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Amanda Knox and Americans' fear of the outside world [Most commented]

October 6, 2011 |  3:16 pm

Though all but a handful of us had nothing to lose or gain in the Amanda Knox case, Americans seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief over her acquittal and return to the United States, Meghan Daum writes in her column Thursday. Daum hypothesizes that Americans' paranoia over the outside world -- the view that "the world outside our borders is so depraved that a simple junior year abroad can lead to a 26-year prison sentence" -- drove our obsession. She writes:

Parochial as that sounds, it's not far off from the sentiments directed at Knox by her fellow Americans, many of whom seemed to feel that, her guilt or innocence notwithstanding, she just shouldn't have been in Italy in the first place. "Nobody in their right mind should ever visit that backward nation" went one particularly disheartening comment on a Times story about the case this week.

Though "backward" probably isn't the adjective most people would apply to the country that brought us the Renaissance (not to mention Dante, Fellini and Prada), many of us, sadly, are at least a little receptive to this kind of paranoia. I know I am. I may not worry about being charged with murder in Tuscany, but I do have a long-standing, largely irrational fear of being thrown in a Third World prison or getting gravely sick or injured in some remote jungle. And considering Hollywood's interest in this genre -- two words: "Midnight Express" -- I suspect I'm not alone. I also suspect these fears explain why we can be so quick to cast aspersions when our fellow Americans find themselves in tight spots overseas. In trying to assure ourselves that such a fate would never befall us, we look for ways to see them not as adventurers but as fools.

A few readers on our discussion board wished Knox well in adjusting to life outside her Italian prison cell. Reader "krishnat1" wrote: "I am very relieved that an innocent souls nightmare has come to an end. I can only imagine what might have been going on in Amanda Knox's mind when she was convicted and when she was acquitted. I give the credit to this victory to her parents, the media and Amanda herself. I wish Amanda Knox a very happy and prosperous future. I hope she uses her experience to enlighten others."

Few comments focused on Knox herself (and a handful of those were pretty nasty); rather, a common topic on the discussion board was a comparison of the American justice system to Italy's. Others expressed dismay over the idea that paranoia drove Americans' obsession over this case. Here's what they said:

Get out more

I found this commentary confusing. Daum seems to be chiding Americans for being backward in their fear of traveling abroad, then goes on to embrace that fear herself at numerous points. Which is it?

Full disclosure: I've traveled in Europe, the former Soviet Union and developing countries, including Ethiopia and Cambodia, and felt perfectly safe and reveled in the people and the cultures I met.

I think Daum needs to get out a bit more. Put down the TV remote and take a look around.

-- Michael Arrowood

It's not the countries, it's their governments

Sure you can visit other countries and enjoy their beauty and rich culture. It's the governments I don't trust. Amanda was used as a scapegoat in a bumbling legal system. All it takes is one day, and if you are caught up in it you will be praying hard you are treated to the fair kind of trial you get in the U.S.A. Amanda played no part in this most bizarre murder, yet lost four years of her life.

-- mariah1

Hooray for the American justice system

Italy's judicial system, like many, is far, far different from our own -- and not in a good way. Amanda Knox was mistreated in a way she wouldn't have been in the American criminal justice system for ordinary murder cases -- which are handled on the local county level -- and it's doubtful she would have even been given "the needle" if she had been convicted of a similar crime in the U.S. (The average person who obtains their legal acumen from television dramas is ill-equipped to understand how criminal court proceedings are conducted and are totally oblivious to the genuine complexities and various stages of a capital murder trial where the death penalty might apply.) For well-heeled travelers abroad staying in well-appointed pensions or hotels and taking in well-established tourist attractions, travel in Europe and elsewhere looks wonderful. The back-roads of a Third World nation will make all sense of well-being disappear. If you travel abroad avoid illegal drugs, stupid behavior and indulging in the irrelevant belief that being innocent and American is to your advantage. As for being murdered in America, many who are murdered know their attackers. America, for most who live here, is incredibly safe.

-- stepjohn

At least Italy wouldn't have executed her

Funnily enough, most Europeans have similar fears about America, regarding it as unsafe and weird, peopled by gun-toting psychos who'd kill you because it's Monday, and with a judicial and health system that only applies to those who can afford it. And, of course, let's not forget that in Europe the appeals system worked. If Knox had been convicted in America, she would have been strapped to a gurney and had a needle stuck in her arm and her innocence or not would have been a moot point.

-- walterswift


The Amanda Knox moral -- there's no place like home

The scapegoating of Amanda Knox

'Overwhelmed' Amanda Knox returns to Seattle

Reversal of Amanda Knox verdict won't quell debate

-- Paul Thornton

Photo: Amanda Knox speaks during a news conference shortly after her arrival in Seattle this week. Credit: Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

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