Boomers are well aware of The Ugly American, a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, a book that depicts the failures of the U.S. diplomatic corps that led to Communist success Southeast Asia. John F. Kennedy was so impressed with the book that he sent a copy to each of his colleagues in the United States Senate. The book was one of the biggest bestsellers in the country, has been in print continuously since it appeared and is one of the most politically influential novels in all of American literature.
If you read any of Noam Chomsky's books that harpoon modern U.S. diplomacy, the adjective ugly, gets capitalized. What then to make of attractive unattractive americans by René Zografos who devoted seven years interviewing people from seven continents to write the definitive guide to the U.S.A.'s global reputation. First of all, it's not definitive. The sampling does not allow for an objective, reliable analysis, but it's good fun.
Thanks to their omnipresent media and movies, we all think we know something about Americans. They definitely like to win, and often claim victory when the opposite is true. Our best friends, two University-educated and globally aware types think that "they" actually won the War of 1812, when clearly, the Brits beat them back across the border, with a lot of help from First Nations warriors, burning the White House as retribution for York. War, in fact, is something that Americans truly hate to lose, so when they do, war then conveniently becomes a "conflict." Hence the Korean Conflict and Vietnam Conflict.
It's the same with sport, a surrogate for war. Nothing is funnier however than to hear Americans chant "U-S-A, U-S-A" while watching a baseball game or hockey game when most of their players are from the West Indies in the case of baseball and Europe and Canada in the case of hockey.
America is supposed to be the "land of the free and the home of the brave," but comedian Jon Stewart has exposed American politics as a greed farm run by economically powerful special interests.
America is responsible for hamburgers and Coca-Cola and other non-nutritious fast food and it used to boast the biggest buildings in the world, but Southeast Asia has taken that claim over.
Zografos is an award-winning Norwegian-Greek author of eight books and a veteran journalist who taps the voices of thousands of people from around the world to provide an overview of Americans and the country that they live in.
We receive opinions, not necessarily facts from the likes of Mexico-born 'Dog Whisperer' Cesar Millan and a Bangkok-based tailor named Marco, to American girl-obsessed Italian teenagers and Swedish ex-pats living in the U.S.A.,
Some questions are simple. Are Americans liked or disliked when traveling abroad? The fact that they wear Canadian insignia might tell you something.
Do people from other countries actually care about what's going on in America? Probably not, and my experience is that American education and media are so inept that the average American has not got a clue about other countries, could not name the capital of Canada nor Mexico, their closest neighbours.
Is American music, film, fashion, and food as influential as we think it is? India might argue for film rights; Italy for fashion, and can you beat France for food?
How do the great American cities actually stack up against the Hollywood portrayals of them? One might learn a lot from watching depictions of inner city crime, drug use and prostitution here.
Are Americans attractive? The wealth of the 1% might be attractive, but in physical beauty, one can see obesity and sugar addiction problems that will severely tax their health care systems.
Rene Zografos is one of Norway's best known journalists and authors. Half Norwegian, half Greek, Zografos is also an accomplished photographer and musician, and has worked
for magazines and newspapers, as well as for artists, designers, publishing houses around the world.
attractive unattractive americans: How The World Sees America is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble.
Mike Keenan writes for Postmedia Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune, Niagara Falls Review and Seniors Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.