My first real encounter with the world outside the United States came in 1962, when
I spent several months working for an anti-government newspaper in South Africa [...]
The battle againstapartheid was my first exposure to serious politics, and to a
nineteen-year-old, as I was then, it was overwhelming. Part of the experience was
realizing that the USA was on the wrong side. Fine speeches atthe United Nations were
one thing, but the directory board in the lobby of the American Embassy in Pretoria,
with its long list of military attachés, told a different story. [...] Learningsomething of
the cooperation between the USA and the white regime in South Africa [...] was my
first lesson that America was not always the noble force for freedom I wanted it to be.
A few yearsafterwards, the Vietnam War underlined that lesson, for me and for millions
of other Americans of my generation.
Later encounters with the rest of the world have underlined it in different ways.
DespitePresident Bush's cowboy foray1 into Iraq, the way most nations experience
American might these days is not military, but economic. Time abroad is always an
education. I had not thought much aboutglobalization until my wife and I lived for six
months in India in the late 1990s. To read even India's mainstream2 newspapers was a
revelation. Indians were outraged by American corporate attempts topatent3 basmati
rice and a medicinal extract of the neem tree4, products that Indians had been using for
centuries. [...] To travel anywhere these days with open eyes is to see a world
dominated by anincreasingly arrogant superpower. When it comes to a different kind
of international agreement, those of which the human race has reason to be proud, the
United States has refused to sign almostall of them: the treaty establishing the
International Criminal Court, the ban on landmines, the Kyoto accords on global
warming and many, many others. [...]
And yet, another type of image appears...
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