On March 10, Joe Szabo, an internationally recognized political cartoonist, gave a Distinguished Lecture at Mercer called “Image of America,” a lecture he has given across many universities in the country. He focused on the political image that people and political cartoonists around the world have about America.
Szabo is a former editor, art director, and cartoonist with national newspapers and magazines . His most recognized works include The Finest International Political Cartoons of Our Time and his publication, WittyWorld International Cartoon Magazine that has reached 103 countries for over a decade.
Szabo has traveled to 67 countriesww to find out what people think about America in the political arena. In every country Szabo interviewed people from all walks of life. Most of the people Szabo talked to were college graduates and were not affiliated with any particular political party.
In his lecture, Szabo explained that he did encounter people who had positive views about America but negative opinions predominated. When he asked people from other countries to describe America in one word, he received responses such as: two-faced, fascist, evil, hegemonic, violent, a political whore house, and a landfill. An Al Jazeera correspondent, Samir Omar said, “American is double-faced like a woman promoting freedom and democracy on the others, [but] supports dictators who lick their toes.”
Even more polemic were the responses to the question why 9/11 happened. In Spain, a county where he found most overt hostility toward Americans, the common answer to what caused 9/11 was that “The American intelligence was behind it. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) organized it to give America a reason to attack the Arab world.” This view was supported in other countries as well.
The Distinguished Lecture audience was composed of students, some from the International Relations course, and some senior citizens. Few attendees were pleased with Szabo’s findings. During the question and answer section, one lady said, “they don’t remember how the U.S helped Europeans win World War I.” Another audience member said, “what do they think about their own countries?” People murmured in angry tones about the views people around the world hold about the U.S. They wanted to express their opinions, but there was no time left for more comments.
Szabo said that the response of the audience members was not a surprise to him. He says that wherever he presents his lecture he find all kinds of reactions. He says that for the most part younger audiences are more critical of the U.S. than older people.
Brian Kaplan, a second-year Liberal Arts student, said that in contrast with other audience members he liked the lecture because “it was not sugar coated.” Kaplan adds that he could get a perception of what other people really think about policies that Americans think are great.
Szabo has a travel blog where he comments and posts pictures of the countries he visits, http://www.joeszabo.us. Image of America is a book planned for publication in a year.