Ugly America: From Innocence to Experience

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I still did not think about my place in the larger world, or that perhaps an entire history — the history of white Americans — had something to do with who I was. My lack of consciousness allowed me to believe I was innocent, or that white American was not an identity like Muslim or Turk. Of this indifference, Baldwin wrote: Young white Americans of course go through pain, insecurity and heartache.

But it is very, very rare that young white Americans come across someone who tells them in harsh, unforgiving terms that they might be merely the easy winners of an ugly game, and indeed that because of their ignorance and misused power, they might be the losers within a greater moral universe. I n , after I had worked for six years as a journalist in New York, I won a writing fellowship that would send me to Turkey for two years.

I had applied for it on a whim. No part of me expected to win the thing. Even as my friends wished me congratulations, I detected a look of concern on their faces, as if I was crazy to leave all this, as if 29 was a little too late to be finding myself. I had never even been to Turkey before. I told everyone that I chose Turkey because I wanted to learn about the Islamic world. The secret reason I wanted to go was that Baldwin had lived in Istanbul in the s, on and off, for almost a decade.

I had seen a documentary about Baldwin that said he felt more comfortable as a black, gay man in Istanbul than in Paris or New York. When I heard that, it made so little sense to me, sitting in my Brooklyn apartment, that a space opened in the universe. I took a chance that Istanbul might be the place where the secret workings of history would be revealed.

In Turkey and elsewhere, in fact, I would feel an almost physical sensation of intellectual and emotional discomfort, while trying to grasp a reality of which I had no historical or cultural understanding. I would go, as a journalist, to write a story about Turkey or Greece or Egypt or Afghanistan, and inevitably someone would tell me some part of our shared history — theirs with America — of which I knew nothing.

My learning process abroad was threefold: No matter how much I believed that no American was well-equipped for nation-building, I thought I could see good intentions on the part of the Americans in Afghanistan. I would never have admitted it, or thought to say it, but looking back, I know that deep in my consciousness I thought that America was at the end of some evolutionary spectrum of civilisation, and everyone else was trying to catch up.

American exceptionalism did not only define the US as a special nation among lesser nations; it also demanded that all Americans believe they, too, were somehow superior to others.

How could I, as an American, understand a foreign people, when unconsciously I did not extend the most basic faith to other people that I extended to myself? This was a limitation that was beyond racism, beyond prejudice and beyond ignorance. This was a kind of nationalism so insidious that I had not known to call it nationalism; this was a self-delusion so complete that I could not see where it began and ended, could not root it out, could not destroy it.

I n my first few months in Istanbul, I lived a formless kind of existence, days dissolving into the nights.


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I had no office to go to, no job to keep, and I was 30 years old, an age at which people either choose to grow up or remain stuck in the exploratory, idle phase of late-late youth. Starting all over again in a foreign country — making friends, learning a new language, trying to find your way through a city — meant almost certainly choosing the latter. I spent many nights out until the wee hours — such as the evening I drank beer with a young Turkish man named Emre, who had attended college with a friend of mine from the US.

A friend had told me that Emre was one of the most brilliant people he had ever met. Then, three beers in, Emre mentioned that the US had planned the September 11 attacks. I had heard this before. Conspiracy theories were common in Turkey; for example, when the military claimed that the PKK, the Kurdish militant group , had attacked a police station, some Turks believed the military itself had done it; they believed it even in cases where Turkish civilians had died. In other words, the idea was that rightwing forces, such as the military, bombed neutral targets, or even rightwing targets, so they could then blame it on the leftwing groups, such as the PKK.

And now this war? A second bomb exploded out of a garbage bin nearby after 10pm, killing 17 people and injuring No one knew who did it. All that week, Turks debated: The deep state — a system of mafia-like paramilitary organisations operating outside of the law, sometimes at the behest of the official military — was a whole other story. Turks explained that the deep state had been formed during the cold war as a way of countering communism, and then mutated into a force for destroying all threats to the Turkish state.

The power that some Turks attributed to this entity sometimes strained credulity. But the point was that Turks had been living for years with the idea that some secret force controlled the fate of their nation. In fact, elements of the deep state were rumoured to have had ties to the CIA during the cold war, and though that too smacked of a conspiracy theory, this was the reality that Turkish people lived in.

Unlearning the myth of American innocence | US news | The Guardian

The sheer number of international interventions the US launched in those decades is astonishing, especially those during years when American power was considered comparatively innocent. There were the successful assassinations: There were the unsuccessful assassinations: Castro, Castro, and Castro. There were the much hoped-for assassinations: And, of course, US-sponsored, -supported or -staged regime changes: The Americans trained or supported secret police forces everywhere from Cambodia to Colombia, the Philippines to Peru, Iran to Vietnam.

Their presence endangers the local guards by attracting an attack by the Viet Minh. These indigenous auxiliaries simply want to live their lives, but they are doomed by their contact with foreign intrigue. Pyle saves Fowler's life as they escape. Fowler goes back to Saigon , where he lies to Phuong that his wife will divorce him. Pyle exposes the lie and Phuong must choose between him and Fowler. Like a small country caught between imperial rivals, Phuong considers her own interests realistically and without sentiment. She moves in with Pyle. After receiving a letter from Fowler, his editor decides that he can stay in Indo-China for another year.

Fowler goes into the midst of the battlefield to witness events. When Fowler returns to Saigon, he goes to Pyle's office to confront him, but Pyle is out.

Ugly Betty

Pyle comes over later for drinks and they talk about his pending marriage to Phuong. Later that week, a car bomb is detonated and many innocent civilians are killed. Pyle thus brings disaster upon innocents, all the while certain he is bringing a third way to Vietnam. Fowler is emotionally conflicted about this discovery, but ultimately decides to aid in the assassination of Pyle. Though the police suspect that Fowler is involved, they cannot prove anything.

Phuong goes back to Fowler as if nothing had ever happened. In the last chapter, Fowler receives a telegram from his wife in which she states that she has changed her mind and will begin divorce proceedings. The novel ends with Fowler thinking about his first meeting with Phuong, and the death of Pyle. Thomas Fowler is a British journalist in his fifties who has been covering the French war in Vietnam for more than two years.

He has become a very jaded and cynical man.


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Throughout the book Fowler is often caught in lies and sometimes there may be speculation that he is lying to himself. Fowler's relationship with Vietnamese woman Phuong often intensifies the conflict of the story, especially between Fowler and Pyle. Alden Pyle is the "quiet American" of the title. A CIA agent working undercover, Pyle is thoughtful, soft-spoken, intellectual, serious, and idealistic. He comes from a privileged East Coast background.

His father is a renowned professor of underwater erosion whose picture has appeared on the cover of Time magazine; his mother is well respected in their community.

Pyle is a brilliant graduate of Harvard University. He has studied theories of government and society, and is particularly devoted to a scholar named York Harding. Harding's theory is that neither Communism nor colonialism is the answer in foreign lands like Vietnam, but rather a "Third Force", usually a combination of traditions, works best.

Pyle has read Harding's numerous books many times and has adopted Harding's thinking as his own. Pyle also strives to be a member of this "Third Force".

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US military counter-insurgency expert Edward Lansdale , who was stationed in Vietnam —, is sometimes cited as a model for Pyle's character. Share this Rating Title: Ugly Betty — 6. Use the HTML below. You must be a registered user to use the IMDb rating plugin. Won 2 Golden Globes. Edit Cast Series cast summary: Betty Suarez 85 episodes, Eric Mabius Daniel Meade 85 episodes, Tony Plana Ignacio Suarez 85 episodes, Ana Ortiz Hilda Suarez 85 episodes, Becki Newton James 85 episodes, Mark Indelicato Justin Suarez 85 episodes, Vanessa Williams Wilhelmina Slater 85 episodes, Judith Light Claire Meade 71 episodes, Ashley Jensen Christina McKinney 66 episodes, Christopher Gorham Edit Storyline A young, smart and wise woman named Betty Suarez goes on a journey to find her inner beauty.

Edit Details Official Sites: Edit Did You Know? Mandy, you're going to be a reality TV star!

When it comes to performing live, the band remains the gold (and platinum) standard.

It's what every pretty girl with no specific talent dreams of. Frequently Asked Questions Q: Did the same actress who plays Amanda play Sofia's ugly assistant in "Sofia's Choice? Who are Amanda's parents?

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