The Ugly American

January 12, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
   and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
   and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
   and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
   and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
   so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
   so shall your God rejoice over you. –Isaiah 3-5

While watching the news, the title of the 1958 book, The Ugly American, flashes through my mind occasionally even now. I do not remember ever reading it. I was in elementary school when it was published. I did see the 1963 movie, by the same name, several years after it was first presented. The term, The Ugly American, although not applied much today, still has resonance. While traveling through Europe several years ago on a eurail pass I got a tiny taste of locals’ attitudes towards Americans. I did not understand that the pass was for the first class cars and was really just thankful that I had gotten on the train and found a seat at all. Eventually, there was barely standing room because the car was so crowded. When the conductor took my pass he started yelling at me in German and gesturing toward the front of the car. I did not have a clue what he was saying but some high school students who had learned English soon translated for me that my ticket was first class and I was taking a seat that was needed by many others. I took my ticket and walked through several cars to the one car that was first class on which there was only one other woman seated. She was German but had married a Scotsman and moved to Scotland during the war. She was traveling home to see family. I told her about my experience and she laughed and said, “Oh, yes, the Ugly Americans.” We preceded to have a discussion about the perceptions people have about one another.

I long for my country to be known for its love. I long for my country to cherish its founders’ dream of freedom and justice for all. Yes, we can probably go back and ferret out that they really did not mean “for all” but that does not diminish the vision. As people of faith our love needs to be reflected in every aspect of our lives even our civic responsibilities.

Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy write your vision for your world on our hearts and let it flow forth from there in our actions. Amen.

*The Ugly American is a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights