Friday, March 29, 2013

I can't help being American...


A couple of days ago, I got into an interesting conversation with a couple of German women who married soldiers.  One of the women is 24 years old and very opinionated.  She was complaining about America and Americans.  Frankly, given where she lives, I'd probably complain too...   The area around Fort Bragg is not exactly the most picturesque place in the country.

Anyway, she and this other lady, who must live near Fort Carson out in Colorado, were bitching about our country.  They went on and on about how so many Americans never travel, are uneducated, uncultured, and generally inferior.  I interjected that many Americans don't travel for any number of reasons.  It takes a lot of time, money, and frankly, effort, for Americans to travel.  A lot of Americans don't own a passport because they take time, money, and effort to get.  And America is such a vast country that just about any climate or scenery you could ever want, you can find it without going abroad.

I am the last person to say that people shouldn't travel.  I love to travel and will do it as long as I can afford airfare and fit in the airplane seat.  But... I can see why so many Americans don't travel.  It's a big hassle.  Just getting through security at the airport is a grueling and potentially humiliating exercise.  It's expensive, uncomfortable, and then once you get to where you're going, you run the risk of being treated badly by the locals, who may have anti-American attitudes.  Who wants to pay thousands of dollars for that?

The two women backpedaled when I wrote that I hoped they didn't think all Americans were the way they were painting us.  They quickly excepted me from their generalizing!  I reminded them that if they really thought Americans ought to travel more, they should do their part by being welcoming and kind.  Yes, I understand that there are a lot of "ugly Americans" who make no effort to understand the local mores or be culturally sensitive.  But assuming that all Americans are like that is not the answer.

Honestly, I think a lot of people like to insult America and its citizens, but few of them ever take the time to look at things from the other perspective.  I know that every time I've gone abroad, except for when we moved to England (because I was a toddler at the time), it was beaten in my head to be culturally sensitive.  "When in Rome, do as the Romans do", right?  But rarely do I see that same attitude being practiced among people who come to the United States from abroad.

My German friends were complaining about how in America, they have fewer personal freedoms than they do in Germany.  I thought that was an interesting comment, since when I was in Germany, I noticed a lot of rules and regulations.  They were reasonable rules, but there were a lot of them.  For example, it's forbidden to own Nazi era paraphernalia, especially if you mean to promote war or hatred.  My neighbor wanted to add on to her parents' house, but the local government denied her and her husband the right to do so.  If you get pulled over by a police officer who suspects you of driving drunk, your blood will be tested.  You can't opt out, like you could in America.  If you are found guilty of driving drunk, you will lose your license and you will have a hell of a hard time getting it back.  For more on this, check out this article.  

If you do something unorthodox, on the whole, Germans are quick to speak up about it.  Yes, America has its share of freedom erosion, but I don't know that it's any worse or better than other places.  And I don't know that Germany is "free-er" than the USA is.  I think we have freedoms the Germans don't have... and Germans have freedoms that we don't have.  Whether one is more free than the other is depends on your perspective.    

I think what may be going on with these women is what happens to a lot of people when they move far away from home.  After the cultural high, there's sort of a depression, which happens when you start to miss home and being with people who are like you are.  It happened to me in Armenia and Germany.  It didn't happen when I was in England because I was too young to know the difference.  For all I knew, England was home... and frankly, it could have been had my ancestors not moved to the USA.

I refuse to apologize for being American.  I am American because I was born here and my parents were born here... and their parents were born here.  People in our ancestry made the decision to come to America for whatever reason.  Otherwise, I'd be European like they are.

Anyway... those are my thoughts.  I can't help being an American.  It doesn't make me an inferior or bad person.  Moreover, we're not all assholes.  Pass it on!


   

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