Can Americans Abroad Immerse Themselves in Other Cultures?

HISHAM MATAR in NYT: “When I was 12 years old, living in Cairo, my parents enrolled me in the American school. Most of the Americans there appeared oddly stifled, determined to remain, if not physically then sentimentally, back in the United States. It seemed particularly inconvenient that they had ended up in an Arab country. The school’s architecture and grounds did all they could to remedy this. Even the urinals and hand dryers had been shipped from America…Even back then I wondered whether to be an American in the world was to be limited by a sort of imaginative obstacle…We are all born into histories, into national myths and, if we are unfortunate enough, into the fantasies of an empire.” The enormous challenge for Americans, he notes, is emerging from or detaching from our own culture and heritage long enough to see another country clear-eyed, not just as it relates to us as Americans.

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