Letter to the Editor: Ugly Americans

After hearing our President call the countries of Haiti and Africa, “s***holes,” a sadness overcame me. My mind produced other words the President said about other people and other countries, like people from Haiti all have AIDS, etc. and the sadness deepened. The President speaks for the United States across the world and his bully pulpit is large. How are we being seen? We are being seen as “Ugly Americans” again.  

Eugene Burdick and William Lederer wrote The Ugly American in 1958 to decry how little Americans respected other cultures and customs and how self-centered and  arrogant we were.  The title of the book carried the indictment, that the world saw us as ugly then – and I am afraid they see us as ugly once more. And rightly so – we elected this man. We are responsible for what he says and how he acts.

To the people of Haiti and Africa and Latin America, I want to say, “I apologize. The President is wrong. The American people are better than the President.”  I want to say, “Americans are not all arrogant – all Americans are not just interested in money and wealth – Americans do not all think they are better than everyone else.” “Many of us try our best to help others every day – many of us give what wealth we have to charity – our needs are the same as yours.”

My hope is that the idealism of this great country is not lost to the world in the bigotry and hate of our President’s words. We are still a country of laws and not men. We are still believers in our Bill of Rights for all citizens, white, black, red, yellow or otherwise – gay or straight, Protestant or Catholic. We are still the shining city on the hill as the beacon of freedom and democracy in the world. Most Americans are not arrogant. They believe in the common humanity stated most clearly in John Donne’s poem, “No Man Is An Island,” and immortalized in Joan Baez’s song and words:


No man is an island

No man stands alone,

Each man’s joy is joy to me,

Each man’s grief is my own,

We need one another,

So I will defend,

Each man as my brother,

Each man as my friend.


To Haitians, Africans, and the peoples of Latin America, I would understand if you see us as Ugly Americans again, but I want you to believe more in America’s ideals, and goodness than the words of the President of the United States. I want you to know, we will right this mistake, in time. Believe “the people” of this country – not its President.


Patrick Cerra

Egg Harbor, Wis.

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