US Indymedia Global Indymedia Publish About us
Printed from Boston IMC : http://boston.indymedia.org/
Boston.Indymedia
IVAW Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier
Testimonies
Brad Presente

Other Local News

Spare Change News
Open Media Boston
Somerville Voices
Cradle of Liberty
The Sword and Shield

Local Radio Shows

WMBR 88.1 FM
What's Left
WEDS at 8:00 pm
Local Edition
FRI (alt) at 5:30 pm

WMFO 91.5 FM
Socialist Alternative
SUN 11:00 am

WZBC 90.3 FM
Sounds of Dissent
SAT at 11:00 am
Truth and Justice Radio
SUN at 6:00 am

Create account Log in
Comment on this article | View comments | Email this article | Printer-friendly version
News :: Politics
The Ugly American Comes Home to Roost
28 Aug 2004
Over many decades the term "Ugly American" became known outside of the United States as a descriptive term for Americans traveling or working overseas. I first heard this term as a child when my father recommended to my old brother that he read a book by the same title. My brother, a child at the time, was interested in the foreign perception of Americans. He had followed closely the Vietnam war and was struggling to understand foreign sentiment towards Americans, which was largely negative.

The Ugly American Comes Home to Roost

Over many decades the term "Ugly American" became known outside of the United States as a descriptive term for Americans traveling or working overseas.  I first heard this term as a child when my father recommended to my old brother that he read a book by the same title.  My brother, a child at the time, was interested in the foreign perception of Americans.  He had followed closely the Vietnam war and was struggling to understand foreign sentiment towards Americans, which was largely negative.

The "Ugly American" disregards the culture of others, carries with him an unjustified arrogance about the superiority of the United States and treats foreigners as vassals to the American Empire.  Most Americans, myself included, had little experience with the "Ugly American" because we are Americans.  In the same way that a child raised within the ruling class may fail to see the arrogance of his or her own class and even look at himself or herself as a victim of false perception and a scapegoat for society's ills, despite the objective fact that it is his or her class causing the rest of American society misery, the average American fails to see himself or herself through the eyes of his or her foreign victims.

Before I go on, lets put forward the following hypothesis:  George Bush and his junta know exactly what they are doing and the state of affairs that his arisen in the wake of 9/11 is exactly what they hoped to accomplish.  It would follow then, that their goal has been and continues to be the transformation of the United States of America into a banana republic styled dictatorship.  If this hypothesis is true, and I personally do believe it to be true, then the "Ugly American" no longer needs to travel overseas to engage in his or her trade.

Now, clearly it is the case that not all Americans have been "Ugly Americans."  Within our society there has always been some subset of the population that could not afford to travel overseas.  Their economic disadvantage took away from them any opportunity they may have had to be "Ugly Americans."  At the other end of the cultural scale, there have always been some Americans that do not share in the arrogance of their compatriots, decry foreign intervention and have respect for other cultures.  Many of these Americans went overseas specifically to combat against the "Ugly American" and his government.  Now that we live in a banana republic, these Americans do not need to travel in order to oppose the "Ugly American," for the local climate is about as foreign as an overseas climate once was.  The new regime has nothing to do with the America we knew.  The Constitution has been stomped upon, disregarded, worked around and relegated to the museum.  Indeed, if you dare speak out about protecting the Constitution and demanding your Constitutional rights, you are considered a subversive, which in the current delusional climate reduces all opposition to the state to terrorism.  Therefore, if you support the Constitution you are now a terrorist.  Without traveling, the "Ugly American", the want to be "Ugly American" and the not "Ugly American" are now all at each other's throats without even needing to board an airplane.

In this transformation from incubator of "Ugly Americans" and their opponents to a banana republic, the proxy war has now ended and has become a war without proxies.  "Ugly Americans" and a new kind of real American are now face to face in their own land and they are at each other's throats.  The war is not exactly a war of mutual consent for the "Ugly Americans" are on the warpath and the real Americans are trying to defend their own culture and its values.  Thus, the predator/prey relationship continues to have its root in the "Ugly American" and the real American finds himself or herself in the uneasy position of not choosing his or her enemy but having an enemy forced upon himself or herself.  The enemy is domestic and the enemy may be your own neighbor, your employer, a coworker or the person who comes to service your utilities.

This new enemy looks just like the rest of us.  The new enemy can easily infiltrate our organizations or take advantage of his or her access to our homes, private records and places of employment.  We can now see the vacuous nationalism of the "Ugly American" for what it is: a fascist selfishness that never really has been loyal to the cultural and political values of the United States and has absolutely no moral qualms about destroying its own culture.  This explains much.  There has always been difficulty in explaining the divergence between American values as they were expressed at home and the arrogant imperialist face we have always shown overseas.  While we once, at the least, pretended to be a democracy at home, we supported dictators in foreign lands.  The foreigners noticed the difference between how we lived and how we treated them, but most Americans did not for they could only see what was directly around them.  Now that the "Ugly American" has come home to roost, the disparity is now erased and they have brought with them their anti-American culture and beliefs.  Without regret they apply at home what they had previously applied only to foreign lands: dictatorship, arrogance, unjustified nationalism and a hatred from freedom.

Perhaps George Bush really does believe that "they hate us for our freedom."  He'd be wrong, and that would be no surprise, but if he truly believes this it might explain why he is doing all he can to erase whatever freedoms we once had.  After all, if we have no freedom, a deluded George Bush may reason, they will no longer hate us.


This work is in the public domain
Add a quick comment
Title
Your name Your email

Comment

Text Format
Anti-spam Enter the following number into the box:
To add more detailed comments, or to upload files, see the full comment form.

Comments

About the "Ugly American"- a clarification
28 Aug 2004
Modified: 10:53:05 PM
One thing that always annoys me as much as people throwing the word "doublespeak" around (read Nineteen Eighty-Four; you won't find the word anywhere in it) is the misunderstanding of the "Ugly American" theme.

If you take the time to read Lederer and Burdick's novel, you'll discover that the "Ugly American" of the story is, in fact, the heroic figure- a retired engineer who devotes his time and knowledge to working with the people of the fictional Sarkhan to develop solutions to local problems, doing it in a respectful and humble way. He's dubbed the "Ugly American" because he is a physically ugly guy.

There's plenty of mental and spiritual ugliness on the part of Americans in the book- the ugliness that comes of ignorance and the arrogance of unqualified people given jobs in foreign relations due to their position and influence at home. That's related to the kind of ugliness that the OP is about.

That kind of ugliness deserves to be exposed and condemned. But for Pete's sake, let's not do it with the careless use of borrowed images.