there thought I was German. It helped that the car I was driving had a German license plate and I knew more German than anyone that tried to speak German with me.

While touring a church in Milan, we saw an American family. They were dressed like a typical tourist, with the big hats, shorts, and blinding colored shirts. They were loud and acted like the whole country was an amusement park for them. If this is what the rest of the world sees of us, no wonder we have such a low approval rating.

Posted by Steven | Report as abusive

Hello.. Robert DiLallo here in New York City, where, arguably, we have a chance to see and sometimes interact with every nation’s citizens as they pass by our doorsteps, literally.

That lifelong experience has led me to make a relatively simple judgment: every country has its good and bad, polite and impolite, warm and wickedly frigid individuals. Humans give and they grasp; they are aggressive and they demure, etc.

As Americans, for fairly obvious reasons, we are held to unusually strict standards. If a Frenchman or a Nigerian or a Malaysian does something here in New York to offend me, I think simply, “Idiot,” not “Idiotic Frenchman, Nigerian,” etc. If I make a faux pas in Paris, I am thought of as exemplifying some sort of national trait. No matter that I am jet-lagged, beleaguered by my nattering children, and driven to distraction by things like different driving habits, different pace of life, and other such quotidian conventions. I am not a harried fellow human being. I am an American and I have done wrong because I am an American. But leadership has had its price always and will forever.

Most of the rest of the world is remarkably insular from the vantage point of a New Yorker, or any liberal-minded, educated American, for that matter.

I have to not just tolerate, but am expected to embrace, hundreds of cultures and sub-cultures and dozens of religions. (Not only of non-Americans, but of my own fellow citizens.) I have to be polite, if a tad brusque, to function in a crowded, busy, expensive city. But, honestly, if I were a stranger lost, bewildered, and looking for a friendly face, there is no other place I’d rather be than New York. Open a map on a busy street here, and you will have a half dozen helpful strangers offering advice and counter advice. Trip and fall, and a dozen hands will pick you up. Are there bad hats? Oh yes, like everywhere else pockets are picked, people are cheated. But, the open, friendly face and hand of New York is a tangible facet of everyday life. And, I think that as routinely as New York doesn’t seem much like the rest of America, it really embodies the American spirit.

All that brings me around to this: the rest of the world is not as open and progressive as we are. While it has been and will continue to be a long hard climb to racial, ethnic and gender equality in America, we make the climb. We had a terrible Civil War over the issue of slavery. I think there are a few other societies that fight the same fight as ardently. I think our neighbor Canada does. I think Brazil, Cuba, Peru, Venezuela and to some extent, Mexico are on the long, arduous road. An associated problem for Americans is that much of the world wants us to be even more progressive. We have set ourselves up as the light that illuminates the world – history has set us up – and when that light flickers, wavers and seems in danger of going out, the world shakes its collective finger and chastises us. And while many countries and cultures have found us wanting often enough, well, believe us when we say that we find shortcomings elsewhere likewise. We’re usually not quite so obstreperous about it.

I think you are right a hundred times over that it would be very difficult for a parallel of Barack Obama to be elected in most other countries. But that observation should be extended far beyond Europe, which I like to think has at least contemplated the idea. While it was remarkable but not bizarre that a man of Japanese descent should become president of Peru, how utterly earth-shattering would it be if a Peruvian became premier of Japan? And if the descendant of a white native of Louisiana should find himself born into India – could he possibly find himself governor of the Punjab, the way Bobby Jindal of Khanpura was elected governor of perhaps the deepest of the deep southern states of the U.S.? Of course, one can go on and on. A Catholic in Iran, a Bushman in Moscow, a Vietnamese in Argentina – running for anything except their lives?

America is always becoming. It is in our nature. It is in our frontier mentality. It is in the immigrant experience. It’s even written into our constitution: “…In order to form a more perfect union…” Not perfect. Not finished. But to aim for more perfect. Bad grammar, phenomenal political theory.

To judge us by our foibles, our not infrequent political missteps, and a touch of loud-mouthed irascibility while abroad is to forget that amazing light, flickering or not.

It is also to forget that the mighty stumble, but the truly great get up, dust off and vote for someone like Obama, correcting mistakes, improving life little by little.

Posted by Robert DiLallo | Report as abusive

There’s only so much a president, or American expatriates, or private public diplomacy groups can do to change anti-American feelings. It seems to me there’s a good bit of resentment and envy that simply stems from the fact the the U.S. is powerful and its citizens rich, by comparison to others. It’s the price to pay to be part of an empire. The Brits in their heyday were unpopular, too, as were the Romans. Not to speak of citizens of the late Soviet empire, compared with whom Americans were seen as free-spending angels, even clad in Hawaii shirts.

Posted by Jacques | Report as abusive

Being an inmigrant and having experience how america steps up to the plate everytime there is an international disaster, I got to say that there is no other place where I’d rather be. Foreigners who have never visit the US, specially those from western europe, have the wrong picture of this country. Go ask the poor peasant in Central America what they think of the Army Corps building schools and bridges. Or ask about the doctors that donate their time and money to heal the sick in these poor areas of the world.

Sometimes no matter what you do, good or bad, or how hard you try, there is always a group that will not be pleased by your actions. This country remains the beacon for oportunity.

Posted by Donald Galeano | Report as abusive

I think there is some confusion here. I don’t think American tourists, expatriates etc arouse much “anti-american” passion abroad. That loud, American family in big hats is more amusing than annoying. And good for business!
The problem is the US government. The assumption is also that it has been put in place by the American people, so foreigners feel perhaps, that they have a right to hold private citizens accountable.
A comment about the excitement over the fact that a “black” (his mother doesn’t count, of course) man has been elected president: People from Africa were in those British colonies almost from the beginning, and I doubt that the independent USA would have survived without them. This can not be compared to various immigrant groups in Europe, who showed up less than 50 years ago. Even so, were not Sarkozi’s parents Hungarian immigrants to France? I suspect you would find more immigrants in European parliaments and governments than you can find in the US House, Senate and government. I think even some ex American citizens are leaders of some east European countries.

Posted by Bengt Svensson | Report as abusive

I have seen many countries of the world, and some are pleasant enough for living some part of my life, but there nothing better place for prospetious and peaceful living then the United States of America, the Land of Endless Possibilities.

Posted by Richard Arlington | Report as abusive

Americans, along with the Chinese, are high on the “annoying tourist” list for most countries worldwide. But guess who tops the list? The French.

Posted by Sean | Report as abusive

That sobriquet wont go away as long as you have the “… kind of traveler who would irritate the natives with boorish manners …”. Most won’t care about the clothing, but you’ve got to respect the natives in their own lands. You shouldn’t arrogantly flaunt your ignorance in front of the locals of a foreign place as it’s not fair to your fellow travelers, who are mostly ok folk and aren’t ‘ugly Americans’. BTW: you can meet them flying Denver to Miami, you don’t need to fly overseas!

In a more general sense it won’t go away as long as we act out our imperialist tendencies. Things like Iraq and our historic interference in other countries contributes to it. Nobody is going to complain about things done in self-defense, but country destabilization is remembered and we have to watch out which strongman or regime we wind up supporting for strategic reasons. Look where it has got us…

Don’t expect miracles from Mr. Obama. He’s the next POTUS, not the next Messiah…

Posted by Alfred P. Reaud | Report as abusive

I give Obama’s honeymoon with the world (or much of it) about six months. And then it will come to the foreign policy issues that haven’t changed – Washington’s love affair with Israel; violations of other countries’ sovereignty in the pursuit of “the war on terror”; protectionist policies favouring American farmers etc.pp. The double standards of U.S. foreign policy won’t change with Obama, though he will enjoy the benefit of the doubt for a while. That said, there’s a need to define “anti-Americanism.”

Does it mean the kind of sentiment that propels people to decapitate Americans, such as Daniel Pearl? Does it mean people demonstrating in front of the World Bank against “the Washington consensus”? Does it mean people telling telephone pollsters that the U.S. is more menacing than North Korea? Does it mean people pointing out that the U.S. health care system is inferior to that of Cuba?

I always wondered what would happen if a U.S. official confronted with a crowd of tens of thousands chanting “Down with America” opened a large trunk filled with Green Cards and said “if anyone wants a Green Card, stop shouting and step forward.”

It’s odd but true that the most pro-American people (not governments) in the Western Hemisphere are Cubans and Venezuelans. Anyone has an explanation for that?

Posted by Pedro Pan | Report as abusive

First, a disclaimer: I voted for McCain. I didn’t believe Obama has what it takes to be the President of the greatest power on Earth. I still don’t.
Yet I wish Obama all the success and all the luck he can possibly get, including, but not limited to, in foreign relations. His success is our success, and his failure would have really bad consequences for all of us in the US and the whole world. It’s evident that now, when the US economy is sneezing, the economies around the world are down with a bad fever. It’s also evident that now that very few allies are enthusiastic about helping the US to police the world, protect, and when necessary impose the law and order (one can argue if the US should, or even has the right to do so, but the fact is – that’s how it was done ever since WWI), the world became less orderly and more dangerous place. Yes, Bush Jr. was not exactly successful at improving the perception of America and Americans around the world. Hope Obama will be better at that. But the perception is still secondary or even tertiary to security and economy. If he will manage to succeed at THAT (and I am quite doubtful, but still hope) I might vote for him in 4 years – even though I never voted for Dems.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Hey Jacques
Powerful – how? Rich – again how? Any country can have military might that does not make them powerful in any real sense of the word. Yup you’re all rich with consumer goods, how about richness of spirit?? Want to know why there is so much anti american feeling
1. you started an illegal war for bogus reasons
2. Guantanemo – since when was torture OK or is that the powerful you’re talking about!!
3. You prop up Israel and thier again illegal occupation of the West Bank
4. You think that you’re the most powerful country on Earth!
5. You want everybody else to play by the rules but you don’t – might aint right!
The world is sick up your self absorbed ways and you know what – we in our little country in the South Pacific don’t want or need any of your power or riches.

Posted by Jordyn | Report as abusive

Having been raised in a multi-cultural environment like Hawaii, Obama understands that humility and humbleness are traits that other cultures appreciate. In Hawaii, almost everyone is a minority. The dominate races are the caucasians and the Japanese. Race and culture are a topic of daily life, undeniably in the food. It is respectful to be humble, to be a good listener, and to accept another’s culture and to be ready to share one’s culture. This is taught from the elementary school level. So, even here, in the 50th state, an “Ugly American” sticks out like a sore thumb and Obama understands this. Many who come to live, have an open, welcoming attitude, an appreciation of our differences. Those who do not have this kind of attitude, often find it difficult to assimilate,

Posted by Hawaiian | Report as abusive

Jordyn: You obviously have not traveled much and/or are completely out of touch with who constitutes the average American citizen. The election of Obama proves this.

1) I did not support the war, and I am American, therefore using “you” as an all encompassing term is incorrect.
2) I do not agree with the unconstitutional things that have occurred in Guantanamo.
3) Many Americans (millions) are concerned with the propping up of Israel.
4) I do not think most Americans view themselves as the most “powerful” country on Earth. It is all relative. Many Americans do not think that power and military might are the same thing. Please educate yourself about our charities, the selfless work of millions, and other things we have done to help our brothers and sisters around the world out of compassion (nothing more).
5) Again, many, many Americans (a full half to 3/4) have been *continuously* unhappy with the failed policies of Bush. Not just in the past month or two.

I am an American. Re-read the above. Your gross generalizations are as narrow minded as this imaginary American archetype you have created. I hope it makes you feel better about yourself by making hateful statements that are completely void of logic.

Posted by Lev | Report as abusive

Response to Jordyn:
You use ‘you’ 6 times and ‘your’ twice. Do I embody America? Because I am American do I agree with everything the government has ever done or will do? I take it as a personal insult. I did not start an illegal war or open Guantanamo. These are the policies of one administration and we as American are lucky to be able to change administrations and participate in a democracy. You need to learn the basic ability of differentiation. Have you agreed with everything your country has done?

This ‘ugly American’ is the result of one more prejudice like Blacks have experienced in the US. I have lived abroad for the past year – there are uneducated people who think that although there are 300 million Americans I am Bush’s protege – and the smart ones who don’t see me as American, but see me as me. This was the case during Bush and it will be with Obama.

Posted by Chantal | Report as abusive

First of all, Obama is not black, he is mulatto (half and half). His mother was white. The U.S. is changing its face, from white Anglo-saxon to Afro-American, now. And wait till the Hispanics get into power. It would be the reverse of the Mexican saying ” Poor U.S., so close to Mexico and full of Hispanics”.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

Bravo to the comment from Robert DiLallo! I agree we hold ourselves to be the illuminating light to the rest of the world. I have not lived in the USA for 5 years, and unfortunately, I have at times been guilty of saying I was Canadian, just to make my own life easier. In the days leading up to the election I was terribly ashamed at the depths to which the Republican candidate was sinking, the hatred some of the American people seemed to have against one of their own. America wouldn’t be America without diversity and integration. I now am living in Italy, and every Italian I have spoken to is overjoyed at the election of Obama. The Americans are providing an example in unity.

I do hope, however that when we travel outside the country, we can respect the cultures of the countries we visit, and try to conform a bit and not disrespect their natures. One of the habits I have most noticed abroad, is the unwillingness of the American tourist to speak another language, even a single phrase in another country. A simple please or thank you in the native tongue goes a long way.

Posted by Abbegail Eason | Report as abusive

Being a US citizen in Europe is not a liability as long as US citizens don’t view their citizenship as an asset that place the holders of US passport above the rest of the world.
For a start, please recall that there two Americas – North and South and US citizens have no more right to call themselves Americans than citizens of Peru, Canada, or Belize.

Posted by ira waxmann | Report as abusive

The “Ugly American” of novelistic infamy was not, in fact a “bad guy.” Homer Atkins was none of the things brought to mind when the revised stereotype is called upon.

He looked bad. Maybe we should seek less to look good, and more to *be* good.

And to listen less to the lawyers, and more to the engineers!

Posted by Cortland Richmond | Report as abusive

Jordyn: there’s no need to be jealous. Whether you like it or not, the US is the most powerful and richest country on earth. The fact that your country is not is no reason to hate.

Posted by Josh | Report as abusive

Let us not confuse any American with his government policy just as we should not confuse any other nation of people with the choice or non-choice of their leaders.

I think the importance here is to realize that a little over half the people who voted for Obama are not going to change the mindset of the other half who did not vote Obama. The Ugly American will still be around at home and abroad.

However, there is too much concern on the part of Americans about their image rather than the substance that they bring to the world. Therein lies the misunderstanding between what Americans think of themselves and what the rest of the world thinks of Americans.

Posted by Tamzin | Report as abusive

For Abbegail Eason:
A few weeks ago, my family visited Naples. A woman in a pastry shop didn’t speak Italian, so the employee was overjoyed when my 16-year-old son offered to translate (he is quad-lingual). The woman asked all kinds of ridiculous questions like, “What does the custard taste like?” When she left, she didn’t even have the courtesy to say “grazie.” The nationalities? We’re American. The woman was French.
To Ira Waxmann, who bless his heart is still fighting the two-Americas fight: You should know that when people ask my nationality, I always say, “I’m from the United States.” “Ah,” the foreigners always say, “You’re American.” Sorry, Ira. In the absence of a term like “Unitedstatsian,” I’m afraid this one is a lost cause.
I have lived 17 years outside the United States, and frankly the Ugly American thing doesn’t bother me. I get a big kick out of the intricate plots that foreigners think the CIA has cooked up in a bunker somewhere. Foreigners usually have such a potted view of what it means to be American.
The problem with Bush II is that I began to wonder what it meant to be American. Wars of aggression? Torture? Refusal to tackle environmental issues? The list goes on. Barack Obama is not only president-elect; he was a lecturer on Constitutional law. He might not change the perception of the Ugly American. But he will, I have no doubt, restore America to the principles that have been absent for too long.

Posted by Barbara | Report as abusive

OK. I, like Robert DiLallo, live in New York. But please don’t lump me into this self-important moniker Mr. DiLallo entitles “New Yorker, or any liberal-minded, educated American.” I guess I’m liberal and I have advanced degrees, but I think adopting the tone that says “I’m so enlightened and brilliant” is exactly part of what people outside the US – and even outside our little island of Manhattan – find arrogant. So, Mr. DiLallo has “to be polite, if a tad brusque, to function in a crowded, busy, expensive city”? If he’s so busy, where does he ever find the time to write his rambling diatribe?

Posted by Fred | Report as abusive

“It seems to me there’s a good bit of resentment and envy that simply stems from the fact the the U.S. is powerful and its citizens rich”…
What a stupid idea!!! why would i envy a country whith the weakest healthcare system of all developped countries, a country sending his children to death for illegal wars, a country with no real democracy, with death penalty, the highest crime rates, with almost no paid vacations, a country where the retired people have to work till their death, where going to school can be as dangerous as walking in kabul streets…
Yes, all the world envy this…

Posted by rodrigo | Report as abusive

oh pish posh. the rest of the world celebrates Obama’s election because they see him as an inexperienced politician and hope to take advantage of his seious naivete.

President-Elect Obama will need to be reminded — frequently — that his job (his ONLY job) is to protect and promote the interests of the United States and not to engender warm, fuzzy, kumbaya feelings in the rest of the world. If that happens while he does his primary job, fine; it is not and should not be an overriding or principle concern and “will the rest of the world like us” should not even cross his mind! I and most other Americans feel no obligation to apologize for our standing in the world. As I recall, that were and are many countries who are happier than pigs in it when they need us to fight their fights and save their citizens. WE are the greatest nation on the Earth and the rest of the world just wants to be. Mr. Obama would be wise to remember that.

Posted by Carla | Report as abusive

“Americans have many fine qualities. A capacity to see ourselves as others see us is not high among them.” From a column by Patrick Buchanan

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

It’s no way about individual citizens (you’re as nice as all the others!), it’s about the nation. How comes that a rich nation as the US is not willing to accept Kyoto contracts even having California doing well with some of the strictest environmental laws? Why can the US complain about human rights in China and have Guantanamo not controlled at all? Why does the US not accept the International Court of Justice and has zero contribute to the International Criminal Court but has no problems with extraterritorial impacts of its own law system? Why had the US strict anti apartheid rules but nothing done for their own rural black underclass? It’s like the US has a white image of it’s nation and a black one of the rest of the world. But if the US does want the others to improve then it should do its homework first. Only then it will be the model it once was. And in the fantastic case that customs officials will become as nice as in China, even traveling to the US would become more attractive again.

Posted by Urs E. | Report as abusive

In response to Carla…Bullocks! We cannot act like a spoiled star athelete with no regard for the position we stand in as a role model, by default, and expect our “star-persona” to last. If we have learned nothing from the pitfalls of the last eight years let us learn emphatically that pride will most certainly come before the fall. (Rome was probably the best example of the lesson unlearned.)

Posted by John | Report as abusive

It’s hard to feel as much a part of the world as Europeans claim to be when America is clear on the other side of the world. I’m sure all of the states in the USA feel as close to each other as the countries in the European Union, if not closer.

It’s easy to feel close to regions to which you can drive or take a train. Less so if getting there requires 20 hours on an airplane.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

America has a bad image because of its arrogance.

I live in Canada. Their embassy in my capital is built like a fortress, defacing our downtown. That would be something I could live with, except that following 9/11 they coerced (bullied) our local government to shut down the lanes in some of our busiest roads. It was entirely unnecessary, even without the road blocks the embassy already had a fifteen foot fence, a spacer, and a perimeter of car-stopping pilons.

Of course, that’s a little thing. On the national level, Americans are bullying us to push through their policies in our federal government. If we don’t, we are threatened with visa-only entry to the US. It’s a silly threat, but this is how we are dealt with.

It doesn’t help that Americans are seen as ignorant. I used to work in the travel industry. Some didn’t even know the countries in North America! They thought Quebec was *another* country. Jesus. And the amount of people who asked me what church our Parliament was. It was always exclusively the Americans who were this bad, regardless of the mixture of people I dealt with.

I don’t know any Canadian who would envy the Americans. Sure it’s a great country to live in if you’re rich. I would never want to give up the notion of universal healthcare (which despite American propaganda – works!) or cheap education. Or a slightly more balanced media. Or an aversion to violence, guns, and killing. Or equal rights for all, whether you’re black or gay.

Posted by Julien | Report as abusive

To Roddrigo. Here is your quote:

“A country with no real democracy, with death penalty, the highest crime rates, with almost no paid vacations, a country where the retired people have to work till their death, where going to school can be as dangerous as walking in kabul streets…
Yes, all the world envy this…”

You don’t say in which country you live and my question to you is: Are there long lines in your capital, of people queueing up to get visas? Is there a long wait time on the telephone for people who want to make visa appointments?

How do you explain that more people want to visit, or work in, the United States than any other country on the globe? Is it just because salaries tend to be higher? Is it because people actually LIKE such stuff us Disneyland? Is it because America-bashers are just as hypocritical as those who say America is that shining city on the hill?

Posted by Fecundo | Report as abusive

Much of what is associated with and disliked about the American people is at least symbolically countered by the recent election of Obama, but is this really a long-lasting phenomenon ?

Anti-Americanism is an expression of the arguably justified frustration of non-American states that has its natural roots in power games( the dominated both disliking and admiring the dominator – frustration) and it’s justifiability in the Texan jack-ass, “let’s make the world a better place in our own image” behavior America has, politically to culturally to many other “-ally”. Obama’s election expresses a common will within the American people to cut down on the “justifiable” side of the anti-American causes. Or does it ?

Why did Americans vote for Obama ? Was it because of the same reasons people around the world appreciate the deed ? Was it simply because Americans felt the need to once more feel proud and confident in a president that seems to have more skill and natural ability than a fifth grader at a spelling-bee contest ?

It seemed to me that the general excitement about Obama was somewhere in the lines of “finally we can show we’re not that awful, that we can vote for a non-white, non-republican”, apart from the policy debates, or Obama’s charisma. Maybe it’s because he was taller than any other candidate, as a friend suggested. But how much of the voter’s choice is a promise to the world that things will “change” ? The input of American people has much to do with the “say” they have in the running of their state, and “say” is something many can do, and will do, sufficient to cause contradiction, on which governments thrive, being offered the opportunity to choose whatever convenient and blame it on the :)) other side of the debate. People in US can do very little about the running of the country, especially because they live the illusion of being able to do much/more etc.

So while the world is celebrating the symbolism( and not the policies) of the newly-elected, all that really matters is what the new guy is going to do. How does this affect anti-Americanism ?

Ironically, it does depend on Obama, although whatever he does do to solve the incredible mess his country is in, anti-Americanism will still sustain itself from the memories of the past or from any acute fact of the present.

People need to know that what they intensely but pointlessly desire is tainted.

“Raising the issue above the issue”, I would say that the story of states is no longer about states, no longer about institutions or the people for which they stand, but it is about people who are in control, the ones feeding the axioms of America, defining its mechanisms, to the best of their interest.

Posted by Dante | Report as abusive

With all due respect, Mr. Debusmann, the only “Ugly American” are columnists as yourself! So eager to identify the citizens of the USA who travel abroad as arrogant, loud-mouth, ignorant scum. We have travelled overseas and we believe in the “Golden Rule.” We respect all peoples and even try to learn their langugage, tip well and try to learn from them about their beloved countries. However, sometimes, no matter how hard you want to please the folks across the seas, there will be some that will continue to dislike and are jealous of the “American Way”. We are truly happy and proud we are Americans and have the opportunity to state “Our Say”! Thanks for allowing us to comment!

Posted by Bob, Maria Elena Friskel | Report as abusive

I often read people’s comments on topics like this one and, invariably, someone harps on our “hijacking” of the use of the term “American.” I think we should hold some sort of global poll to determine, once and for all, what should be considered an appropriate title for citizens of that middle country in North America. I’ll vote for “Staties.”

Posted by Justin | Report as abusive

“WE are the greatest nation on the Earth and the rest of the world just wants to be” Carla
I rest my case….arrogance thy name is America.

Posted by jordyn | Report as abusive

“I rest my case….arrogance thy name is America.”


America is the greatest nation on Earth Jordyn. That is why people wait for years to come here. Calling America arrogant doesn’t change that fact. Maybe you have a slight case of envy? Or if in fact you live in America, a case of self loathing induced by 4 years of leftist indoctrination at our fine universities? In any case you don’t have to be like us. We won’t force you to. We just recommend it.

Posted by Churchill | Report as abusive

I’d like to point out that although Europeans love to criticize the “arrogant self-absorbed American” traveling abroad, Europeans themselves are quite arrogant and insensitive when they travel abroad as well. I’m an American who grew up in Thailand and Italy. As a child and teen living in Thailand, I was very aware of how modesty is central to Thai culture (and most Asian cultures in general), yet hordes of Europeans came to Thailand walking around half-naked in the city and went topless on the beaches. Since I spoke Thai, I would hear from Thais all the time complaining about how rude and vulgar Europeans were.

I’m not a prude, but whenever I travel to Asian & Middle Eastern countries, I always make an effort to dress modestly so that I respect their culture. However, many Europeans do not. If they want to criticize Americans for being insensitive when in foreign countries, then I’d suggest Europeans try being more sensitive when they visit countries like Thailand where wearing bikinis, much less going topless, is frowned upon.

Posted by laurel nyc | Report as abusive

I’m an Australian and I wanted to state my belief that the “Ugly American” myth is just that – a myth. It never existed in the first place, except in the minds of fervent anti-Americans.

Americans abroad, on the whole, are far more respectful and courteous to their hosts and their host’s culture than the hosts are, should they visit the United States. Much more so than Australians and Brits, that much is for certain.

As for those people from developing countries, they make little or no effort to respect locals when traveling abroad. If you don’t know that, I suggest that you haven’t traveled very far.

Posted by Michael MacConnell | Report as abusive

[…] Barack Obama and The Ugly American […]

Posted by Can A New Era Put The Ugliness Behind Us? | Report as abusive

I am a hedge fund manager. What is an American?

Posted by John Blodbrett | Report as abusive

I spend 200 days out of the year traveling to different parts of the world as a public speaker. Once in a while I will run into a “rude American” who is raising their voice in a hotel lobby while they are discussing business on their cell phone or I might find a “rude American” voicing their opinion in an airport after their bags have been lost. But, I must say that while these individuals are not our best ambassadors, most Americans I run into have a genuine respect for the people they meet and the countries they visit. It is unfortunate that the world looks at the obnoxious few and believes that this is typical. Before you express your own opinions of the “Ugly American” let me ask you this. Out of all the nations in the world, which country would you say spends more money each year, decade after decade, towards helping their starving, homeless, thirsty and helpless neighbors? Not only that, but this country offers these generous gifts not as a loan but a sign of good faith while the rest of the world returns to us not food, water or aide, but harsh criticisms of behaviors that are as unfair as the media who reports it.

Posted by AJ Monte | Report as abusive

well said, Robert. Just like a true American.

Posted by Linda in Ohio | Report as abusive

Dear Fecundo,
I have the chance to live in Switzerland. Here, the “anti-american” feeling is really strong, and I can assure you it’s not cause by the envy of a richer country, because our country is one of the richest in the world and our life level is much more higher than in USA. The feeling is coming from the disgust we can have when we see how USA is interacting with the world, and how arrogant US citizens can be sometimes.
I know that the situation is different in almost all countries in the world, and a lot of people everywhere dream of a life in the USA, specially if they come from poor countries. But it’s normal, USA is a big country with 300millions of habitants, who welcomes every year a lot of immigrants, and for anybody who wants to emigrate for a better life, USA will be a logical choice because it’s relatively easy to go there (I mean, even if you don’t have a work permit or green card) , much more easy than emigrating to Switzerland for example (as we are a little country and we cannot receive a lot of immigrants each year). Moreover, people coming from poor countries doesn’t have a real, or good knowledge of what is the real situation in USA, as they might have a relatively limited access to medias and there’s still a lot of mythology about the famous “american dream”, so I think it’s normal that so many people wants to live in USA. Life level and standards in USA are still interesting for most of the people in the world because unfortunately life is harder in their country.
But I am sure that if you have, let’s say 100 candidates for emigration from third world, and you give them complete information about life in USA and life in Switzerland, and you give them the right to chose between the 2 countries, more than 80 of these people will chose Switzerland (or another european country)
On my first comment I wrote that it was really stupid to think it’s the envy who motivates anti-US feelings and this is exactly this complex of superiority who fuels these feelings: US citizens believe that their country is soooo better than the others countries, though most of them didn’t visit any foreign country.
I worked 3 years for an US company, with a lot of American colleagues and managers, and these people were treating local employees like shit, they were absolutely not interessed about the culture and langages of the country they were living in: some of them were even not able to speak one word of french or german after years passed in the country. They were all saying that USA is the best place in the world, but all of them also where enchanted of the contitions of working in my country and didn’t want to go back to US;-)) I know it’s not the behaviour of all of them, but of most or Americans citizen abroad.
I think there’s actually an enormous difference of point of view about how US citizens see themselves, and how they are seen by the rest of the world. For example, when we think about the first image coming to our mind about Irak war, most of the US citizens will remember the fall of Saddam Hussein Statue and the “liberation” of Irak, but most of the people in the rest of the world will remember the pictures of Abu Ghraib prisonners…
I am not an America-basher, I admit that USA can produce admirable things and can always surprise the world positively, but I think that still too many US citizens are completely ignorant about the rest of the world and arrogant, and in that case a littlebit more humility would be really a good thing for everybody…

Posted by rodrigo | Report as abusive

I am proud to be an American. I am proud of all that is good in this Country. Every Country has it’s faults. Every Country has citizens that do not represent the Country well. I consider myself to be a good person. When I travel I immerse myself in the Country I am inand do my best to learn their language and experince their culture. I thinkit is unfair to label an etire Country as ugly when only a small percentage of it’s citizens are truly ugly. People always criticize America for some of their foreign policy decisions, but what about the good side of that? Americans donate a lot of money to world charities or in response to disasters. American relief groups respond worldwide to disasters, even in Countries such as Iran. Americans contribute so much in the areas of medicine, science, technology, and yes even environmental concerns. America is a large place with many people from may Countries. Do not paint us with such a broad brush. In doing this you are doing the exact thing you say Americans are guilty of… that is saying you are better than us. We are all mbers of the human race. We are all imperfect. We all need to try a little bit harder to make this world a better place. Saying Americans are ugly is not a good start.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

Arrogant? Maybe a little. But, then again, we twice kept Western Europe from becoming part of the German Empire during the last century. Oh, and then there was that pesky Cold War thingy where the USA managed to keep the USSR from overtaking Western Europe. The Western Europeans may think we’re arrogant, and maybe we are. But, anyone can see that they are ungrateful for what the USA has done for them over the last century. Don’t you find it amazing how Europeans revel in their history and keep alive the memories of centuries-old wrongs, yet they gloss over the fact that their lives would be TOTALLY different if not for the USA choosing not to be an isolationist state. Hey, France! You’ve got (at the most) 40 years before you’re an Islamic state. Check your birthrate data. Then all of your art museums and wine regions will be shut down due to Sharia law. Wake up!

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Mr. Debusmann should get out more. Having visited more
than 70 countries and lived in 5, I can say that genuine
anti-Americanism is relatively rare on the street. Of course many countries such as the Philippines have their reliable cluster if anti-American protestors providing photo-opportunities for media types. To be sure however, there are quite a few traveling Americans willing to feed stereotypes of the ugly American, and there seems to be little “national resentment’ towards traveling Europeans, no matter how much resentment is felt towards them personally.

Posted by Nate McDaniel | Report as abusive

Generally, I find Americans are well-meaning but a bit ignorant as they tend not to be very curious about the world outside their borders. I can’t blame them. If I lived in a country that offered everything I could possibly want or need I wouldn’t feel the need to look elsewhere either. A typical American reaction to this statement would be “You’re just jealous”, but I am not. My quality of life is not defined by what I own, it’s a materialistic mentality that I have never aspired to. Most Americans can’t get their head around that.

Posted by John Mack | Report as abusive

Bernd Debusmann is correct when he says that Obama may mitigate the ugly american syndrome. Specifically, I read the book, “The Ugly American”, and it was about a good American who was unattractive physically and yet very popular with local people he was living with. He was known for treating people with respect and by his good example, he kept the communists trying to encroach in the community.
We American voters have successfully made a strategical victory when we elected Barack Obama. He is the only candidate endorsed by both Jewish and Palestinian groups. Lack of progress, or even sincere effort, by President Bush was the number one excuse for Al Qaida to recruit new members. Barack Obama can reverse that trend.
Our strategic interests in Africa seemed hopeless last month. We couldn’t even keep a simple command center on the continent. Now American troops will be welcome as honest power brokers. We can now prevent genocide, and human rights violations by private and state owned oil companies without having to actually fight a war. Now THAT is a strategic victory.
Many of our detractors around the world CORRECTLY criticized our racial inequality and would use that to wrongly continue their own abuse of power. That excuse is also evaporating.
The Bush administration, and in particular Dick Chaney, have been suspected of being tools of Rex Tillerman of ExxonMobil. Barack Obama has a mandate to decentralize the world of energy away from simply fossil fuels. The price of gas would be too expensive even if it was free, as long as soldiers have to fight wars for it. Also, by decentralizing away from oil it frees us to spread democracy where it will most likely be welcome instead of being forced on a population. THAT is strategic victory.

Posted by Dennis | Report as abusive

I have lived and worked overseas, primarily in the Middle East for several years and travelled extensiverly throughout Europe and the US. Based on these experiences I have found that local residents of non-US countries are basically the same as US citizens. It depends on whether you meet people in urban or rural areas, meet people at airports or private residence, meet them at tourist or non-tourist areas However, the governments or politicos of the countries they reside influence the general media because they want what they can get from the US to gain or stay in power; or, they want to keep the US values from influencing the local citizens. Residents in the more developed countries seem to be more immune to the media however, the residents in the less developed countries seem to be more receptive to the medai reports that are negative toward the US. So, it’s not that they don’t like Americans so much as it is they don’t like Government of the US who they portray as big, powerful, arrogant and aggressive. We should all understand that what’s written in the media is the results basically of what the Governments and diplomats and wannabe leaders are broadcasting.

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

I’d like to see how the long the rest of the world lasts without the “Ugly American” dollar and humanitarian support.

Even you Switzerland.

Posted by Bogart | Report as abusive

Take it from me, a former ugly American, I’ve been replaced by the German: brash, loud, crashing parties, drunk, racially challenged and arrogant. Not all, of course, like all Americans were not like me, but quite a few. The French still have memories of the German Occupation, and Italy would prefer the German go elsewhere, as one of Italy’s Tourist muckedy mucks has publicly stated. Any way, with the Euro out of sight, Europeans don’t have to deal with me any more. Too much for a gelato now-a-days.

Posted by Ted Slazyk | Report as abusive

Who are these materialistic Americans, John Mack? The people I know care about God, family and country…not their next purchase. I contend that you don’t know any real Americans and that this is yet another theory you have gleaned from watching the liberal American no-nothing news media. Why don’t you try to get your head around this, the U.S. news media does not tell the truth…only their skewed view of how things are “supposed to be.”
And by the way, most people in the world are pretty ignorant, not just Americans. But of course we get judged more harshly since our country is so open to others.

Posted by kellirc | Report as abusive

Here’s an idea since everyone hates us anyway. Let’s take our $ and our troops and our attitudes and go home. Let the rest of the world fend for itself. One of the main reasons our economy is a wreck is that for 70 years we have been doling out cash to the rest of the world. I didn’t see anyone jump in to help us after 9/11. Oh I forgot that was our fault too. The only place I want to see in the world outside of the US is the American Cemetary in Normandy that is of course unless they hate the fact that we spilled so much blood on their soil.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

I think Americans are ignorant. The ignorant on how bd their foreign policy really is. For the example of Iraq to understate its negative effects on the world is racist. A million iraqis are dead, two million refugees and 5,000 brave US soldiers. Yet Americans dont even get to see US soldiers pictures on tv of funerals. Bottom line is that most Americans have no idea whats going on in the world or even their country. Mexicans and blacks are living in third world conditions and many in jail. Americans need to wake up because thats not democracy. They are frankly a militarized nation that fights for oil and not humanitarian causes. Its a farce.

Posted by SUNNY | Report as abusive

“Some [American expatriates] expressed relief at no longer having to pretend to be Canadian, a long-time ruse to avoid being stereotyped.”

We Canadians are also expressing relief at that. In all my years of traveling, I have never met a Canadian masquerading as an American – only the reverse. It makes me angry when I meet an American who, on the one hand, espouses how great it is to be from the USA, while on the other hand is ready to hide behind my flag while traveling in certain parts of the world. These bogus Canucks are easy to expose, of course – just ask them who the Prime Minister is. (What is a loonie? Who is the lead singer of Tragically Hip?

I am proud and happy and VERY thankful to be a Canadian, and will gladly remain one for the rest of my life. And yes, I have a Canadian flag sewn onto my backpack.

Posted by Heather | Report as abusive

This idea of the “Ugly American” is blatantly ludicrous and perpetuated by very ignorant people of all sorts. There are Ugly Americans, Ugly Germans, Ugly French and yes Ugly Swiss people (UBS CEOs come to mind).. as far as I know Debusmann can also be characterized as an Ugly Reuters Columnist..

What we need in this world is to refrain from judgment.. look in the mirror before you call someone “ugly”

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

Ted Slazyk: Now that we are getting into intra-European squabbles, do you really think that the brash, loud, party-crashing Germans are more irritating than the pot-bellied,loud, brash, always-complaining, vomiting-in-public-places, red-faced Brits are any better? Maybe you should visit some Spanish beach resorts, where the Krauts and the Brits are competing for the crown of obnoxiousness.And what about the obnoxious, loud, brash, ignorant, ex-Soviet throw-around-your-money Russians you now find from everywhere, from Jerusalem and Haifa to Orlando and Riviera Maya in Mexico. Give me an Ugly7 American any day!

Posted by Klaus | Report as abusive

Apparently Mr. Debussman believes everything he sees on T.V. Crowds around the world cheering, rather than burning the American flag on election night? Uh-huh..sure. Would everyone please stop watching politically motivated TV news coverage and start thinking?

Who cares what the British rag “The Daily Mirror” said about the Bush re-election? I was no big fan of it either, but WHO CARES WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT US? Certainly no one seems to care about what we think of them generally, and that’s the way it should be.

I have a strong suspicion Mr. Debussman is very concerned about what people think of him. It is reflected in his writing and in his opinions about America on the world stage.

Posted by P. Valgo | Report as abusive

As a Canadian, it will be a relief not to have so many Americans calling themselves one of us. I mean, it kind of lowers the tone, somewhat. A deep, core, Canadian value is that we are much better than the Americans. Although I’m an exception in being rude enough to state this obvious fact out loud.

Posted by Dan Hilts | Report as abusive

Don’t you know that it is american liberal media and Holiwood which created that image of a dumb american?
Don’t you know how international media, especially european
one pushes that image overseas ? Russians and arabs are very happy to participate.
President Bush was an epicenter.
Envy is a reason. With Barack Obama which they put on the throne, they got their wish – he will do everything to destroy a real America – economy, culture, faith, borders,
freedom, independence, peace… It might never be the same.
I want to be wrong!

Posted by Oleg Konovalov | Report as abusive

The Canadians lauding their inherent superiority to Americans need to be reminded that they are spared many problems because they come from a dinky power with a small population, and they need to be reminded that things aren’t exactly great up north — witness the race riots in Montreal last summer(!), shoddy and bridges all over, and an oversold health system. What they do have, though, is a powerful provincial vanity, rising paradoxically from the most boring people on earth.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

Hey Churchill
Envy of what???
that you are the only civilized country to cling to the death penalty
that you have a whole class of your society that is homeless
that more people have access to Disney land than decent health care
that your disgrungled citizens are more likely to shoot first ask questions later
You are right though – there are decent Americans, unfortunately for every one of those there are 10 who take any criticism as envy (I still havent figured out what I’m suppose to be envious of!!!!!!!!!!!!) and see anyone who criticises them as leftis/communist/pinkos
For the record I’m Canadian – We knew how arrogant you were for years….just took the rest of the world a while to catch up
You think you are an unbeatable Empire, so did Rome….beware the ides of March

Posted by jordyn | Report as abusive

Quite proud to be an “ugly American.” And at least 57 million agree with me.

Posted by Tammie | Report as abusive

This is a prime example of being “out of touch.” You are merely restating what the outside world thinks of Americans in general. Who cares what the world thinks of Americans? The fact that we haven’t based our election on popularity in the past (until now) is what has made us the most powerful nation in the world. If our Founding Father’s had worried about what others would think of us when they went against main stream popular opinion we would still be confined to religious constraints of secularism. The idea that we have voted in a man who is a discredit to our American beliefs in general is a discredit to our nation! Supporter’s of this man will soon find that what they had hoped to accomplish will never come to light. Instead, he will further infuse this nation with more super highways to further attain his and the U.N.’s Agenda 21. If you wish to be blind by ignorance then this is your choice. It has been proven that only nations with capitalist beliefs thrive whereas socialist economies will be sucked dry! This man will fall into the ranks of Carter which isn’t good, but for us conservatives it is fantastic!!!! Because, he will not only ruin his chances for reelection in 2012 but we will take back the next two following terms for sure now! The world hasn’t seen ugly until they’ve seen exactly what Sen. Obama has in store for them.

I’ll be surprised if you actually post this since most of the liberal media chooses to sensor’s anything negative!

Posted by Groovgal | Report as abusive

To all of you who are so superior: you’re welcome. You sleep under the blanket of the security provided by us, the ugly Americans. You’re so comfortable that you feel entitled to the safety we have given you, free of charge. All your snivelling and ungratefulness are even rewarded as we pump free food or cash into your lousy countries.

Ah well, the gravy train has hit the wall as our pathetic leaders have mismanaged things. So we shall see how brilliant and sophisticated you all are when we no longer protect and feed you.


Posted by You’re Welcome | Report as abusive

So far Obama is doing everything right. His organization is impeccable, he’s intelligent, and he is composed. After 8 years of any president we need a new direction. This is fundamental to our government, which is why we have term limits. The needs of the US are simple for 60,000,000 Americans to see. Unfortunately others are still stuck in the past, absorbed in nationalism, and totally paranoid. Get over it.

Posted by Realistic Libertarian | Report as abusive

I travel the world regularly, from Malaysia to Moscow and I, as an American, have always been treated very well in other countries. My hosts have taken me to exquisite places, from opera at the Bolshoi to hidden Hindu temples. The “meme” that Americans are looked upon in disfavor by others is a false liberal guilt construct. Quit trying to play it and face reality.

Posted by Max | Report as abusive

As a Canadian who has lived in the US I have some experience of both cultures.

Before the internet, when I was in the US I had to work hard to get more than superficial international news. Therefore, it was not surprising that most hard-working, time-pressed Americans lacked a global perspective. In spite of this lack, though, I found most such folks to be warm, hospitable and genuinely interested in my views as a Canadian.

It’s unfortunate that some Canadian anti-American rhetoric has found it’s way to the comments here. Most Canadians are not anti-American, though we have often wished that the US had more curiosity about their next door neighbour! (beyond ‘oot and aboot’ and wierd spelling LOL!)

The internet is making it much easier for Americans to be more international in outlook and millions are taking this opportunity to heart. This, plus the election of an intelligent President with a more inclusive, global outlook should, I hope, put the ‘ugly American’ stereotype to rest.

Every country has its ignorant, boorish members. Lets not let them become the definition of any nation’s identity.

Posted by canuck | Report as abusive

Why does everyone get so concerned with what Europeans think?

Do we have our own standards of behavior or are we enslaved to theirs? While everyone likes to be liked, most people would say that self-respect is more important. At any particular time we may be right or wrong on Iraq, Iran, Darfur, etc. Do we judge the correctness of our actions by our standards or the standards of others? Should not our opinion matter most?
If others agree with us great, but they’re not always going to.

The faddish obsession with foreign opinion polls is strange and probably indicates that for the first time Americans are developing an inferiority complex that once was the province of the post-war Europeans.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

Most of the world used to see American interests in their countries dominated by large American corporations. In the last wight years they’ve come to identify America through the unilateralism of the Bush doctrine.
And they saw at least half of the American public agreeing with Bush.
To swing American policies 180 degrees will be a tall order. To live in the global community requires compromise and trust of allies and even wary trust of your competition e.g. Russian, China, and even Iran.
Coupled with Obama’s new vision of America and every American acting as a goodwill ambassador overseas, at least it can be a strong beginning.

Posted by Corey Olson | Report as abusive

One can only wonder if the Europeans were concerned and overwrought when over 50% of Americans voted for an Administration that was in conflict with the European governments and public opinion. Was their a general hand-wringing then and there that Americans thought so little of the positions of the Europeans? Did their public debate turn to how to get governments elected to fall in line with American opinion?

Probably not and correctly so.

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

You’re Welcome. groovgal, Tammie and Bob are prime examples of the Ugly American. As an Embarrassed American, I apologize for them.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

There are ugly Americans. Also ugly Canadians and ugly Europeans. The world has its share of boorish, violent, ugly people. In this, there is no shortage.
But most people are decent and well-meaning. This is what the world sees in Barack Obama. There is no shortage of good people, and good leaders will tap into that positive energy.
It’s time to put America’s best face forward.

Posted by Seraphine | Report as abusive

I’m impressed by canuk’s fair-mindedness and educated by his experience. I’ve also found that when I’ve lived within the US, good international news on the networks or cable is very hard to come by, strangely despite the fact we have more news channels than you can count. I’ve always listened to the BBC, on short wave if I had to. Happily, nowadays, the BBC web site is just a mouse click away, as is Reuters.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

I think that using the term “ugly American” as a reference to American travelers with “boorish manners and garish clothes” is at best naïve and perhaps an insult to one’s intelligence.

I have lived in the US for a number of years and I grew up in a country that receives millions of tourists every year. Some people behave badly sometimes. Claiming that American are somehow more offensive to natives than others is simply untrue and unfair. It also means that one misses the point. This is the secondary and inconsequential definition of the term, which, I would argue, was invented by the US media to draw attention from the primary and quite consequential one.

The ugliness is in the American foreign policy and the devastating effects it has had on some countries and their people (e.g. middle east, south east Asia, south central America etc.) Historically, it is not worse (or uglier) than the policies or previous superpowers or empires such as the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the Byzantine and Roman empires, or any colonial or imperial power for that matter. But it is as ugly.

For example, consider the Iraq war. This is a war made so that corporations like ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Halliburton and others could rob a nation and its people form their natural resources. If one has no ethics and no morality, it is actually brilliant to use the American tax-payer to finance a war, to use the American army to deliver it, and, at the end, reap all the benefits. As it was explained to me in private conversations shortly before the war, there were two cases; “either the US forces would be seen as a liberator or there would be insurgency and a prolonged war of attrition. In the first case, we get the oil with great privileges and low pricing. In the second case, the price of oil would be driven much higher and we would have large gains because we have deposit and drilling rights and we operate on percentages anyway.” (Note that ‘we’ in the quoted text refers to the US oil industry — not the US oil people.)

Adding to the mix an immoral vice president who only answers to the oil magnates and executives, a president who is not astute enough to comprehend the forces around him, complicit and hypocritical public media, and citizens who have been thus blindfolded and hoodwinked so they could not see through the administration and their lies and deceptions (democracy in the middle east, weapons of mass destruction, aluminum tubes from Nigeria, and other flying green donkeys), the war in Iraq became yet another instance of the “ugly American” reality — perpetuating the term. The worst part is that such wars may make certain corporations wealthier, but they leave the US citizens and everybody else poorer, they aggravate the situation in Middle East, they take the region (including Israel) closer to catastrophe, and they have a human cost of genocidal magnitude — which is unjustifiable, inexcusable, unconscionable and criminal. Now that is what I call UGLY.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Wonderful commentary, and very true. It has been such an embarassment to be an American! I never lie about where I was born, but it has always helped to clarify that I’m in total disagreement with the policies of Bush and Co. Our foreign policy and economic relationships have been devastating for billions, but it is not only ours that is this way… the same predation is shared silently by pretty much all of the “rich” countries of the world, (UK and the rest of the EU, and Japan take note), whose lack of natural resources has forced them to create unjust, corrupt and damaging commercial relationships with larger, resource-rich nations in order to maintain the standard of living and diet many of us enjoy. The constant political and economic meddling that Latin America and Africa are subject to behind the scenes also emmanates from Eurasia and Canada (where is Barick based???) This I believe is a greater evil that the boorishness of our personalities, and I hope the election of Obama will herald a more just arrangement and sharing of resources for the planet, coupled with a commitment to conservation and protection of the Earth’s natural environment.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

People of the world generally showed sympathy to the US after the September 11 terrorist attack. When the Bush administration fought to uproot the terrorist sanctuary in Afghanistan, the Americans loomed as heroes. But when they fought Iraq, accidentally removing Iran’s rival in the region, the act was seen as foolish. With this, President Bush further intensified the already simmering anti-American sentiments over the world. This even led to an absurd hatred towards anything that is related to American, anything related to English, even to the English language. Teachers of English in countries like Vietnam have felt it. I hope with Obama administration, change will come on many respects.

Posted by Phuong Nguyen | Report as abusive

I have lived in the US for 8+ years, having lived in a couple of countries in Europe. My experience is that, despite the odd bit of loudness and sometimes lack of style, Americans are the sweetest and kindest people I have met. Their openness and accessibility – from road sweepers to the president – is something others should aspire to.

Posted by Nic | Report as abusive

I’ve never heard of a European having to pretend to be someone else while traveling in the states to prevent harassment or worse. So who’s acting rude and/or boorish again ?

It’s easy to criticize the actions of the US. Anytime you want to jump in and help solve some of the worlds problems feel free. We could use a break anyway. By the way, how’s that whole Iran thing coming along ?

Bush will be out of office in a couple of months and all of the worlds problems will disappear. I’ve got to go, my Unicorn is calling…..

Posted by Jeff | Report as abusive

To listen to some of y’all… You would think America was the Messiah himself come to grace the rest of the world with it’s presence and magnanimosity.

America has obviously done a lot of good, but it has also done a lot of bad both internally and externally. I don’t need to get into a laundry list, just study up on your history of the last century. Accept that, and don’t think the world owes you anything.

The “ugly American” moniker comes from the very arrogance that you see in some of the posters here. “We’re better than you, we are superior, ya da, ya da”. But America isn’t. It’s just another place, with different people, good and bad, and different paradigms. Having committed in its history many of the same atrocities that you find everywhere else.

It’s about time that Americans woke up to the reality that there are 180+ nations on this planet. The colonial mentality (or pirate, depending on your viewpoint) of snatch everything for ourselves has got to cease. We’re one race, the human race, on one isolated planet. If we don’t work together, then the status quo will continue. And it’s impossible to work together with a bully who is also a megalomaniac.

The visualization I get is of piglets at their mothers teat. They will kill each other to stay on that teat. Sorry, but it’s time to share for the better of the human race.

Posted by Alfred Reaud | Report as abusive

As an American who spent most of the 1980’s wondering exact where in the Fulda Gap I was supposed to die while buying West Germany, France and Britain another 72 hours of freedom, I am always amused to hear Europeans complain about the purported arrogance and selfishness of my country. Canadians? Well, I don’t mess with Canadians…after all, they are defended by the most formidable military force ever known…the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines!

There are a few points I agree with in the article, though.

First, the USA did do something that is unthinkable in most other “First World” countries (hmmm…or Second or Third World, for that matter), in electing a racial minority to the presidency. Guess we actually aren’t as racist as the rest of you, are we? When are the rest of you going to get with the program and catch up? I’ll be looking for the French president of Algerian decent, or the German chancelor with the Turkish last name. A Tibetan running China? Maybe Britain will have an Irish Catholic PM someday soon? Or maybe you’ll all just be content to continue to be raging hypocrites.

Second, I agree that the attitude of the “international” community will not *really* change overnight, no matter who the president is. If Obama is serious about leading this country, he is going to have to come to terms with the fact that making the right decision for the USA does NOT mean doing what Europe (and certainly not Russia) thinks is right. We’ll see. If he throws Poland and the Ukraine “under the bus” by caving to Medved on the interceptor missiles, well, then I guess you’ll have the president you (Europeans) want, and I’ll have the one I feared was going to be elected.

The USA isn’t perfect, but we’re pretty damned good. The rest of you never mind sharing in our successes, and don’t complain when we put our lives on the line to defend you and your interests. You are quick to blame us for mistakes and reluctant to shed your own blood, even when you (i.e., France, Russia, the U.N.) make the situation worse by refusing to enforce your own sanctions and by cutting secret deals to prop up regimes like Hussein in Iraq, or to sell nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea.

How dare any of you accuse us of being colonial or imperialistic? The amount of American lives we have sacrificed in the last 100 years, cleaning up your dynastic squabbles (WW I), high-handed imperialism and shear vindictiveness (WW II), UN mandates (Korea, Lebanon, Iraq) and colonial “charlie-foxtrots” (Vietnam, Latin America, Somalia, and West Africa and the Middle East, generally) is obscene. I only wish that those of you who now criticize and whine would have stepped up and fixed your own problems. I’d be happy to have us give up the role of “Global Cop,” but it’s clear that one is necessary, and none of you have the will or the ability to step into the breach.

Abu Ghraib? Gitmo? Shall we consider the Maze? H-Block? The PTA? Internment? Supergrasses? Diplock Courts? Want to talk about discrimination and economic justice, about classes of homeless, as one Canadia wrote about? Let’s look at the slums and shanty town around Paris, filled to the brim with unwanted, uneducated, and ill-treated West and North African immigrants. Try being a Turk in Germany, a Kurd in Turkey, a “Paki” in London, or a Catholic in Belfast.

The point is not that we are better than the rest of the world; we have our problems and have made our share of mistakes. But that we are certainly no worse. I think that your attitudes are more in need of an overhaul than is our national character.

Posted by Art | Report as abusive

The imagery is unmistakable, but the follow through will be essential. I think we Americans all expect a new thoughtfulness in our country’s approach to foreign policy, and Obama’s choice for secretary of state will provide a broad clue as to his intentions. It is also true that there is no correct or incorrect path; sometimes it is necessary to go it alone, despite even the entreaties of your allies, and sometimes consensus is the best way forward. The rub is knowing which path to take each time. Many in the United States believe that in recent history the wrong choice was usually made. The wisdom of the Obama administration will be revealed in when chooses unilateralism and when he seeks unanimity.

Posted by John C Abell | Report as abusive

Dude: I give it to you for saying what I could not find words for! The Euros are pretty standish-off when there is an international crisis. When we take the leadership role we come under their trigger happy and sharpshooter critics! The bottom line is that we fight on their behalf and then get the boot and they get the loot! The least I would expect from them is at least a word of thanks…………..
I guess this article is their way of saying “Thank You” in “Eurolees” ha? With friends like these who needs Iran, N. Korea and the Taliban! I say we did the right thing when we got rid of the Brits in the war for independence!

Posted by Kamonde Lubembe | Report as abusive

This article is disgusting. Try living in Germany or France. Disfunctional governments. Rudeness and discrimination are the norm. When one of their German Bundesjokers (thats their non-fighting military) gets getotet (killed) in Afghanistan, all of the young generation demonstrates to bring them home and let the Americans and Brits fight for them. This is a country of alcoholics, social degenerates, druggies, and uneducated a…oles. The economic system is composed of selling CooKoo Clocks to other countries, paying social geld each month to the above named social classes, who use the money to buy more drugs and alcohol, and expanding the world’s largest “Polizei” organizations. Unemployment? They have very little. The Arbeitsamt sends the unemployed to do a 1 Euro job or to a school for street cleaning, or makes them a Polizei, and then there is no unemployment. They pay them social geld or stat geld. This appears to be a system of illusions (David Copperfield?)that are now becoming evident to even the Germans. Rudeness? The a…oles PUSH in lines, PUSH into trains, Push into buses, make the old people stand while the kinder take the seats,…….. I can go on and on, but obviously each country has some good and some bad points. The Euros just happen to have the most rudeness, discrimination, and arrogance that I have ever encountered in my life’s experience. Hmmm….. This is what the Euro writer blames on U S Citizens? All is in the viewpoint of each writer. Before you argue or critisize my opinions, come and live in the sh.. country for more than a week’s vacation. Opinions may vary! Of coures, when you are a Euro, then you believe that an Obama will solve all the world’s problems. Come to think of it, 50 million American voters believe in the same fairytale.:-)))

Posted by Kurt | Report as abusive

Dude. Ugly American? LMAO! You obvioulsy haven’t been to any places where Russians travel. Go visit Lake Como if you want to see the new Ugly American, or DisneyWorld even.

Posted by Mike Zarcero | Report as abusive

I have to agree with a lot of you posters that this post is just another perpetuation of the idea that “ugliness” is confined within the American people. There really are ugly people everywhere.

I can’t say I’m innocent of this, but it seems that when a tourist is being dumb or rude, the first reaction is to figure out what country he or she is from and just label it as the fault of their nationality. Stop the stereotyping! Not all English girls are alcoholics.

An aside to the Canadians here, I have quite a few Canadian friends. While traveling with them or hearing about their travels, it is interesting to hear the reactions from the citizens of a foreign country. In France and China, the reaction was the same, “How is Canada different from the U.S.?” Normally, a rather detailed conversation ensued. :)

Posted by Josh A | Report as abusive

I could not disagree more with the comment labeled as “best” by Reuters. People around the word don’t dislike Americans because we are wealthy, they dislike us because we are a dangerous, unpredictable, super power given to breaking international laws that kill hundreds upon thousands of innocent people. We have a corrupt government that does not work for the betterment of its own citizens, let alone any one else in the world. We are feared for these reasons, and if I were a citizen of another (non-nuclear) country, I’d be scared of us too. Especially if my country was rich in oil or anything else the United States might decide it needs to own.

The United States could be an amazing force for good in the world, but it will not be until its citizens get their heads out of the sand and their voices heard in the street.

Posted by Marla Taylor | Report as abusive

As a middle eastern who went to school in the US , I believe America is tolerent and was doing good for the world with a system that encourage research and entreprunership.Never theless, looking from the outside, America has changed its behavior with rest of the world by becoming more aggressive.the war on terror has been directed on the wrong country -Iraq-.This has done a lot of dammage to US reputation not to mention its unequivocal suupport to Israel

Posted by nasir | Report as abusive

Based on some of the replies posted here, it would appear that many who supported the corrupt extreme right wing dictatorship of George Bush continue to bury their heads in the sand. Happily, a majority of the US woke up and now understands the situation. The wing nuts will continue to be a drag on progressive reform.

The important thing is that the President Elect understands that the world has changed, and the US has got to get its own house in order if it is to compete in the global market and earn the respect of other countries. Part of the problem is that the US has a sizeable group of people over 55 who don’t want to embrace the new world and prefer to see it as it was (or they imagined it) 50 years ago. The good news is that with each passing day, there are more young people who understand the folly of the “we’re number one!” mentality. They will be the force that moves the United States into a more respectable place alongside other nations. Hopefully, they will also work toward social justice in the United States, which, over the past 8 years, has seen a massive transfer of power and wealth from the middle class to a small very rich group of people who feel entitled and above the law at the top.

Posted by Sarah | Report as abusive

Let’s see the Germans elect a black president or any EU nation
for that matter. They simply cannot. The reason people set out for
the new world was to improve it. Leaving behind the stained
gothic masonic architecture that holds their dreams and aspirations in a soul cage. And France being the #1 best customer recently just goes to prove they secretly admire us but are afraid their neighbors might see them lovin us.

Grow up some more, let go of your grudges, we’ll be waiting for you in the space stations of the future. Love , an American Citizen.

Posted by Stephen | Report as abusive

I also disagree with the comment marked as “best” by Reuters.

As someone who isn’t American, I tell you this:

We loved you during the Clinton years up and up until September 11, 2001. We are NOW learning to love you again.

I will leave it to you to figure out why we fell out of love with you in the middle.


Posted by Ehab A | Report as abusive

It seems perfectly reasonable to me to dislike a country that has, for the last 100 years at least, been nothing more than a senseless bully in the world. From the forced annexation of Hawaii without treaty, to the Philippine massacres, through to the multitude of assassinations and coups in Central and South America that the US financed, planned and in some cases carried out. All the way to the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq on trumped up evidence, the murder of countless civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s unconditional support of Israel in the face of widespread human rights abuses. All the while shouting to the rooftops that you’re all for “democracy” and “human rights”, but from your actions only in favour so long as it benefits you. That’s called hypocrisy. The United States has a LONG way to go before people outside the will respect it once more.

Fear it? Yes, with good cause. Envy it? Everyone envies the successful pirate who has plundered the world for its riches. But respect it? Not in my lifetime. Obama is a start, not an end point.

As for Art’s defence of the US “defending” others, if that’s what most Americans believe is true, then you’ll never understand why you’re so despised throughout the world. Because almost every word of that is a deliberate falsehood and twisting of the facts.

The US ignored its treaty obligations and waited 2 long years to enter WW2 while countless Europeans died. It would have stayed out completely and let Hitler take over if the Japanese hadn’t attacked Pearl Harbour over US refusal to negotiate.

The US then escalated and created much of the mess in Vietnam (where they got their butts kicked) and Korea (where they didn’t exactly win either or North Korea wouldn’t exist), then lied about it, a recurring theme it seems. The US is the cause not the solution to most of the unrest in Central and South America, not to mention Iran. For for the last 70 years the US has cold bloodedly dispatched any democratically elected governments that wouldn’t let your corporations rape and pillage to your wallets content. It was the US that installed tyrants like Pinochet and the Shah of Iran after all, not to mention Brazil’s Bracho who, with American assistance, invented the now famous “death squads”. The US is documented as being behind just about every petty dictator and killer in every country in Central and South American except Uruguay. All these rulers had one thing in common: they didn’t interfere with American businesses no matter how bloody their suppression of workers or competitors.

The US has never faced military action on your own soil in the last several generations. Your general population knows nothing about the horrors of war. Yes, you have immigrants who have seen conflict, but they seem to be mostly from the sides that lost when the tyrants were removed. War is just what you see sanitized on TV. This seems to make your population much more willing to bring war to others, and to believe the propaganda that you spew out about how you’re “liberating” these people. Yes, liberating them from life itself, at least for the over one million civilians the American invasion has killed in Iraq.

So please, spare me the arrogance and self importance. Don’t point at others and, like the schoolyard bully, cry out “but they’re worse!”. Because you’re nothing but bullies on the world stage, and currently deserve all the criticism and hatred directed at you for your utter callousness and ham handedness of your gunboat diplomacy.

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

Hey Marc, since you “will never respect America in your lifetime”, why not renounce your worthless US citizenship and emigrate to a place you really admire, like Haiti? They have a health care system that’s the envy of the world, the highest standard of living in the hemisphere, a military force that can deter a nuclear war with the Russia, more Nobel prize winners than any other nation on earth AND minorities aren’t routinely butchered with machetes in inter-tribal blood feuds.

Posted by Robert Bornhorst | Report as abusive

It is sad that many Americans obsess over this issue of whether the U.S. is “loved” by other nations. Except for times when it is useful to execute our own strategy, why does it matter?

The rest of the world gave rise to Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Mao, Stalin, Vichy, Mugabe, Mussolini, Chamberlain and countless other fools and horrors. By contrast, we Americans–immigrants from Scotland, China, Senegal, Poland, Mexico and every other country under the sun — are heirs to a legacy that, with all its flaws and difficulties, is responsible for most of humanity’s progress for the last two centuries.

The United States will continue to be the world’s guiding light under our new President, because in the end we are an outward-looking race. And we are every race.

Posted by arlen | Report as abusive

With the greatest respect to you Americans, almost all the wars and deployments that have been made by your country were not with the altruistic reasons you seem to think. Pure and simple, the USA had some sort of benefit for themselves. For that they cannot be blamed, action now and safety in the future.

Posted by Bazza | Report as abusive

Hey Robert!

You mean the Haiti where the US (with the help of Canada) recently overthrew the democratically elected government and replaced it with yet another ineffective puppet? Not once, but TWICE in the last few years? The Haiti where the USA supported “Baby Doc” Duvalier the killer because he was good for American business? That Haiti? Good example, I’ll have to add that particular fiasco to the American body count.

As for the rest, what on earth makes you think I’d ever want to be, or ever was, an American citizen? That said, I’ve met and discussed these issues with many expatriate Americans who feel their country has completely lost its way. Some returned home to try to undo the damage (I imagine they voted for Obama). Others just gave up and left. In many ways, both groups symbolise the ideals that the USA used to stand for. The unity of many different cultures coming to a new place to start a new life. Fantastic in theory! Unfortunately, those days are long past, and the US is now mainly a country of increasingly uneducated and ignorant people so trussed up by propaganda nationalism that they can’t see the damage they are doing to the rest of the world, and continue to try to ignore the indefensible.

Oh, and yes, the Americans aren’t the only guilty ones out there, and other countries have their own problems. Anyone seeing many Germans or Russians on holiday can have no doubt that the “ugly American tourist” has lots of company. But the common factor is that these countries, at least for the last 50 years, do not try to export their ideals elsewhere by force of arms.

It’s mainly Americans today who are the ones crying the loudest about how wonderful they are and how the world is just envious. They’re the ones crowing to the world in every comment section how great America is. They are the ones crying out loudly and often on how they love and protect democracy everywhere! Yet they are the ones invading country after country and overthrowing said democratically elected governments simply because those governments do what their people want them to do, not what American corporations want them to do.

That’s the hypocrisy. And in many civilized countries hypocrites are justly viewed with disgust. It’s unfortunate that in the USA this isn’t true.

So right now I’m just trying to educate an obviously heavily propagandised population into the facts as seen from the outside. I do the same elsewhere when justified. It’s just that Americans provide so much justification.

If you start to understand why America is so reviled, then all is good. Not saying you have to take personal responsibility, just understand how Americans are viewed from the outside, and why. Try to at least acknowledge the weight of evidence against the USA as this sort of “guiding light” for other countries. It’s not.

If you don’t agree at all, and you and others continue to hide behind misplaced nationalism and continue to deny the evidence of the last 100 years of American abuse and bullying on the world stage, then at least it’s vaguely amusing to watch the self-righteous hypocrites continue to try defending the indefensible.

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

Despite being and “Ugly American” myself, I must insist that the rest of the world is not looking so pretty either from this whole ordeal of negative foreign opinion during the Bush Presidency.

Question: I did not dislike France or Germany based on the ineptitude of French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (nor did I burn flags), so why would I be assigned such a hateful label for our circumstances here in America?

Question: Why should I even care about the public opinion polls of other nations, if other nations are so quick to rush to vile judgment about who I am as an American, based off of temporary policies set into place by a temporary leader?

Question: Did others even attempt to understand who we are, our history, our security concerns, and our geopolitical reality or am nonsensically hated for being a Bush American today but loved as an Obama American tomorrow?

Question: Am I going to be hated, based off of the performance of my next President?

Despite popular opinion, it is not easy being American. You have opportunity, but with it comes hard work and responsibility. Trying to do what is right for the world has been the exception to the rule in the course of world history for “Super-Powers” and is what our families in America have fought and suffered for over the course of our short history. We’re not perfect, but nobody is, and we are growing better as a nation.

Before you ever cast blame on us for all of the world’s ills, understand who we are and who we are not (we are not the great Satan of the world). It is the principles that should define us as Americans (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). In the end, it is what will prevail in the United States, not temporary policies of the day. This interest is universal for the world and I am not ashamed of it, I am proud of it, and humbled to be born an American. Schizophrenic public opinion polls are worthless compared to it.

Posted by Stephen Gilchrist | Report as abusive

Marc’s enthusiasm for leaving oppressive dictatorships alone is noted, and deplored.

For the past century, America has uniformly taken up arms on behalf of the more-free, against the less-free. Every. Single. Damn. Time. Over. One. Hundred. Years. Marc does not know this — he reads no genuine history.

Posted by Reid | Report as abusive

Hey Marc
Right on!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by jordyn | Report as abusive

Hey Jacques,
The difference between the Brits and the Romans, versus say the “American empire” is that while the Brits and Romans were out to conquer the world to fund themselves and their own twisted ambitions (especially the Brits) without consequence or regard for anyone or anything else, the united states was built on a foundation of freedom, and spreading this concept around the world (in principle). While their approaches at different times have been less than effective (W. and Kissinger, for example), comparing the Americans to any other empire in history is both unfair and inaccurate for these reasons. It is the mere fact that the US is built on freedom as an inalienable right is reason enough for admiration. Finally, you need to distinguish between anti-American sentiment that is prejudiced against Americans as a (superficial) stereotype for American people (more common – the “ugly American” idea features here) and America as an idea or a force of freedom, rejected only by totalitarian states (or close enough equivalents) like pre-2003 Iraq, Iran, north Korea and to a large extent, Venezuela. this was not the case for the imperialistic, openly racist and we-should-rule-the-world Brits and Romans, whose very existence as empires (at least in the case of the former) was dangerous and a severe threat for millions around the world, be it their neighbors or other military enemies, both of whom were often targets for war and/or invasion. Why do you think we threw the Brits out of our country in the first place?

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Yep I’m pretty doggone ugly. Republican. Conservative. Of means. Possessing morals. Scrupulous. White. Angry. I voted for Obama because I thought he was undisputably the better choice for the difficult times ahead.

I really could not care less what some European (or other) person may think of me because I am the product of my own toil and I deserve the fruits of my labor.

I am neither decadent — nor callous to the plight of the world secondary to the abominations committed by the mortgage industry and persons in the financial sector and I could really give a rip about those who think that we should not affix blame where blame is due and forget the consequences for their crimes.

The problem with the United States is a disregard for fiscal responsibility and accountability as well as regulation of industries who would prey upon the tax payer — like the credit card industry and the mortgage industry.

We may not be our brother’s keeper; but based on the events of the recent financial debacle and the consequences that irresponsibility has placed upon the entire world in which we live; we should at least attempt some modicum of monitoring.


Posted by Dave W | Report as abusive

Marc is a fool. He like to make black & white comparisons where when something is not totally white, then it is black. This tactic is often used by people who are trying to sell a viewpoint by saying “can you guarantee…”. Well Marc there are no guarantees and the world is not black and white.

You claim the the US supported Duvalier only for business reasons, but what other prospects would you suggest? Over throw him? How about ignore him? Why not go around him and aid the Haitians (oops! that US would be blamed for covertly trying to subvert Haiti). Best would be to let them die.

As for WW2 you make me laugh! Here you WANT the US to use armed force. Guess because it would be to your advantage and Haiti would not eh? In fact there was strong internal US opposition to entering the war and trying to solve Europe’s problems, again.

Abu Garib and Gitmo are small potatoes compared with the Gulags and German death camps and Japanese death marches. The Gitmo prisoners were caught with AK-47s and explosives, or were they just going shopping?

I am not sure which companies you mean by “rape and pillage”. Would that be the International Rape and Pillage Corporation”? In fact European governments and European corporations lead the way. Look at Africa. Colonial Europe slaughtered and raped ruthlessly, but you don’t hear anything about that. In South America the Spanish wiped out whole civilizations in their quest for gold. The Russians killed millions and the Germans brought killing and slavery to new heights. The Japanese enslaved the Koreans and Chinese and still consider them as second class. The US has been very mild compared to the world’s record, but is singled out because they are a people and a country with a conscience. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

I have lived in Europe for decades. One point is clearly seen. The US is seen as the “grandparents of the world”, or at least Europe. Europeans expect the US to do everything (e.g. Balkans) when there is trouble, but when they “drop their ice cream” the US is expected to “give them theirs”. It is also very fashionable to blame political, economic and social problems on the US. In fact everyone uses the US as an excuse. I suspect this excuse is taught in the schools.

People in Europe love to criticize the US as being full with KKK members, but then just last week there was a neo-Nazi demonstration in Germany with 500+ people. When was the last time the KKK had such a demonstration? This fact is never reported in European news because it goes against the grain of blaming the US.

The US has involved themselves in other countries and sometimes it hasn’t been 100% successful. On the other hand what would have happened to Germany, UK and the rest of Europe, Japan and Korea to mane some if the US did as the Europeans now demand? Or perhaps that doesn’t count because “it would have been alright anyway”, “we were just kidding”.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

“Some expressed relief at no longer having to pretend they were Canadian”? American arrogance in a nutshell.

Posted by J.B. | Report as abusive

Eric, your 100% correct. Where would the rest of the world be without us to clean up after their messes? I suppose since America is so hated that we should have never helped in WW1 WW2 Bosnia Somalia, etc. Europeans forget so quickly. Let them figure out their own problems next time they get invaded or stepped on. They don’t appreciate shit.

Posted by HannibalBarca | Report as abusive

again & again Americans show that they don’t care about the rest of the world, if they did they might take time to learn about other countries, cultures etc…Sarah Palin proved this during the election when she didn’t know Africa was a continent. what do you people learn in school anyway(nothing but americanism)Educate yourselves and maybe people/other countries might start to like you.

Posted by steven salter | Report as abusive

Hey Jordyn,
Speak for yourself, I’m from a little country in the South Pacific too and we need American tourists and money. So don’t make a blanket statement because not everyone in the South Pacific agrees with you!
It appears from the submitted comments, that there is a lot of envy and jealousy over the USA. Especially from the Europeans and Canadians…. oh thats right Canadians are Americans too!

Posted by Mattimat | Report as abusive

“Ugly”, “Beautiful” — whatever — the US remains the yardstick by which such banterers are measured. What’s funny is that it’s not the US that does the measuring — it’s only ingrates or the misinfrmed that tend to measure themselves. I question this “journalist’s” motive — is it a misplaced petty grievance from centuries past? Or simply ride a hate band wagon? Whatever the origin of the chip, pity! Heaven knows the the antagonistic stereotyping pissing match that could unfold – no nationality is safe – but how unifying, constructive & value add would that be? If you don’t have any intelletual insights that warrant an OpEd, you might want to limit the hyperbole to your local pub crew & leave the OpEd space for those better suited for writing insghtful commentary. The sooner we lay down antagonistic stereotypes, regardless of their origin, the sooner we can embrace people for who they are – the majoity of which are terrific individuals, regardless of their origin.

Posted by CB | Report as abusive

Whenever someone says that the hazing in the prison in Iraq is the reason for anti-american sentiment it bothers me that the beheading of an american on TV never managed to make the top 10 of reasons for supporting america in Iraq. I think international opinion is too fickle and self-absorbed to factor in.

While there may be “Ugly Americans” the fact of the matter is that UGLY extends everywhere you look, assuming you choose to look for it. Rather, those looking pick and choose.

Resentment of america IS about the fact that our people perhaps take for granted the blessings they have and, as a result, come across as too nonchalant about it. This looks like arrogance to some. Americans tend to think that what they have is available to everyone and it is an individual responsibility for their circumstance.

I must be noted that, while the availability of international travel has opened up significantly for the average american, historically, americans have been represented abroad mostly by business travelers at the upper management level. They bring with them a different perspective than the “average” american.

Posted by Ray | Report as abusive

America is no longer a superpower….that’s why it’s increasingly becoming less hated…as si,ple as that. As for the pathetic Americans abroad…they have all my pity.

Posted by cris | Report as abusive

Honestly, I don’t think Europeans treat Americans any worse than their neighbors. Lot of xenophobia there as they tend to cling to their culture and distinguish themselves from their neighbors.

I am not saying it is okay to make fun of persons different from one’s self (whether American, European, or whatever), but we ought not always take it so personally. I mean look at us with our “Freedom Fries” and nicknames for Italian Americans and how we maligned the Irish, Native Americans, Mexicans, and African Americans, etc. I live on the West Coast and here people make fun of persons for simply living inland from the coast and what not. Really, we are all more alike than we are different!

Posted by Carolyn B. | Report as abusive

I read an interesting anecdote about several large empires: Roman, British, French and American.

The Romans and British wanted to be feared, the French wanted to be admired, and curiously, the Americans wanted to be liked.

It is very difficult to be liked when we are hypocritical in so many areas. However, putting the U.S. to an impossible test, such as the one Marc has done, is not very fair. After all this is a nation state, not the televangelist chatting about family values and acting the hypocrite when no one is looking. Marc, I ask you to put the U.S. into perspective against other nations, current and former. Could you really say that the U.S. has acted so differently from them? The sooner people take their faith away from the government/nation, the happier they might be, and may I dare say, more American.

Posted by Josh A | Report as abusive

Reid: yes, I’m sure the Chileans (1973) were “more free” after the US backed and financed Pinochet’s rise to power through assassination of Allende. I’m sure the people of Ecuador (1963), Brazil (1964), Congo (1965, Mobutu), Haiti (1991, 2004) etc. etc. etc. were much more free after the US backed military overthrows of those democratically elected governments. I’m sure the Iranians (1953) were “more free” after the Americans deposed their democratically elected leader Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and installed the last Shah of Iran, whose abuses led directly to their 1979 revolution and their current theocratic state. The list goes on, and on, and on, for every single country in Central and South America except Uruguay, and for many others elsewhere as well.

Yes, all blows for freedom and democracy, I’m sure. That must be why democratically elected governments in previously free nations were almost invariably replaced by repressive, homicidal military regimes.

If America is all about taking up arms against repression, how do you explain US being so friendly with so many different incredibly repressive regimes all over the world? All of these have one thing in common: they allow US corporations to operate in their territory with impunity. Whereas free, peaceful, democratic regimes are quickly overthrown through direct and indirect American intervention (your CIA has a lot to answer for) if they dare to try to stop American corporations from raping and pillaging as they see fit.

That’s the American legacy around the world. For the last 100 years at least. Hypocrisy in action. Big words about freedom and democracy, while action after action that yells out the contrary.

There have been moments when you reversed the trend. You got a lot of credit for finally (although it took 2 years of Europeans dying and a Japanese attack to do so) coming into WWII. Of course, thanks to the Marshall Plan following the war the US was well repaid for its efforts, but you were forgiven that. You were in the good books at that point and for many years afterwards. Americans were even respected then. Unfortunately, the USA has long since pissed away that karma credit.

Because I DO read history, not just the propaganda spewed out by ignorant American nationalists. You should too, if you wish to look less foolish to an audience that knows there is more to the world than Fox News. I know many of your countrymen already understand this. It’s time more of you did.

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

Note that my comments are meant to try to show you WHY Americans are disliked around the world – at least the over 200 cities in a couple dozen countries I’ve visited around the globe. As I have several very good American friends, I’ve tried to understand why they chose to hide their nationality when they travelled. I came to understand why people dislike Americans so much today. It’s not because people are “envious”, but because you have managed to really piss people off with your two-faced rhetoric and outright lies since WWII, and your deliberate attempt to rewrite history to suit yourselves.

To claim that the USA is “the best” is nothing more than a propaganda lie to a gullible population. When you grow up and realize that, then we can move forward. Like every country, your country and governments have serious faults that need work. Only when Americans admit this and start to correct these faults will people start to respect your country again. Right now, the “ugly American” abroad is cock-sure that his country is “the best” at everything. You’re wrong. Dead wrong. It’s simply “better than others in some things, much worse than others in other things”.

Most other countries I’ve travelled to realize this about their own countries. Of all the places I’ve travelled, only America persists in being blind to its own faults, and only Americans (not all, but far too many) persist in their delusion that everything their country does is “good” for the rest of the world, when in fact it’s often (not always, but often) quite the opposite.

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

Respectfully to all 132 of you other oh so happy people, what exactly, besides sitting around yelling at each other, what exactly do you plan on doing about the current state of things.

“Injustice somewhere, is a threat to justice everywhere,” so what, and how do you propose on this note to people begin to start changing what our leaders across the globe can’t quite seem to get right?

Further arguments are on my website.

Posted by Sarah G | Report as abusive

oh thats right Canadians are Americans too!

– Posted by Mattimat
nope showing your ignorance. Here’s how you tell the difference.
1.Canadians: if we don’t like our politicians we don’t elect them.
2.Americans: if they don’t like their politicians they shoot them!!
If you want their money so much…go live their with your IQ you would fit right in.

Posted by jordyn | Report as abusive