I'm an American who has lived in Alaska 16 years but I also was raised in two other countries. When I started a small import business here in 1995, I traveled among a staggering array of nationalities and I've learned two major truths. Bear with me. First, Americans are not particularly liked around the world. Yes, we're friendly and generous, and everybody wants our jeans. But the overriding viewpoint is that we're overfed, impatient, loud, rude and arrogant. I also learned that every one of us is an ambassador of America. Arrogance goes a long way to destroy the image of who we really are, and it cripples international respect.
I'm proud of our united response to this tragedy. But on Sept. 11, we joined a global network of countries that rarely proclaimed "It can't happen here." Now Americans know it can, and it did. We have forever lost the privilege of thinking we don't need more than a little help from our friends.
Our allies are being asked to join in a battle whose outcome and scope is terrifyingly unknown. Their worldwide assistance is critical - from military aid and intelligence to shared protection of U.S. offices. We're not asking our allies to risk a lot; we're asking them to risk everything.
Humility is not worn well by Americans. Should we continue to broadly display the American flag, loudly sing "God Bless America?" Absolutely. Should we continue shouting, "USA Number One! Number One!"? No. Let's start lowering fists and extending handshakes and embraces to those allies whose support we now require. Just as public sentiment translates into political action by our leaders, so it does by theirs.
So write a foreign editor or colleague, e-mail a world news chatroom, thank international neighbors and exchange students on our streets, in their countryside, at airports and stores, display the Canadian or British or Pakistani flag alongside our own, and I suggest we add one more word to this country's heartfelt anthem. "God, please Bless America."
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