Here’s the kind of thing I’m supposed to be telling you, that Global Perspectives on the United States is a bold, balanced three-volume resource in which experts explore the role and image of the United States from the viewpoints of the peoples and nations of the world, with lots of supplementary material including timelines, biographies, historical extracts, statistical tables, and maps. â€œSo obvious and so necessary that one wonders how come no one did it before. Here it is now and eminently useful to everyone: politicians, journalists, scholars, and ordinary newspaper readers,” writes Immanuel Wallerstein of Yale University.
Creating these books, the first two of a three-volume set, was one of the more challenging things we’ve ever done, and fraught with conflict. Curiously, the conflict wasn’t with those authors reporting that their countries don’t much like the United States. They were all very reasonable, and understood that we wanted different perspectives. But some U.S. colleagues were deeply dismayed to find that for many people around the world the United States doesn’t have a good human rights record and were even inclined to try to get us to soften some of the criticism.
The books are particularly handsome, with a powerful cover design that Joe DiStefano and I created together (he did the real work, while I just came up with the concepts). We think they’re going to be extremely useful to students, and they’re packed with information of general interest, too. I’ll post some clips on the blog now and then.
A friend of mine just wrote to say he thinks I should watch “American Idol,” “I really don’t see how a firm that has a “Love US/Hate US” blog would not, as a matter of course, require all employees (and bosses) to view that show.” Myself, I was hoping that watching “24” would fulfill my popular culture requirement. But popular culture is definitely very important in terms of how people see us. Oddly enough, as public opinion of the U.S. has fallen across the world, more people are watching U.S., the New York Times reported in October:
In the parliaments and pubs of Europe, the United States may wallow in least-favored-nation status. But on European television, American shows have been enjoying a popularity not seen since the 1980â€™s heyday of â€œDallas,â€ â€œDynastyâ€ and â€œThe Dukes of Hazzard.â€
â€œWhat a difference,â€ said Gerhard Zeiler, chief executive of the RTL Group, the Luxembourg-based broadcaster that owns Five US and other channels across Europe. â€œFive or six years ago, you could barely find any U.S. series on the prime-time schedules of the market leaders. Now they are back, pretty much on all the major European commercial channels.â€
In developing Global Perspectives on the United States we found several things that people like about the United States. Our music and movies are appreciated arond the world, and jazz in particular is universally loved (and of course comes from African America). Next on the list are the Peace Corps and U.S. higher education. The Peace Corps has done more to promote a positive view of the U.S. than anything else, really, and we’re wondering how we can bring this to the attention of the powers-that-be in Washington. Surely ways to improve international opinion of the U.S. should be part of politicians’ and presidential candidates’ platforms, in addition to the various measures, like invasions and economic exploitation, that make people think badly of us.