Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


America and the World

Those of us who grew up following Major League baseball love lists, and the latest to catch my eye was “Ten Countries that Hate America Most.” They are, in reverse order: (10) Serbia; (9) Greece; (8) Yemen; (7) Iraq; (6) Iran; (5) Egypt; (4) Lebanon; (3) Algeria; (2) Palestine; (1) Pakistan Note who isn’t on the list. Not a single country from Latin America, where resentments once ran high. But it’s been a while since United Fruit overthrew a government, and Obama’s presidency has burnished our image with Latino peoples. Nor are any of our Cold War enemies, from Russia to Vietnam. Finally, countries with mafias apparently find it more profitable to deal directly in our economy than to waste time hating us.

The presence of erstwhile allies in the war on terror (Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq) brought to mind a passage from Peter Olszewski’s Land of a Thousand Eyes, in which he asks a group of Burmese if they want to be liberated by the Americans: “The answer was a vigorous no because, they said, an American invasion would simply be exchanging terror for horror. . . . Terror was living with the regime, and horror was being saved from it by the Americans.” And drones do not appear to enhance our popularity.

Yet, I find that, while many people I meet dislike America’s actions in the world, they hold America in great esteem. It still shines, as it did for Hugh Maguire, who told me that when his ship sailed into New York Harbor 65 years ago, he refused to believe that New York City lay before him. “Back home,” he said, “we thought the streets were paved with gold.”

Burmese Scenes (Resilience)

Cutting to the Bone