For some time now I have been thinking about a notion I like to call “The Beautiful
American”. I came back to it when I came across this article:
from the online journal of Psycho-Social Studies. (via Orgdyne)
A quote to give you the flavour:
“The point about all this is that this very idealisation of America
by Americans, its self-identification with virtue, contributes enormously both
to its innocence and to its arrogance. There is often a real generosity of spirit
and a friendly naivete which strikes the non-American (at least the English
ones) when encountering an American citizen. One thinks of the countless jokes
about the American as an `innocent abroad
We have heard a lot about “The Ugly American” in the prisoner abuse scandal
in Abu Graid. But Clarke and Hoggett’s article, encapsulted to some extent the
quote above, shows that the "Ugly" and the "Beautiful" Americans
are two sides of the same coin. All of us in the West who have been exposed
to American culture at all (and that is the vast majority of us) have been exposed
to “The Beautiful American”. The American who is generous, friendly, polite,
thoughtful, considerate and well versed in internal American and World affairs.
Walter Cronkite comes to mind.
This psyche is born of the humbling awareness of the privilege of being born
in such a great land. It is the greatness and the successes that American society
has experienced that leads also to the arrogance. The belief that American society
is “the end of history”. It is the ultimate expression of western liberal democracy
to which all other peoples on the earth would, given sufficient knowledge, naturally
Many of us in the West outside America struggle to contain both sides of the
coin. At one time we see the ugly and think all America is ugly. At other times
we see the beauty and are overwhelmed by it.
I wonder if America could recognise its “ugliness” just a little bit more,
that the rest of the world would be more able to see its “beauty”.