“Penny pinching” conservatives in Congress shamefully worked to guarantee America’s legacy of freedom would be buried at the current Shanghai Expo. Architecture writer Fred A. Bernstein reports that the conservatives won, and that the current U.S. exhibit in Shanghai is shamed by exhibits from other nations highlighting American virtues that the U.S. pavilion should have shown:
Where are the examples of American democracy and freedom, of American know-how and imagination, and of American heroes?
For those things, visitors have to search elsewhere at the Expo: for the statue of Rachel Carson, outside the Broad Air Conditioning pavilion; for a tribute to Frank Gehry, at an exhibit sponsored by the city of Bilbao, Spain (Gehry would have designed a great U.S. pavilion!); and for videos of an American girl, describing what makes cities livable, look to the Russian pavilion. (Incredibly, the Russians shot the video in front of the U.S. Capitol, smartly appropriating an American symbol of freedom.) Carson, Gehry and the girl are Americans worth celebrating.
What will the millions of Chinese who visit the Expo think of the United States? The most sophisticated of them, especially the 45,000 a day who get inside the U.S. pavilion, will see a country determined to promote its corporations rather than its people or its political system. The rest — and this is even scarier — may visit the Expo, a microcosm of the world in 2010, and not think about the U.S. at all.
What in the hell were we thinking?
Bernstein explained what happened:
Seeing a statue of Rachel Carson, the crusading American environmentalist, at the World Expo in Shanghai moved me almost to tears. After all, Carson is a symbol of independent thought and action, both vital U.S. exports.
Too bad the statue wasn’t at the U.S. pavilion. But that building, sponsored in part by Carson’s nemesis, Dow Chemical, was never going to be a celebration of the power of individuals. Indeed, the pavilion, with its bland tribute to “community,” says little about what makes America, and Americans, special.
Check out Bernstein’s piece, “A World Expo flop by the U.S.,” with the subhead: “Our pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai is a huge disappointment, failing to showcase the best of the United States.”