The former Foreign Minister of Mexico who has lived, studied, and worked in America offers an impressionistic, analytical, and intuitive review of his experience in the country over the last half-century. He argues that foreigners can provide an important perspective on the United States' purported American exceptionalism, uniformity, race and religion, culture, immigration, and the death penalty.
In this personal, analytical, and intuitive consideration of the United States, Castañeda argues that the special isolated position of America is changing—and with that change comes a necessary attention to the rest of the world ... Castañeda challenges readers, especially conservatives, to reconcile a changing American identity of economic inequality and greater diversity ... I appreciate Castañeda’s questioning of the deeply rooted American conservatism that has kept this country in gridlock, from systems such as gerrymandered districts to the Electoral College, to the 'pragmatism and hypocrisy' of immigration and mass incarceration for drug crimes. There are lighter observations here, too, on musical theater as a uniquely American advent, and a surprising question: is self-depreciating humor distinctly American? ... Castañeda charges us to engage in mindful reinvention and make change[.]
... at times reading America Through Foreign Eyes feels like a humbling comeuppance for many of us—particularly journalists like myself—who perhaps have smugly judged Mexico and other societies as somehow more wayward than our own ... Castañeda’s book is short on storytelling and anecdotes and long on wonky policy musings. And despite reminding us that Mexico must always be vigilant of what goes on up north, he doesn’t follow up on the implications of America’s erratic behavior for his own country. Not even a mention of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ... But obsessing over the lack of human narratives would be to miss the larger point of this important read and its impeccable timing. Yes, the world is watching America, especially its neighbors—all largely rooting as much for themselves as for the United States.
Directly or indirectly, foreigners who have soured in their initially great enthusiasm for the US have done so for this reason, according to Castañeda. But he does not offer much argument. A 'love-hate' relationship by foreigners is a cliché, but in Castañeda’s view, it is irrelevant. He does not explain it ... quiet, white, middle-class lives, in the US, fueled slaughter abroad. Such lives promote values of power, greed, and self-absorption, falsely called 'freedom,' making discrimination and violence inevitable. The 'unforgivable' errors Castañeda identifies are a result of the same values. At least, this is how some have seen it, and not just foreigners. Castañeda has been in the US long enough to have noticed. That he does not consider seriously, or even notice the existence of such arguments, shows just how powerful is the liberal ideology he takes for granted.