You don’t like us, you really don’t like us

Heard an absurd interview with Karen Hughes, our undersecretary of public diplomacy (reach: flack-in-chief), on NPR this morning, in which she said our country just isn’t friendly enough to visitors. She sounded amazed to find that we send U.S. citizens to one line and everyone else to another line at the airport. By the standard, even France is mean. She quoted an exchange student who said he thought he was forced to take his shoes off because he was African and black — even though, of course, everyone around him was doing likewise. I wonder what he was studying; it better have nothing to do with the power of observation. And her solution? She met with our head of Homeland Security to create a pilot program to make arriving at the airport friendlier. They’re going to put up banners (and what should they say? take your shoes off, please?) and show videos of what it’s like to live in America (even as Congress passes new legislation to make that tougher). What should they show: Friends? The aggressive cluelessness is shocking.

  • http://www.writingcave.com Amrit

    I agree; such security checks are sad, but unavoidable. In India there is a similar breed and we call them “pseudo-secularists”. No matter what, the minority is always right, and the majority is always wrong. I’m sure people like Karen Hughes will be among the first to run for cover in case there is a terrorist attack.

  • Fabian

    Jeff, I completely agree that security issues are nothing to whine about.

    But apart from that it’s a good idea to reflect the tone and overall attitude of US representatives working overseas. I’ve spent a day waiting in line in Frankfurt for a US Visa and I can tell you – it’s an embarrassing procedure, something you’d expect from, well, Liberia?

    Now most of the people standing in line don’t argue because they – including me – feel at home in the US or have at least close ties of some sort – but the embassy staff seems to lack any understanding that they are ambassadors in the best sense. They are US overseas PR.

    In the long term, tone matters. It is simply good politics.

  • http://globalmediainsight.blogspot.com/2006/03/travel-bosses-tell-americans-to-behave.html MM

    Although all the points you make are valid I have always found the customs officials in America to be a little aggressive and hostile in comparison to anywhere else.

  • http://www.bonjour-america.com Vinvin

    “even France is mean”… is it possible? :-)

  • Arthur

    I agree with your points, too. I find it bizarre that re-entering the US as a US citizen is often times more slow, and more tense than entering a foreign country with a US passport (i.e. Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, etc). I often times find US customs/immigration people less welcoming to me and my family than their foreign equivalents.

  • http://mitchgroup.blogs.com Doug Mitchell

    Since we are made to believe that most of the world hates us and wants to kill us because we’re mean spirited and imperialistic…I see total congruence between current customs policies and attitudes and the state of the world. Now let’s all hold hands and talk about our feelings.

  • qcontent

    I don’t like Karen Hughes, I really don’t like Karen Hughes.

    She is the greatest female liar of the 21st century; only surpassed by Karl Rove, her male counterpart.

    When Karen Hughes talks about anything, regardless of what it is, I go on auto pilot and tune her out; because she has less than zero credibility, and cannot be trusted.

    But, maybe that’s just me talking, maybe not?

  • amyc

    Maybe I oversimplify, but I have never found that Americans who go into government employment are the ones who are likely to care about creating a quality customer service experience (or outcome, for that matter). I have come to that conclusion after many years as a military spouse, which means I’ve dealt with government “service” personnel in many locations, and at the local, state, and federal level.

    I also don’t think giving Ms. Huges and her friends millions of our tax dollars to create some little training program to try to teach these people to pretend that they DO give a rat’s ass about the person on the other side of the counter is likely to change much. Except their pathetic service will be joined with some kind of fake smile or something. No Thanks!

  • http://kallewoof.com Kalle

    Immigrations in the United States is one of the main reasons why I dread going to the US every time I go. (I’ve removed the rest of my comment since I can’t think of a good way of saying that respect and tolerance are important matters.)

  • Marthirial

    That black guy should be double thankful that first, he was able to get out of Africa and two, that the shoebomber put the bomb in the shoe and not in the undies.

  • http://www.johnmcdermott.net/blog.html John

    over the years I have entered the US as a non citizen, a green card holder, and a citizen. It has never changed the grumpy somewhat hostile attitude of US immigration. It is so uniform across personnel and across the many years I have been doing this, that I sometimes think it must be part of their training.

  • Sikora

    Karen Hughes, a loyal White House staffer who kicks aside the fire extinguisher as she hands Bush his fiddle. And then lies about it. Americans take another Ambien.

  • http://spaceygreview.blogspot.com/ Grayson

    Listening to Karen Hughes is like being lectured to by Barney. She would have made a great pre-school teacher. A shame she missed her calling. Or did she?

  • Patricia

    All I can say is, I hope her “job” is just a cover for obtaining vital intelligence from ME sources. I can’t think of any other palatable excuse for the inane, destructive blather coming from her mouth.

  • sam glasser

    qcontent: I don’t have much of an opinion of Karen Hughes, one way or the other, but I feel exactly as you do, only towards Bill and Hillary Clinton, the two biggest serial liars in contemporary Western Civ.

  • http://ruthcalvo ruth

    Karen Hughes reminds me that George H.W.Bush couldn’t guess the price of milk. Their experience is not the one we all have every day.

    Leaving the US everyone took off shoes, put bags thru the x-ray, emptied pockets. Returning from France yesterday, the fellow ahead of me had to remove his shoes, I didn’t – mine were loafers, his were hiking shoes, guess they were threatening. My suitcase was searched for the first time in my experience, leaving CDG in Paris – in Dallas, I breezed thru everything. And if they’d searched, I’d have been thoroughly okay. But I am the proverbial Am’n gramma, carrying mucho gifts for the g’kids.

    The customs agent even encouraged me to take the rebate on my Luis Vuitton sillies, but it would take time, [and friends never got theirs back after going to all that trouble], so I just laughed it off.

    If these people had the slightest idea ab

  • http://ruthcalvo ruth

    The usual idiocy. Karen Hughes reminds me that George H.W.Bush couldn’t guess the price of milk, four administrations ago. Their experience is not the one we all have every day.

    Leaving the US everyone took off shoes, put bags thru the x-ray, emptied pockets. Returning from France yesterday, the fellow ahead of me had to remove his shoes, I didn’t – mine were loafers, his were hiking shoes, guess they were threatening. My suitcase was searched for the first time in my experience, leaving CDG in Paris – in Dallas, I breezed thru everything. And if they’d searched, I’d have been thoroughly okay. But I am the proverbial Am’n gramma, carrying mucho gifts for the g’kids.

    The customs agent even encouraged me to take the rebate on my Luis Vuitton sillies, but it would take time, [and friends never got theirs back after going to all that trouble], so I just laughed it off.

    If these people had the slightest idea about what they were doing, they wouldn’t.

  • http://buzzmachine Ma

    Karen Hughes seems out of her league. Her comments were retarded. She wants to show videos at airports to help visitors better understand what American’s are really like. Huh?! I think most of the world has a pretty good idea of the American people -its our damn government and their policies that they hate! Perhaps Karen needs to get a grip.

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  • http://www.ybags.com Richard

    Sigh, mean old Americans should stop making people take off their shoes and let the terrorists blow up a few more planes. Of course I am being sarcastic people need to get a life.