In This Review

The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World
The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World
By Mark Hertsgaard
Farrar, 2002, 192 pp.

In Hertsgaard's opinion, the United States is much too much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although very good at slaying vampires and in possession of a certain fresh charm, Buffy spends too much time at the mall and neglects her history and geography texts. She is not careful enough about recycling; she refuses to take foreign languages; and she cares only about superficial student activities such as cheerleading and the prom. For his research, Hertsgaard traveled around the world and found that foreigners largely agree with him about the United States: interesting culture, nice democracy, but too many "red" (that is, Republican) states. The result is a mix of quirky quotes from foreigners and drearily predictable lectures from Hertsgaard. In his opinion, "Our foreign policy is often arrogant and cruel. ... Our democracy is an embarrassment to the world. ... Our economy is dividing us into rich and poor, our signature cultural activities are shopping and watching television." People who share such sentiments and enjoy repetition will like this book very much. But here is the trouble: Buffy will not pay attention to Hertsgaard, ever. Uncle Henry David Thoreau read Buffy the same sermon back in junior high. She ignored Thoreau with no trouble at all; she will not change her ways for Hertsgaard. No, fun is still Buffy's plan. She cannot speak French or pass civics, but she has gotten very, very good at the whole slaying thing.