Gabor Stengart, writing in Der Spiegel offered an insightful perspective on the state of America from a foreign viewpoint. “All it takes to find out why America is in such a bad mood,” he writes, “is to look at the local section of any American newspaper, at the photos of the smiling faces of soldier s killed in iraq.” He met with the mayor of Washington D.C. who was so proud that school children in his district received their textbooks at the beginning of the term rather in mid point in the year. Stengart visited a local supermarket and was struck by how many products indicated they were made in other countries rather than in the United States, a vast difference from earlier years in America. He recalled a time in American history when Gary, Indiana had the largest steel mill in the world, but today foreign products are the ones purchased, not manufactured in this country. “Demographers paint a picture of a somewhat melancholic acutely dissatisfied and to some extent bitter nation. And, while many would lay the blame at the feet of the country’s unpopular president, George Bush, American frustration goes far beyond the current occupant of the Whit House.” He points out that 60% of Americans believe the next generation will not equal the present one’s economic record.
In Stengart’s view, the American people have lost faith in their government, and perhaps themselves as being able to fix up things and make their nation once again an economic and political center of the world. They feel bypassed by events and other nations. The only thing that has grown tremendously during the past seven years is the size of the military budget which has doubled. “More and more Americans face nights as dreamless as their days are dreary. America’s new reality is simple: Hope dies first.” He attended a Republican meeting where the speaker who received the loudest applause boasted of America defeating communism, something that has no relation to contemporary issues or needs. On one hand, Americans will tell pollsters they believe global warming is a serious issue, but they do not wish their government to take decisive action to avoid it. They want medical care for all, but refuse to pay the price of achieving that goal. In a nutshell, Stengart found a dispirited and aimless America drifting without leadership or direction.