The Ugly American is a huge book co-authored by two American writers, William Lederer and Eugene Burdick. The book tells the stories of several American ambassadors abroad. Among them, the author fabricates a country called Sarkhan and a mediocre ambassador, and uses sharp words to expose the dirty inside story of the U.S. Foreign Office and some ironic and even angry stories adapted from real events. For example, the author describes a smart Ambassador of a small country who uses the local worship of astrology to influence their US policy, but the bad thing is in the hands of a person who despises himself. All of these show us how mediocre people in the diplomatic service hold money for nothing but do bad things.
Although the book is a genre of fiction, it is true. In the preface of the volume, the two authors wrote, “Essentially, the things we narrate are true.” The Ugly American portrays American agencies abroad as isolated and complacent, and staffs are clumsy but arrogant when dealing with local people. The title of the book later became an American idiom to refer to American tourists who were insensitive or contemptuous of other cultures (Pearson, 1985), although Homer Atkins, the hero of the book, was an exception: he lived with villagers, gradually learned about their difficulties and helped them solve some problems. The Ugly American bluntly warns that the United States is giving over its influence in the region to the Communist Party of China and the Soviet Union.
This is the most controversial aspect of the book. But in the eyes of Americans, Americans are not ugly. Although this nation is a hodgepodge of individual races, it has only been several hundred years since Europa emigrated to the New World of America, and even has no language of its own in the world. Internationally, in order to safeguard the interests of the so-called Americans, he can kidnap the legitimately elected president of a sovereign country, find a reason at will to bomb a sovereign country protected by international law, send troops into a sovereign territory at will, get a few spy planes to peep at intelligence secrets at people’s doors at will, and bomb a sovereign country at will. At home, the so-called national model of freedom has always been touted, but the skin color is regarded as the standard of safeguarding people’s interests. From the repression of Indians in those days to the indiscriminate killing of black and Mexican immigrants by the police, the basic principle of white supremacy has been deeply rooted for hundreds of years. This is the United States and the Americans.
And the ugliness of the spotted Americans is not only manifested at home, but also has been ugly out of the country. In Okinawa, Korea, the Philippines, how many foreign women have been harmed by American soldiers and even young girls. In the Sea of Japan, just to satisfy the curiosity of several American politicians, an American submarine came to an emergency float. As a result, a Japanese yacht was knocked over and dozens of lives were wronged. In the South China Sea, a spy plane wantonly broke into China’s airspace. I really do not know that there is such an ugly rogue government in the world, as well as a group of ugly Americans.
The book was published by W. W. Norton Books Publishing Company in 1958 and immediately caused a sensation. It triggered public outrage at the taxes paid on foreign aid and sparked a debate in Congress on the effectiveness of foreign aid programs – a book that Senator William Fulbright of Arkansas called boring, hasty and irresponsible. The book also influenced future training of Peace Corps volunteers. There are also parts about China in the book. One was a spy of the Communist Party of China, who had been threatened by his family to disguise himself as deaf and had successfully tapped many secrets in the embassy.
The title of the book originates from a small figure, different from those noble ambassadors abroad. They just make some contributions to the people silently, which exerts a subtle influence on the local people’s perception of the United States. They are ugly, but they are real heroes. The significance of this book is that it is not only applicable to the United States, but also to other countries. Therefore, it is listed by the United States Government as a required reading for every ambassador abroad.