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  • Publicado : 14 de noviembre de 2011
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Our opening scene takes
place in Rome, early
morning, late summer, in
the breakfast room of a moderately
priced albergo (hotel), catering to
the tourist trade, a stone’s throw
from the Pantheon. The waiters,
Filipino natives, hover in their
white waistcoats as the hotel guests,
families from the United Kingdom,
France, Greece, and Spain mostly,
graze over the croissantsand
sweets and pitchers of juice,
maintaining a polite indifference
to one another in their respective
zones of privacy. Everything is a
hum of efficiency and competence,
executed in the hushed tones
appropriate to the hour.
Then the doors of the elevator
slide open, and there he is.
He’s a very large man, not
fat, necessarily, but brawny and
big boned. He has evidently tried
to pullhimself together, though
without much success. His
hair sprays off in all directions,
defeating his every attempt to
smooth it into shape with his
beefy hand. His shirttails are
busy untucking themselves from
his pants, which are hitched two
inches too high. His socks are
white and they droop.
He approaches one of the
waiters and vigorously shakes
his hand.
“I heard there was a freecomplimentary buffet breakfast
down here,” he says, redundantly.
And of course he says it in English,
with no thought to the possibility
that he might, when in Rome, be
speaking a foreign language.
“I’m from Minneapolis,” he
goes on. “My wife and I just got in.
A long flight. I told her I’d grab her
a blueberry muffin. Haven’t slept in
a day. We’re from Minneapolis.”
The waiter pointshim to
the buffet.
“Where are the blueberry
muffins?” he booms, craning his
neck and scanning the breakfast
breads and bowls of fruit. “She’s
really hungry. We just flew in.
From Minneapolis.”
And so he prattles on,
expressing astonishment, though
no resentment, that there are
no blueberry muffins — “How
can you have breakfast without
blueberry muffins?” he wonders

aloud — and thensurprise at the
absence of bagels and veggie cream
cheese. He mentions that he’s
flown all night, from Minneapolis,
where he’s from; his wife too.
All eyes have turned to him
by now. Trying to disguise his
dissatisfaction, he heaps two plastic
plates with booty and cradles
them in his arms. Offering a final
update, he announces, loudly, that
he will take the food upstairs to his
wife,who has flown, sleepless, all
night. From Minneapolis.
“Have a nice day,” he calls out
as the elevator door slides shut,
just in time to avoid hearing the
snickers from the other guests.
One of the children looks up from
her buttered toast.
“Americaine!” she says. “D’oh!”
She’s doing a Homer Simpson, and
the breakfast room rings out in
Since I watched it unfold
last summer,a week hasn’t gone
by that I haven’t thought of this
globalized tableau, sometimes
amused, sometimes horrified.
Everyone from the United States
lives with the phrase “the ugly
American,” taken from a bestselling
book and popular movie
from the early 1960s, but when
I recall the muffin-seeker from
Minneapolis, I wonder whether
the ugly American hasn’t been
replaced by anothercaricature:
not sinister but hapless, not rude
but loud, unsophisticated, kind of
goofy, a buffoon. We’ve exchanged
one stereotype for another — or
for several, just as powerful, just
as mistaken.
“I know that the stereotypes
of the United States are out there,”
President Obama told a gathering
of university students in Istanbul
in 2009. “And I know that many of
them are informed not by directexchange or dialogue, but by
television shows and movies and
This book is an effort to correct
some of the misimpressions.
The premise is simple and the
technique is straightforward: The
world is often misled, as President
Obama said, to see the United
States through the icons its pop
culture has produced — this
means you, Homer — and the
icons and stereotypes can...
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