The Ugly America(n)


I would imagine of all the misunderstood titles; a special place belongs to William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick’s novel “The Ugly American.” Today, the phrase is often used as shorthand for our compatriots who wear tube tops on their visit to The Vatican, or those who shout out for Big Macs in Beijing. Thismulti-million-copy bestselling novel coined the phrase for the tragic and devastating indictment of American policy abroad,which depicted the struggle against insurgent Communism in the fictional nation of Sarkhan.Perhaps the book’s most enduring legacy is its argument that ‘we spend billions on the wrong aid projects while overlooking the almost costless and far more helpful ones’. Today, it is not the tube top wearing, Big Mac shouting Americans we need to worry about; it is us.

Today, as I sat down to write an entirely different Blog, someone tried to assassinate with an explosive device and perhaps even a biological agent, two United States Presidents, a Secretary of State, CIA Director, an Attorney General, the Governor of the State of New York, a US Congressperson, and the former head of the Democratic National Committee, not to mention a private United States citizen and a news agency. And, to be clear, it wasn’t just these ‘targets’ that could have been harmed or even killed, it was every person that handled the packages and deliveries: from unsuspecting postal workers, to couriers and helpers, to an unlucky good Samaritan who decided to place the package on a doorstep of a neighbor.Yes, this was an attack on every one us.  As I wrote in a Facebook post, “Let that sink in for a minute before your next post. This has gone far beyond our political differences and now threatens to tear the very fabric of what makes us us..”

I ask myself today, what have we become? What has become of the ideal that politicians were elected to make us safer and our country more productive and caring? Where have all the cowboys in white hats gone, and why do we feel as if we are surrounded by so many black-hat-wearing ‘Black Barts’?

I once romanticized about my remembering when the 200th anniversary of our country occurred. It was a very big deal! And, growing up in Erie, PA, we only had one newspaper: the Erie Daily Times. Now, to be sure, they wanted you to believe they had competition! That is why on Sunday the newspaper that was delivered to your doorstep at the hands of a young newspaper carrier was called, “The Sunday Times News”, but you guessed it, same paper, same publisher, different name!

So, what was the significance of the paper and the year 1976? Color ink was introduced to mainstream news publishing and this edition – the one that celebrated our country and it is 200th bicentennial birthday was in glowing colors of Red, White, and Blue stripes all the way down Page One! And yes, above and below the fold! (Like I said, it was a very big deal!)

At any rate, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! So, when it was delivered, I ogled at every tint of color and at every word and then I found a box, wrapped it lovingly and carefully in tin foil from my mother’s kitchen cabinet, and placed it gently under my bed for safe keeping! I was proud to be an American that day, even as youngster. Today, I am still proud, but I am sorely disappointed. This is not the country I remember.

It is time. It is time for us to be better again. While the facts remain unsure and still developing, and the investigation still ongoing from the terrorism that happened across our nation today, it is time to put away our divisive chants, rejection of all the ‘others’ we think not endowed with the same human rights as us, let go of our hate-filled rhetoric and mean-spirited natures and appeal to something that wants to be let out again: The spirit of a good American, a global citizen, no matter your political, fraternal, social, or religious affiliation.

It is time to love again and remove the ugliness from our culture and from the world we impact. If not, what we will lose will be far greater than an election.


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