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Stayed Away to Long Print E-mail
Written by Jay Bushinsky   
Tuesday, 22 August 2006
By Jay Bushinsky
November 6, 2006

(NEW YORK) --- The U.S. viewed close -up by an American who spends most of his or her time abroad as a foreign correspondent is an eye-opener.

Foreign correspondents can be very keen observers, even of their home turf. They usually see it on relatively brief visits but for that very reason they are adept at detecting differences compared to their previous visits.

Most Americans experience these changes gradually and in some cases they may not be aware of them.

For example, the burgeoning number of automobiles manufactured in Japan, Germany and South Korea is astounding. One has to look hard to find an American-made model on the road or in the parking lots and garages of this country.
 
It is as if American motorists are boycotting the once-mighty but now financially-strapped big three of Detroit - GM, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler.
 
When asked for an explanation, the usual reply is that American cars are inferior "break down", gas guzzlers or are technically retarded. This is very hard to believe. And even more unbelievable are the economic consequences  to the thousands of automobile workers who have lost their jobs as a result of these dubious and self-centered predilections.
 
The same holds true for countless other products which used to be "made in the U.S.A.". In New York, for example, they say that the city's once-prosperous and heavily unionized garment district is no more. And in Manchester, N.H., they recall the glory of being "the shoe capital of the nation" while lamenting the fate of the men and women who used to work there, but now languish in debilitating idleness in their nearby home towns.
 
When it comes to the telephone system, the situation also is lamentable. Once upon a time one could dial "411", hear a polite human voice and get a prompt answer to a query. Nowadays, the voice at the other end is computerized and the usually the query has to be passed to a "supervisor", a time-consuming and questionable procedure. "411" was gratis, the dialing code plus "555-1212" is costly.
 
One of the most impressive and welcome changes is the steady emergence of African Americans into the higher echelons of the employment grid. Nowadays, it is common to see Blacks at the executive levels of American corporations and well-dressed Black men and women on lunch breaks in the financial and business districts.
 
At the commercial level, there is a disappearance of salesmen and salesladies in the giant department stores. Customers have to fend for themselves, pick through countless items to find the right size and style and forgo the guidance, advise and comments of seasoned personnel.
 
Driving in the big cities is something else. Gone is the courtesy and law-obedience of yesteryear. Speed limits are ignored, passing on the right are routine (just like in Israel, if not worse) and driving on the roads' shoulders is common. 
 
At the intellectual and academic levels, Americans have been discovering Islam with a kind of understandable fascination that is bereft of historical and religious understanding. The conclusions often are absurd and unjustifiable as in the Lannan Foundation's award of $350,000 to the Independent's Robert Fiske for lifetime achievement. Its comments about the Balfour Declaration of 1917, as quoted from the latest book, are an excellent example of this. Pulitzer Prize winners get $10,000.
 
And then the is the language issue. Should the United States be a polyglot nation in which there is no official language? Should Spanish be on a par with English? Should every or any language be official? Can America survive as a modern-day Tower of Babel?
 
Maybe none of these rhetorical questions matter as Americans go on starting every other sentence with the word "like", and deviate from normal, comprehensible diction to the point where telephone operators and clerks at the other end of the line are impossible to understand.
 
Or is it that we overseas reporters just stay away too long?

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