oh no i'm not jumping on the recently trendy wagon in turkey, declaring "we are all armenian", "we are all christian" etc. - i did that kind of things when i realized, in my latter teens, that "make love not war" is more than a slogan. it just tells you we bloody well are all human...
i say am american because when i wrote about the ugly american, by no means did i use it as a blanket epithet to include each and every citizen/member of the usa. that label has evolved from the title of a 1958 book by william lederer and eugene burdick. the "documentary" story is based on the behavior of some american technocrats running the american aid business in southeast asia. as the date indicates, the events correspond to american international experience in its very early years as a superpower, not fully able to understand the world it has found itself trying to run. it depicts americans face to face with peoples who in their innately intraverted culture, are thoroughly foreign to those alternative but well rooted civilizations. the picture of the ugly american, arrogant, ignorant, thoughtlessly blundering, complacent and snobbish; summarily unpleasant came out as the caricature of a bungling, rookie imperialist in contrast to the suave, sophisticated 19th century euro-colonialist, pretender to a mission civilatrice that was the white man's burden.
that picture of america has never been totally accurate, even during the cold war. true, the u.s. policy machine is guilty of creating and supporting such monstrous political characters as augusto pinochet of chile, georgios papadopoulos of greece or our very own kenan evren but despite a plethora of practices that made itself the subject of hatred and loathing throughout the world, america also was where faces turned when people described what or who they were or wanted to become. one way or other, even sometimes by the abject examples (the rosenbergs come to mind, or dear joe mccarthy) it set, america showed the world how to be free. it was the north all compasses turned to, thus describing all the directions. yes, in many ways, america epitomized evil, yet without for one minute ceasing also to promise the good.
and it was the good peoples saw in the u.s. that allowed it a far more comprehensive and lasting hegemony than britain, for instance. half a century has passed since the ugly american by hit the stands. it may well be 60 years since the authors observed the events they wrote in that milestone in self criticism - including the film version starring the deathless marlon brando. in all that time, even under ronald reagan, the drugstore truck driving man to the woodstock generations and the teflon president to the political intellegentsia, the promise never vanished.
probably, the administration of texas's chief executioner is the lowest point in the post-isolationist history of the u.s., in the way of international sympathy. the current, pathetic image of the u.s. signifies the point where a leader has metamorphosed into a bully. dubya has resurrected the ugly american, not only because he thrusted a totally unnecessary and already lost war into the world's primary field of experience, but because he represents that unfeeling, self righteous, arrogant, ignorant, avaricious, patronizing brute power that rather than persuade, prefers to impose its view and style of life on others. if you think i am speaking loosely, allow me to remind you that a major media issue just prior to 9-11 was how mr. john ashcroft, the then (possibly slightly senile) attorney general, had ordered the marble statues of "naked women" that represented justice at the entry to the department of justice dressed up to cover their nudity. the complex of which dubya is only the spearheas has seldom been so evil in the country's history, evil to the point of jeopardizing its firmest institutions - who could believe that the berkeley university, the heart of the 1968 revolution would shrink from publishing rosa luxembourg's memoirs just because 9-11 happened?
i am still american, that goes beyond dubya, who, thankfully is already a lame duck and thankfully again, is "irreplacable". i am american because for a huge, world-smart, globally minded portion of the u.s., although it may numerically be in minority; the entire universe is also america, and the entire humanity is as good as americans. it is the america of "be and let be", the america that, even in business, knows a richer, freer world is more profitable as well as more fun than a deader world. the america that recognizes its errors and moves first to correct them, even though they may often be hindered by the america of dubya.