A German View of the U.S.A.

Der Speigel’s website has a long English language article on the U.S. and the presidential election:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,587736,00.html

The beginning of the article:

“America is a wonderful country, with jaw-dropping wilderness and wide open spaces that seem as far removed from New York or Los Angeles as the moon. America has the best universities with the most brilliant scientists who win a host of Nobel Prizes year after year.

This is also home to the world’s leading think tanks, where highly impressive studies are conducted on topics like the future of world politics, religion and capitalism. These institutions produce works written in a readily understandable language based on a firm belief in the power of reasoning, rather than ivory tower musings with no connection to reality.

In all cultural spheres, from classical to trash, this is where the avant-garde emerges, time and again. Capitalism is regularly reinvented in America before it sets out again to conquer the world. America still attracts immigrants from countries around the globe. And, of course, from a historical perspective, it remains a uniquely superior power.

This country believes that it has a predetermined role in the history of mankind — a manifest destiny.

America? A horrendous country that betrays its own values every few years, thus forfeiting its moral right to lead the Western world. It elects presidents who know nothing about the world, and have no interest in learning more, which explains why they readily succumb to errors and illusions, only to reveal their utter amazement when they finally — and usually too late — admit their mistakes. Since 1945, America has been fighting wars in countries that it knows very little about, and under premises that have almost nothing to do with reality.

America is a superpower around the globe, but a Third World country at home, with an infrastructure that defies description. There are collapsing bridges, power failures along the entire East Coast, and homes in places like Florida, North Carolina and Texas are regularly destroyed every year by hurricanes that flatten houses as if they were beach bungalows in Haiti.

There is also the obscene contrast between rich and poor, which has hardy interested or shocked any administration since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What is even more obscene is the ignorance of a government that allows millions of people, in the richest country in the world, to live without health insurance. This is a government that stands by idly as the (primarily black) city of New Orleans disappears under floodwaters. Yes, the most obscene aspect of all remains the unacknowledged racism in this country of pragmatic enlightenment — the ongoing prejudices of whites against blacks.

America is an extreme country, and no one feels indifferent about it. No matter whether you live in Karachi, Hamburg or Tbilisi — you are bound to have an opinion about America. The US has friends and enemies all around the globe. America serves as a role model for Western industrialized societies, a model based on the spirit of Protestantism. But it also provides a paragon example of the downsides of this approach: materialism, unbridled consumerism, reckless exploitation of people and natural resources. This country the size of a continent has fascinating strengths and unparalleled weaknesses. It inspires both devoted admiration and aggressive contempt.”

The article goes on for many more words and is worth reading in its entirety.

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