Is America the 'good guy'? Many now say, 'No.'
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In France, warns Dominique Moisi, a prominent foreign-affairs analyst, "there is a growing tendency in public opinion to view the US as a rogue state."Skip to next paragraph
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Not that this makes Americans personally unpopular, as Jacqui Resley's employees will attest.
Ms. Resley, a Kansan, strides around her crafts factory in Nairobi, constantly taking charge. "David," she admonishes one shy potter. "Stop painting those lines so squiggly. They look ugly."
Encouraging, correcting, yelling, insisting on it all being done the way she thinks best, the tall and angular Resley pushes her 70 Kenyan workers to their limits. "There is this attitude here of 'We can't do it,' and I say 'For God's sake why not?' she says, grimacing as she watches a weaver fumbling a ball of thread.
"She is bossy," acknowledges Fidel Namisi, the company's computer technician. "Bossy and hyper and good-hearted ... very American."
Thirty years ago, inspired by a John Wayne movie filmed in the Serengeti plains, Resley picked up and set off to hitchhike across Africa. The Vietnam War was raging, and long before she reached Nairobi, she discovered that not everybody loved America.
"A lot of people just didn't like you because of the war," she remembers. "But no matter what Godforsaken place you found yourself in there was always someone with a Coke, complaining about Vietnam but also asking if you could help them to get a visa to the US."
Today, she still runs into people like that, but Resley no longer carries a backpack. Now she runs Weaverbird, the company she founded that supplies many of the high-quality carpets, wall hangings, and pots that decorate Kenya's best hotels. She has also become one of Nairobi's best-known community activists, agitating against corruption and litter and in favor of government accountability. As the only human face her workers can put on a distant superpower, Jacqui Resley hears a lot from them good and bad about America. On Sept. 11, Jane Mukonyo was on the factory floor, ball-winding wool, when she heard about the attacks on the radio. "Everyone looks around for Jacqui" she recalls. "We wanted to tell her we felt so bad."
"I don't know too many Americans, just Jacqui and those I see on TV," says Joyce Njeri, a dyer who has worked at Weaverbird for 15 years. "But what I know I like."
Americans, she explains "know what they want, and others can't teach them too much. They want the bottom line. They take action. They are capable and have big, good ideas. America as a country, Njeri believes, is much the same. "But I have a question," she adds. "Why, if they have such good ideas, are they now bombing others just like they themselves are bombed?"
Mr. Namisi, the computer expert, is less enthusiastic. "I definitely think the US is a bully," he says. "They look down at the rest of us. They think their way is the only way."
Lunch break is over, and Resley charges onto the factory floor, her hands flying this way and that. "One, two, let's get moving here," she nags.
"Jacqui is an American and, yes, she is bossy too," says Namisi. "But we signed up to work for her, so we accept that. But neither Kenya nor any other country signed up to work for the US, so that is different."
Elsewhere in the world too, people are ambivalent about America: "Yankee Go Home, But Take Me With You," as an Indian politician, Jairam Ramesh, titled a talk he gave three years ago at the Asia Society in New York.
Chinese students are not shy about protesting US policies, but a demonstration outside the US Embassy in Beijing last month had an ironic twist in its tail: the college grads were demanding American visas.