Americans Wake Up to Ignorance

Like many Americans, Pam Bottaro reacted to the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington with a mixture of horror and utter incomprehension. Although well educated and politically engaged, nothing she had read or seen on television had prepared her for an anti-American backlash. "Why do these people hate us so much?" was the question she kept hearing all around her. As Americans wake up to the need to better understand the world around us, "teach-ins" have come roaring back into fashion. "Across the country, university campuses have arranged special public forums and assembled new student courses to take account of the new global reality," writes correspondent Andrew Gumbel. "Books on the Middle East, fundamentalism, terror networks and germ warfare are flying out of bookstores. Demand for Arabic language classes has soared. ... Among Ms Bottaro's group, there was a strong sense that the country had been let down by the media and by politicians who pretended — at least in speeches and election campaigns — that foreign affairs did not matter now the Cold War was over."