People love to make fun of Americans.
I remember when Polish jokes were the rage. Mamas got it pretty good for a while. The Brits make fun of the Scots, the Welsh and the EastEnders like Canadians mock the Newfies. Everyone has got their own Dirty South, you know what I mean? (If not, then check it… )
America has become the Kentucky of the world. And the funniest thing about it is that I don’t feel ashamed of this like I thought I would.
I used to cringe with shame when I watched the news or read the paper and would totally get my hate on for the US. I mean, seriously, how could we be doing what we were doing, over and over again?? I still have serious and large issues with my home country, but my attitude… my shame, has shifted. I have found that the things Americans get mocked for the most, I am most proud of.
We are ridiculed for dialects, size, and our struggles to satisfy an unbelievably diverse society. But you know what? I LOVE that diversity and the only way to end the struggles would be homogenization and that sucks unless you are talking dairy products.
We are ridiculed for not traveling the world and the low percentage of American passport holders. Do you know how much there is to see in AMERICA? Only every vegetation and climate region possible on the planet… not to mention all the attending characteristics that are influenced by these variations. I used to teach about borders, real and contructed, metaphorical and ideological, voluntary and forced, recognized and ignored. It was really a fascinating study. I would ask a group of American high school students to draw what they considered the basically accepted regions of the US on a blank outline map of the country. Where is “The South”? “The Midwest”? “New England”? “The West”? Then really get complicated and start talking about “the Bible Belt,” the “Rust Belt,” the “Breadbasket,” the “Sun Belt….” Inevitably they would divide the West Coast (where we were) into so many regions; northern California, soCal, the Bay, and it would go on. Anywhere they had lived or spent time invariably became a Ming Vase of cracks and divisions. The rest would be the “Big Empty.” And on a world map? Forget about it, you would be lucky to get specific countries identified beyond the continents.
Many people would attribute this to the American Geographical Deficiency that has been highlighted by things like this or this. I think it is that we have got so much to see there and is far more reflective of our connection to a place and how we define ourselves based on said place.
We are ridiculed for our simplicity… our use of niceties. I remember when Elvis Costello said about California that if one more person told him to have a nice day he might kill somebody. Most people think that Americans don’t understand that they are being made fun of… I say, perhaps they just really don’t care if you tease them for saying “Have a nice day!” Or “How y’all doin’?”
We are ridiculed for our politicians. And fair enough, but I believe it is a global attitude of reticence for change and love for accumulation that allows this to perpetuate.
We are ridiculed for our media/Hollywood obsession.Which is the point! It is ridiculous and it is also supported by international interest… Everyone in Hong Kong knows who Britney is, few in America know who Edison Chen is even after this.
But the thing is this: We are NOT ridiculed for the things that we should be ridiculed for. People talk about the abominations of American foreign policy and the horrible management of domestic issues in America and our disgusting misuse of resources and trade manipulation. But they don’t ridicule us for these things. I believe ridicule would actually lead to action much more effectively than arrogant disdain or even vehement insults.
And why don’t people ridicule us for these things? Well, it turns out a lot of them [indirectly/ignorantly] support the interests and institutions that support those problems (Nike, Fox, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Wal-Mart, Boeing, etc.) Not to mention a closer examination of their own home countries would uncover a lot of the same, perhaps not to the scale, but this may be one case in which the presence of the belief is as powerful or more than the heft behind it. I mean could China really criticize our record on human rights? Could the UK really criticize our medical care with the current state of their NHS? Could Australia really criticize us about our race relations? [Yes, I am picking obvious examples and possibly relying on hyperbole… but it suits my point for the moment.]
People only mock what they safely believe they are exempt from.
Because of this I have been able to see that, as an American from California [I define myself as a Californian. People always say that when Americans are asked where they are from they say the state or region rather than the country. Then those same people say, ‘Gawd… Uh.mer.uh.cans are so ridiculous! Why don’t they just admit they are from America?’ I have to laugh and remind myself that these Prisoners Of Her Majesty forget that in the time it takes to drive from the northern border of my state to the southern border, they could drive from the northernmost point of their country to the southernmost. Round trip] I am dealing with political incompetency, inequality, economic struggles and general national dissatisfaction just like everyone else.
No one is exempt from the responsibility of the havoc we are wreaking on the world. It is our job as humans to deal with these problems, not of people designated as belonging to a certain place. We are all in it together.
So, since I have been an ex-pat of sorts, being classified by my nationality and equally classifying others by theirs, I have come to take it a lot less seriously and really enjoy the fact that, yes-sirree, I am a Yank, and by the way… Have a Great Day!