Saturday, March 03, 2007

Letters to Uncle Sam

Blog to America presents an opportunity for foreign nationals to write open letters for Americans to read that explain how our country and its people might be perceived abroad, sometimes in very stark terms. As a counter to U.S. public diplomacy efforts, it's an effort to foster authentic citizen-to-citizen exchanges that get beyond generalizations about how they "hate us for our freedom." One of the most interesting features of the blog is the way that context is provided: participants are asked if they have ever been to the United States and about their class and educational backgrounds. It is a reminder that there can be articulate and thoughtful opinions that express profoundly individualistic points of view and that Americans certainly don't have the monopoly on self-expression. Unless I am going through a passport checkpoint or sending e-mail to another country, I tend not to think about my American identity very much. In the interest of fairness, among their user-generated content, they do include Americans and those living semi-permanently in the States. Nonetheless, this blog is a sometimes uncomfortable reminder of the unflatteringly self-interested principles that my country has come to represent abroad. (Via Houtlust, with thanks to Mark van Gurp for his note.)

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