Hugo Schwyzer lays out his attitude that Americans abroad should be cautious about criticing their country
, comparing the situation to a family member airing dirty laundry before outsiders. This is not a perspective I share. When I travel overseas, I am conscious of being an American, and to be honest I generally regard it as a good thing. I'm proud of my country and its values, and believe that regardless of the headlines of the day, it does more good than harm, especially when you take into account its mere existence as an idea that inspires others. However, I also admit it has flaws, and I'm not afraid to discuss them with individuals I meet overseas. When I meet a human being anywhere in the world, I treat them all with respect as individuals and not as nationalities. I refuse to treat a friend or colleague in Egypt any differently from one in Michigan.
In practice, however, I'm usually not a rhetorical firebrand. In fact, what I'm most interested in is usually not representation of myself but seeking to add a perspective to the discussion. In the United States, this usually means I'll speak up about the Arab views on, say, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to people who have never been exposed to it. In the Middle East, which is the only region I've travelled in extensively, I usually wind up explaining the perspective of Bush supporters to people who already have a long list of grievances against our current foreign policy. I guess you could say I never quite leave behind the professor out to challenge students' pre-conceived notions, and to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.