In this article, Ong once again addresses the cultural differences between Americans and people of other countries, and he reiterates that Americans must become more self-aware in their interactions with non-Americans.  Typically, Ong asserts, Americans expect all non-Americans to adapt to American culture immediately by speaking English and following American customs (whether they are visiting the United States or encountering American tourists in their own countries).  When non-Americans do not do this, Americans are surprised because they think that everyone in the world wants to be American.

This attitude, which is often referred to as the "ugly American" attitude, is created by a number of factors, including the wealth Americans possess (and often use to try to influence non-Americans), the position of the U.S. in the drive for technological advancement, and Americans' tendency to be especially sensitive about criticism leveled at their country.  The attitude that emerges from these factors is one that affects not only Americans' interactions with individuals in other countries but also creates larger problems, such as poorly-received foreign policy.  Ultimately, Ong concludes, Americans must learn to stop using their money and power to force non-Americans into certain behaviors, and Americans must take the time to look at themselves critically instead of always blaming other people for their insecurities.

When this article appeared in America in 1958, it generated many letters to the editor, some of which were published in a later issue, under the heading, ""State of the Question: Looking Hard and Long at the Ugly American."  Several of the letters published praised Ong's article for its frankness.  One letter, in particular, thought the fact that Ong's article "could appear at all" in the magazine was "a sign of maturing self-criticism among Catholics and, doubtless, other American citizens of discernment" (546).  Other articles, however, criticized Ong, showing how their personal experiences as Americans in other countries contradict his assertions and prove that Americans really are good people.  To these articles Ong responds, saying that he does not find useful a discussion of American "virtues," for this is a topic that has already been thoroughly discussed (and continues to be discussed constantly).  In the end, Ong's response to the letters reiterates his main point:  American must look at themselves and their culture more critically in the future.
 

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