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Photos: Al-Masry Al-Youm captures scenes from America’s heartlands in a tour across several states

The local citizen does not give an attention to foreign policy and the "lobby" of interests drives "American politicians"

On a frigid night, with temperatures below zero, I embarked on my first visit to the United States of America. Over the course of a few weeks, I traveled across several states, meeting with officials and decision-makers, and gaining close-up insights into the lives of ordinary citizens. 

In this report, I share a series of observations related to the American interior in some states. 

However, before delving into the details of these observations, I came to two overarching conclusions during my visit:


1. Regarding Politics:

Don’t expect a clear answer from any federal official regarding controversial and sensitive issues, such as those related to the situation in Gaza.

Instead, you will receive scattered and sometimes contradictory general responses. It is up to you to interpret, analyze, and infer meaning from these statements.


2. Regarding the American Foreign Policy:

The American citizen is not as concerned with their country’s foreign policy as they are with the domestic situation.

Only five percent of them are interested in foreign affairs.

This highlights the role of the media, civil society organizations, and “pressure and interest groups” in shaping the political trajectory of the US administration in accordance with their interests and orientations.

Demonstrators show support to Gaza in California
Demonstrators show support to Gaza in California

Up to 89,000 Local Governments and a Governor akin to a President

Akram Elias, a long-time expert on federal affairs, tells “Al-Masry Al-Youm” that the “state” is the cornerstone of the US, and that the priorities of local government are embodied in three factors:

  1. Economic development: This is always on the mind of the American citizen.
  2. Education: These includes primary and secondary education.
  3. Security and safety: Which includes issues such as law enforcement and crime prevention.

This explains the existence of 89,000 local governments in 50 US states, which control all the needs and requirements of local citizens. 

The federal government, which is headquartered in Washington, DC, is only concerned with specific and fixed topics, the most prominent of which are:

  • Defense: This includes the US military and national security.
  • Monetary policy: This includes setting interest rates and regulating the banking system.
  • US foreign policy: This includes relations with other countries and the conduct of international affairs.

Relations between the 50 states can be distant and contradictory at times, says Akram Elias.

The governor of each state is akin to the president and the power to determine the competencies and issues of their state. 

Therefore, some people may be surprised to learn that if a resident of California, for example,  commits a murder, and manages to escape or travel to another state, he cannot be tracked down and punished in the new state he resides in. 

This is only possible in one case: if he commits a new offense in the state he resides in and is arrested. Upon reviewing his file, his previous crimes can be identified. 

Therefore, attempts are now being made between the states regarding mutual security coordination in the extradition of criminals.


Up to 216 political parties, such as the Democratic and Republican parties, but mostly inactive.

Another important point, as pointed out by Elias, is related to party life in the US. 

While many people around the world believe that there are only two major parties in America, the Republican and Democratic parties, which means that the US President cannot enter the White House except through one of these two gates only, the reality is that there are 216 political parties. 

However, they are inactive in the “political arena”, just like soft drinks, which are controlled globally by only two major companies, while there are hundreds of companies that produce sparkling waters around the world but fewer know about them.

A statue of the famous American activist Martin Luther King


70 percent of the local media market is in “one hand” and controlled by five major companies

The other point, which relates to the private sector and the extent of its influence on decision-making within the US, is that the private sector employs 83 percent of the workforce in America.

The same applies to civil society and the length of its influence and effectiveness, as there are two million civil society organizations in America.

You may be surprised to learn that only five percent of those organizations are interested in foreign affairs, and the majority are interested in issues such as the environment, women’s rights, and human rights.

University of Southern California newsroom

The registration period for any civil society institution may not take only two hours, and these organizations work on areas related to self-governance, freedom of expression, and also freedom of assembly and organization.

The media’s role

Elias confirmed that the media is not a primary player in American events.

It only directs and indirectly affects the issues it addresses, so we have not seen a dedicated ministry for the media since the founding of the US.

The American people also expect the media to educate them about the problems they will face and how to deal with them.

Regarding local media, journalist and researcher Sonia Tucker, an expert in media affairs in the state of Atlanta, revealed that 70 percent of the local media market in America is practically in “one hand”, as there are four to five major companies that control everything and own many of the local media institutions.

Sonia Tucker, Journalist and researcher Sonia Tucker, an expert in media affairs in Atlanta – Photo credit: Global Media Connections

Washington, D.C.: The center of Decision-Making

In Washington, D.C., the seat of the federal government and the center of decision-making, perhaps the most striking thing is the constant talk about the power of democracy and the form and features of the balanced and intertwined relationship between the White House occupant and the people’s representatives, “Congress,” whether in the House of Representatives (435 representatives) or the Senate (120 members).

Almost everything has a meaning in the imagination of politicians and activists, and has a relationship, even if symbolic, to American democracy.

Even the statues scattered around the capital of some symbols, former presidents, and Vietnam war victims are interpreted in a way that reflects the strength of democracy and the extent of the freedoms enjoyed by the world’s superpowers.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Some of these are truthful, such as those related to “Martin Luther King,” the African American leader considered one of the most important figures who fought for freedom and human rights and ending racial discrimination against blacks.

However others are more exaggerated, such as the interpretation of some of the facial features of the statue of former President “Abraham Lincoln” and its multiple meanings, especially when you look at it from all directions, each of which has its own symbolism, meaning, and depth.

Statue of former US President Abraham Lincoln

Georgia: One of the World’s Busiest Airports

From the capital, where the ideal image of American democracy exists, I headed to the city of Atlanta in the state of Georgia, home to the world’s busiest airport.

In this city that produces over 3,500 different goods, I took my first tour of the city. 

On a street near the city center and one of its most prominent landmarks, I was surprised to receive a warning from friends about the danger of walking on this street leading to a shopping center, especially at night, due to the possibility of being assaulted by the addicts and homeless people who frequent it.

Despite my desire to wander this particular street, I noticed a lot of broken glass and flyers hanging with pictures of some faces with the words “Wanted!” written on them.

A house in Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Homeless Population Soars in Multiple States

The homeless are not just in remote and distant areas. 

You may find them everywhere, even in front of the mayor’s office.

Here was a surprise when we came out from a visit to the mayor’s office, as one of the homeless was waiting for us and tried to attack the bus that we were on.

Inside the office, the deputy mayor spoke about the city having a plan to accommodate the homeless by using large buses and equipping them to shelter this group during the night.

A recent report has shown that the percentage of homeless people in the country has risen to its highest level ever in the US, as the cost of housing becomes increasingly difficult to bear. 

The annual report of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development stated that the number of homeless people in the United States jumped by 12 percent this year compared to the previous year, with nearly 70,650 people joining the list of homeless in 2024.

The report revealed a sharp jump in the number of individuals who became homeless for the first time in their lives.

Between 2021 and 2022, the number of people who became newly homeless increased by 25 percent, despite an increase of about eight percent in the number of people who were able to avoid homelessness and obtain permanent housing.

California topped the states with the highest homeless rate in the country, recording 68 percent. 

The US President Joe Biden’s administration aims to reduce the homeless rate by 25 percent by 2025, as part of the federal strategic plan launched in December 2022.


Dinner Guest at a Family Home in Atlanta

Perhaps nothing could have improved the mental image of that peaceful, tree-lined city of “Atlanta” more than the home hospitality of Mrs. Polly and her beautiful family. 

This hospitality greatly changed many of the negative impressions about the city’s residents, given the positive feelings and pure love I witnessed from that family and their friends who were waiting for us. 

They took care of almost everything, from food that suits our Arab and Islamic culture and background, to even the smallest other details. To find this American citizen “Polly” who was keen to repeat some words in Arabic despite the difficulty for him, he even learned additional sentences and kept repeating them and writing them by hand. In fact, he surprised us by writing some verses from the Quran.

Al-Masry Al-Youm Journalist Ibrahim Al-Tayeb hosted by an American family in Atlanta, Georgia

Los Angeles.. “The City of Angels”

From the city of Atlanta, Georgia, to Los Angeles, California, the “city of angels,” as it is called boasts diverse geography, towering mountains, dense forests, lakes and rivers, and before that, “Hollywood,” which has made this city the entertainment capital of the world. 

Almost everything was beautiful in that state until our peace was disturbed by the sight of hundreds of raised Israeli and American flags in front of the city of Beverly Hills, inhabited by the rich.

The flags are installed in the form of a large circle in a park located at the entrance of the city, the majority of whose population is made up of wealthy Jews – a clear indication of the absolute support of the residents of that city for Israel.

Despite the darkness of the scene, the general picture refused to pass until we saw the other side, and while we were returning from the city of Beverly Hills to the city of Los Angeles, which is inhabited by nearly four million citizens, we were surprised by the presence of a large number of marching citizens, some of whom were of Arab origin.

They organized a march in support of Gaza and drove around in their cars carrying Palestinian flags through the streets of the city amid supportive chants.

Sympathy and support from quite a few residents of that city for the Palestinian cause were also on display.

Protesters demonstrate against the Israeli occupation of Palestine

New York: “Mahraganat” songs take over Times Square

From California to New York City, with a population of 8.8 million and nearly a third of the city’s residents being immigrants, the diverse range of ethnicities are perhaps best reflected in a quick tour of one of the city’s most famous squares, Times Square. 

What is striking about this place is the abundance of Egyptian songs, especially “Mahraganat” songs, which can be heard by passersby everywhere, especially on the fast-food “hot dog” carts owned by Egyptians. 

Times Square, New York, USA

On these carts, you feel like you’re in the heart of Cairo, listening to the success stories of young Egyptians who have come from all over the world to find an opportunity for themselves in the world’s most famous city.

New York City is also home to the headquarters of the United Nations Secretariat, General Assembly, and Security Council, as well as the New York Stock Exchange, a symbol of finance and business, and many brokerage firms in the Wall Street area. 

United Nations General Assembly Building in New York State
The iconic bronze statue of the Charging Bull on Wall Street inspires optimism among citizens speculating in the stock market

A striking feature of this street is the Charging Bull sculpture, around which hundreds of people gather and sit beneath, believing it will bring them good luck in stock trading.

The World Trade Center site is also located here, and people from all over the world come to visit the reflecting pool with the names of the 9/11 victims engraved on its sides.

The 9/11 Memorial is located on eight acres of the 16-acre World Trade Center complex

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