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banner Monday, 17 December, 2001, 14:17 GMT
Letter from America: Your comments
"Letter from America" raised important questions of how Americans see themselves in relation to the world. Having lived and worked and travelled in the States I was always stunned by peoples lack of knowledge and political unawareness generally. One of the most important questions you asked, to the Chicago anchor newsman was why investigative journalism has gone in America.
Julie Bush

Firstly, thank you for presenting, probably the fairest commentary I have witnessed since the attack on 11 September. I have viewed previous reports with distaste because they have had an overwhelmingly biased overtone, predominantly against America. It was good to see that many Americans are acutely aware of their own shortcomings when it comes to lack of world knowledge. I hope that Americans move toward a more global view and I believe that airing these problems as you have done, will go a long way to aid this transition.
Gary Saunders, UK

I am an white middle-class American living in London. I have lived outside the US for 12 years, two years in Central American and 10 years here. I found your interviews very heartening, that there are many in the US questioning and searching for greater understanding of the US and the US within the world. But I was very aware of who you interviewed. After 11 September I raised questions about the whys and sought to initiate a dialogue for understanding with family and friends in California (all white and middleclass). I was told that I was arrogant, judgemental and unpatriotic. I think the people you interviewed have a very different experience of the US culture, one that arises out of suffering and oppression and this opens up the opportunity for them to question "why", whereas those in the white middleclass US culture have not experienced this need for justice, finding one's voice, etc. and live in a different world.
Susan Smith, UK

Bonnie Greer did not respond to the previous week's charge of US arrogance. She reflected the views predominately of liberal, democratic blacks, who themselves have, in the past, been victims of this arrogance from a white establishment. What was required was a response to the charge that the US government had meddled in Middle East affairs for the past thirty years for its own selfish ends and with, often, disastrous results. That same establishment has benefited from a lack of public scrutiny, just as now a propagated view of foreign envy is self-congratulatory and self-serving. What is interesting is not whether 11 year-olds in Chicago, or indeed London, know the whereabouts of Afghanistan, but why the serious media does not provide this scrutiny and keep the general public informed.
Geraldine Smith-Cullen, UK

I am a German student who lived in the US for a year and is now studying in Britain. Thank you so much for your report on the US situation in the current context of "the war on terror". To me as a European you pointed out so well the difficult position on only US students but all students are in. We all have to try to learn how to ask important questions and to be inquisitive.
Thees Lemke, Germany,UK

Regretfully the programme confirmed my concerns regarding the ignorance of some Americans regarding world affairs, though this is not just a U.S. affliction. However what makes it worse in developed countries is that they have the facilities to correct it. The crime is not ignorance but the lack of desire to do anything about it. Unlike people in Chad, Burundi, Bangladesh or Guatemala - who do not have a pen and paper, Americans have libraries, radio, satellite TV, newspapers & Internet.
Zaf , Manchester. UK

I think Bonnie Greer's piece was well done and thought provoking. By concentrating on people she knew and giving us a more personal view on the issues involved, she produced an enlightened piece of journalism. It is a tragedy that the media in general (on all sides of this issue) have so slovenly abdicated its role to independently question and analyse.
Stuart Grider, UK/US

I am a US citizen. I liked the personal viewpoint of the programme. I was surprised by the lack of anger. Only one boy mentioned that destroying the Twin Towers was a bad thing to do. The undertone of "We deserved this" angered me.
Rose Dlhopolsky, Netherlands

I am also an American living in England. I too have been shocked by anti-American sentiment, but also by anti-Muslim sentiment and many other divisive sentiments. The one thing I find MOST disturbing is that I feel the young men who committed the terrible acts on 11 September, were not really making a statement FOR Muslims, Arabs, Afghans or anyone at all. There "statement" was only anti-American. In my view, they were used, sacrificed to further the aims of a tyrant and egomaniac. None of the actions of the Taleban, or Bin Laden and his followers, has done one thing to help the people of Afghanistan or any other Muslim nation.
Linda, England

I just wanted to congratulate you on your fantastic program. I am inspired that the people you spoke to are prepared to consider the "why" and not just the "what" of this situation and I hope that in time this longing for information infiltrates your government too.
Kristina West, England (Australian nationality)

I must express my disappointment at last night's programme, which I understood would be a response to the Islamic point of view presented by Ms. Kabbini last week. The latter was an articulate and reasoned explanation of the Islamic "hatred" of American policy even if one did not agree with what she had to say but the American point of view presented last night was low key and anything but articulate. I do not believe that the people interviewed were a balanced cross section of the American public and totally devoid of any intellectual analysis. In my opinion it was a great disservice both to the USA and the UK at a time when a response to Islamic charges was urgently needed.

I thought Bonnie Greer presented a thought-provoking picture. I found it a wonderful programme, because it redressed the opinion the rest of the world has of Americans: A superior people, who think they know what is best for the rest of us. The main complaint that came through for me was: the lack of in-depth journalism that goes on in the USA. The people seem to be very ill informed on what goes on in the world.
Jo tenBroek, Amsterdam, Holland

It would be pleasant day if the foreign press began reporting on what is good about America and its people and not remain fixated on what they see as bad. The United States of America is a good country. A country with the same problems as any other, but with the confidence to announce its flaws and not hide them under the cloak of culture differences. By continuing to disseminate the simplistic stereotype of the US as an ignorant, simplistic, arrogant, uncaring, and demanding country serves no purpose other than to fan the flames of hatred. It is no more those words than any other country. It is sad when the only time someone expresses thanks for America is when an American dies.
Carl Dragseth, USA

I'm an American expat, I have been living in Holland for nearly four years and have not been back to the states in two years. My first trip back will be this Christmas. I found your report especially helpful in gaining a sense of what it is like in the US. At the same time that the US media fails to offer in depth reporting on events, the media over here as its own fill of hype, while our headlines run like America Strikes Back, America Under Attack, here it is America is Running Scared, Americans Are Petrified, and so forth. How would you characterize the differences between American and European/British media?
Christopher A. Baker, Tilburg, Netherlands

Fist off, thanks to Bonnie Greer and the makers of Correspondent for a truly valuable insight. Last week I visited the USA on business and, for a whole week, was amazed - and dismayed - by the amount of propaganda on every "news" station; and by the vox pops that I heard all around me. How could Americans, even now, build their walls higher, rather than knocking them down and embracing even just a little of the outside world? I spoke to many Americans (mainly white, middle class professionals like myself) and not one of them asked "Why?" - instead all I heard was the rhetoric of God Bless America. Bonnie Greer's report makes me realise that there IS questioning, that there is a desire for information, that there is a chance for America. My question is: Is this voice loud enough to be heard by the Bush administration and the media establishment?
Andrew McMillan, UK

I am an English literature student and am currently studying American literature. After watching your programme, I was fascinated to see elements of Containment Culture creeping back into American society since the 11 September attacks.
Pete Meacham, United Kingdom

I welcome the views in this programme. It is all too easy to see a people as one monolithic type, while of course there is a wide range of views.
Jack Mason, UK

Many thanks for your insightful documentary. Many of the people you interviewed seemed to think that as a result of 11 September, the USA should stop interfering in the affairs of other nations while others suggested that a more constructive engagement with the rest of the world is needed (as opposed to more isolationist policies). However in times of crisis, doesn't the world turn to America as a beacon of freedom and justice, eg the Balkan wars. The USA is also, by far, the largest provider of humanitarian aid in the world. However, it seems that America has become the scapegoat for all of the problems of the world today.
R.J.Midgley, UK

I am an American citizen (grew up not far from Chicago, actually) who is living temporarily in the Netherlands. I moved to Europe to continue my education because I want to expand my views toward an international perspective and not perpetuate the stereotype of "arrogance through ignorance". But I find myself often backed into a corner because of this same stereotype - that just because I am American I agree or support (or even share) this arrogance toward other cultures and nationalities. It does not seem that we can rely on our foreign policies, or our media (both of which I feel will not change because of this incident) to change this stereotype.
Melissa Rands, The Netherlands

Thank you so much for your timely and balanced programme. Although I have a number of thoughtful and intelligent American friends who I know are not just fodder for Bush and the hard right, it was reassuring to hear people in your programme questioning the line that they are being fed.
Philip Gould, UK

The message from your programme appears to be that Americans must learn to be less insular and learn to understand other cultures. Why should Americans work harder to understand countries that deny basic human rights by upholding censorship, the subjugation of women, imprisonment without trial and the enforced subordination of the individual to the "state", "race" or God"?
D S A Murray, England

I found your programme 'Letter from America' very interesting. The range of views expressed by people from all walks of life about the events surrounding 11 September was very informative.

Tonight, watching Correspondent, my faith in the BBC was resuscitated. For the first time in my life - I am 77 years old - I turned my back on the media over two months ago, because off the blatant, manipulated propaganda that was being dished up, about the terrorist incident in New York. This programme, was the first sincere objective attempt at getting to the root cause of terrorism, that threatens the future safety and stability of our planet earth today, that I have listened too. My faith in ordinary people received a boost as well, to listen to honest and unbiased interviewing and comment.

I was fascinated with your programme tonight as it showed a side of the US, which few of us outside rarely see. The way the media works in the US portrays a very negative image that only goes to further the hatred from outside. I was fascinated hearing Americans speak how it is rather than the typical "US under attack", "god Bless the US" theatre which we see week in week out.
Neil Loughran Lancaster

Many thanks for the programme, you gave me some hope that America and Americans have begun to ask why and not how "the events of 11th September" happened and that as a result they may mature from this experience. The analogy from the TV anchor man that America is a teenager is not one I have considered before, it is a good one and maybe the rest of the world needs to bear this in mind when rushing to condemn the US.

Thank you for an enlightened program which asked the questions I want asked and asked a raft of different people, the fact that you had such a ray of responses helps me to see that America is not as dangerously blinkered as is so often feared, I agree the media is greatly to blame for narrow reporting, no doubt fearful of being accused of being anti-American and therefore loosing out on advertising dollars if it to be labelled this way.
Philip O'Connor

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