United States of America: Superpower by Robert Hargreaves

An excerpt from the book Superpower by Robert Hargreaves a British journalists look at the United States.

SUPERPOWER. By Robert Hargreaves. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973.

About the book: British journalist Robert Hargreaves traveled over 150,000 mi. in the U.S. in 4 years while working as a correspondent for the British television network ITN. In 600 pages he presents the diversity of life in the U.S.: the rich, the poor, the cities, the farms, religions, advertising, Henry Kissinger, organized crime, and much more. It is fascinating and illuminating to see a visitor's view of what we Americans take for granted.

From the book: Nearly 90 years ago, Lord Bryce said of New York that it is "a European city, but of no particular country," and ever since New York has been the most racially mixed of any city in the world, a modern Babel that has more German-speakers than Cologne, more Jews than Jerusalem, more Irish than Cork, more Italians than Venice--and now, more Puerto Ricans than San Juan. Even today, over 3 million of the city's present population of 7.8 million were either themselves foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent.

What has gone wrong with New York? Why do more and more of its people speak as though their city is doomed and on its way to becoming ungovernable? A modern Voltaire could continue almost endlessly about the miseries of life in New York today. More murders take place there now than ever before, well over 30 a week; in fact, New York has as many murders every 10 days as all England suffers in a year, and mugging has become an ever-present problem--over 78,000 such crimes in 1972, which actually represents an improvement over previous years. That year, in a case chillingly reminiscent of the murder of Kitty Genovese 8 years earlier, Dr. Wolfgang Friedmann, a distinguished professor of international law, was murdered in broad daylight, 3 blocks away from Columbia University, where he had just finished a day's teaching. As he lay bleeding to death on the sidewalk, passers-by ignored his cries for help, and for some time no one even thought of calling the police. "The jungle could not be more unfeeling towards its creatures," said The New York Times in a bitter editorial on the killing--a comment which led to a vehement reply from a local resident, who pointed out that the area was so noisy no one farther than 10' away could possibly have heard a strangled cry for help. Later that same year there was a spate of armed holdups of teachers in their classrooms before the very eyes of their pupils. "Walk behind your desk and sit down," one holdup man had said. "There are a lot of children in your class. If you move, I'll blow your brains out."

Every week the city tows away 2,000 illegally parked cars from Manhattan alone, and its traffic jams can be so bad its traffic commissioner once remarked, "to get to the West Side, you have to be born there."

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