The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World
From the publisher
Americans rarely used to think about the outside world. As the mightiest nation in history, the United States could do as it pleased. Now Americans have learned the hard way that what outsiders think matters. When terror struck last September 11, author Mark Hertsgaard was completing a trip around the world, gathering perceptions about America from people in fifteen countries. Whether sophisticated business leaders, starry-eyed teenagers, or Islamic fundamentalists, his subjects felt both admiring and uneasy about the United States, enchanted yet bewildered, appalled yet envious.
This complex catalogue of impressions—good, bad, but never indifferent—is the departure point for a short, pointed essay in the tradition of Common Sense and The Fate of the Earth. How can the world’s most open society be so proud of its founding ideals yet so inconsistent in applying them? So loved for its pop culture but so resented for its high-handedness? Exploring such paradoxes, Hertsgaard exposes uplifting and uncomfortable truths that force natives and outsiders alike to see America with fresh eyes.
“Like it or not, America is the future,” a European tells Hertsgaard. In a world growing more American by the day, The Eagle’s Shadow is a major statement about and to the place everyone discusses but few understand.
— Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2002
Hertsgaard was already circling the globe investigating other nations’ perceptions of America when last September’s terrorist attacks lent an unanticipated urgency to his findings. Few of those he interviewed in the 15 countries he visited express anything like the deep hatred of the U.S. that motivated the terrorists. Many voice warm admiration for America’s dynamic economy, vibrant culture, and open political system.
However, these same people also complain bitterly about how Americans dominate a world we poorly understand, sanctimoniously boast of democratic virtues while ignoring our complicity in the crimes of authoritarian regimes, and destroy other countries’ deep-rooted cultural traditions by exporting our crass culture of self-indulgence and haste. Readers troubled by these criticisms may discount some of them as a reflection of the author’s avowedly left-wing perspective. But much more than authorial tendentiousness lies behind the widespread and intense distrust of America that confronts us in these pages.
And as difficult as sober self-criticism may be amidst the flag-waving that now defines the national mood, Hertsgaard summons us to that task.
— Bryce Christensen, 2002
From the LA Times Book Review
“Honest self-examination is what Mark Hertsgaard, a freelance journalist and author, sets out to accomplish in The Eagle’s Shadow, a thoughtful book based on his travels, conversations, interviews and eavesdropping around the world … Hertsgaard has a light hand with political analysis that is extremely refreshing. He doesn’t pretend to be authoritative, like so many news analysts, about cultures he knows little about, and he doesn’t need to tell us that he ‘loves America.’ He wouldn’t have written the book if he didn’t.”
— Susan Salter Reynolds, LA Times
From Nobel Prize winner, Nadine Gordimer
“‘My country right or wrong’: a stance that is the betrayal of patriotism. Real patriotism implies not only the right but obligation to admit to and speak openly about where and when one’s country is wrong. And this can only be understood fully when one takes into account how the rest of the world perceives that country. Mark Hertsgaard has gone widely into the world to find out, in relation to the power of the USA. He’s found the answers in a pithy, vastly informative book, a strikingly original analysis of the American Dream at home and the ways it haunts the rest of the world—particularly the developing world—often as a yearning to share it, often as an enacted nightmare of America’s dominance of the global economy.”
— Nadine Gordimer
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