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March 24, 2004


American Culture: Ugly or Beloved?

Last night I attended a forum sponsored by Americans for Informed Democracy called American Culture in the World: Benevolent Force or Evil Empire? The forum is travelling around the country and has an impressive roster of speakers. I attended largely to see one of our favorite reporters Ashleigh Banfield, who tragically didn't show up. Here's who did:

Danny Schechter, the 'news dissector', is the author of Media Wars: News at a Time of Terror and general critic of how wimpy the media has gotten lately. He was speaking in place of Ashleigh Banfield, and echoed her statement that brought her under attack about the 'sanitized war' we've been watching.

Abderrahim Foukara is the UN reporter for Al-Jazeera, and grew up in Morocco. He spoke about the love and reverence that Arab people, especially young people, have for American culture. He repeatedly referred to America as a whole as an icon for the rest of the world. Like many other speakers at the forum, he said that people of the Arab world feel confusion and disillusionment that a country whose culture and history of democracy and freedom that they admire so much can have such messed up politics.

Similar comments from Ziba Mir Hosseini, an Iranian anthropoligist who is currrently teaching at the NYU Law School. She spoke about the respect that Iranians and other Muslims have for America, historically, and the disdain they have for what we've done lately. She got more worked up than any other speaker, saying that, though she loves Americans as individuals, she'd seen greater sophistication of cultural thought and better understanding of global politics in shantytowns in Morocco and in rural Iran than she has ever seen in the U.S.

There was also the CEO of Court TV, who I'm not sure why he was there, but the most exciting speaker of all was one of my personal musical heroes, Nile Rodgers. What was Nile doing there, you might ask? Turns out he started a foundation after 9/11 called the We Are Family Foundation that promotes global understanding and multiculturalism through the arts. Nile grew up in Greenwich Village, and had a lot to say about when he was working for Sesame Street as a guitarist, and their tour through South Africa. Nile also seemed to be there mostly so that all the other speakers could talk about how totally dorky and uncool they were compared to him.

categories: Culture, International, Music, War and Security
posted by amy at 11:24 AM | #