Saturday, April 7, 2012

the ugly american

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“The simple fact is, Mr. Ambassador, that average Americans, in their natural state… are the best ambassadors a country can have. But something happens to most Americans when they go abroad… feel that they must live up to their commissaries and big cars and cocktail parties.” This quotation taken from a conversation between Minister of Defense, Magsaysay and MacWhite basically shows the main point the authors of The Ugly American, William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick were trying to get across. This main point being that Americans have the potential to be some of the best ambassadors in the world. However, when these same Americans are sent abroad, a transformation occurs in which they believe they are expected to live up to the standard of American luxury, such as numerous servants, large houses, and extravagant houses, negating any chance of completing their duties. The Ugly American goes on to further attack the indolence of the majority of American ambassadors through countless fictional accounts based on true events.


Louis Sears, which the reader meets at the beginning of the novel, is a perfect example of the ignorance of many American Ambassadors. An example of this is his inability to read any of the Sarkhanese printed in a cartoon printed in the Eastern Star, a Red paper. Considering he was appointed as the American Ambassador of Sarkhen, not understanding the language would pose a rather large problem. Another problem revolves around what convinced him into taking the job of Sarkhan’s Ambassador. It wasn’t because he desired to make a difference or to help drive away the communists that were slowly taking over Sarkhan. The position of Sarkhan’s American Ambassador was simply a temporary thing he could take until a federal judgeship opened up in two years. Therefore, it only stood to reason that Mr. Sears would have no real interest in helping out the Sarkhanese people.


Further fallacy in the way America handles its oversea affairs can be found in chapter 6, Employment Opportunities Abroad. One only has to look at how life is portrayed in overseas positions to see the why overseas affairs are handled so badly. During a conference for employment opportunities abroad, a guest speaker, Joseph Bing is bought in to speak about overseas affairs. He starts off his speech by briefly touching upon the duties of working overseas and then quickly switches over to the matter of social affairs, which he holds with much higher importance. He speaks in-depth about how housing is free, food and liquor is inexpensive, and how easy it is to obtain servants. All this that Joseph Bing talks about shows how oversea officials place their own personal interests before their duties.


In conclusion, though Americans have the ability to be some of the world’s best ambassadors because of their non-suspicious attitudes, eagerness to share skills, and generosity, these attributes are often clouded by poor selection on the part of the government. Instead of choosing people such as Colonel Killandale, Father Finian, John Colvin, or John Atkins; people who genuinely want to help better the lives of people in less developed countries, the government, sadly, too often chose representatives like Louis Sears, George Swift, and Joseph Bing; people who don’t understand the culture and language of the country they are appointed to and only care about their own personal interests.


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