Our decentralized culture, soul-making that depends more on the private sector than government, will not fly everywhere. Think China or Russia. Better to pass along the fruits of our tradition of innovation in the arts, to explain the philosophies and practices in which such creativity can grow and thrive.
After Labor Day, Mary McBride and her band take their State Department-sponsored charm offensive to Libya and Afghanistan, among other countries. For the past 12 months McBride and her band have toured their mix of country-western rock'n'roll to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Pakistan and Turkey, among other nations such as Vietnam and Laos. This spring they toured Iraq for eight days. In each trip, they do outreach concerts for abandoned and disabled people in institutional homes, hold workshops with students, meet prominent local musicians, play for international personnel, and appear on local media. "I've never felt as welcome as I have in Pakistan and Iraq," said McBride during a two-hour in-person interview in Brooklyn in June. She has the voice of a full-throated blues singer and a camp counselor's infectious enthusiasm.