Saturday, March 2, 2013

Does the rest of the world really hate Americans?

I've been wanting to write a blog like this for a while now, but I really started to think about it the other night after watching "Argo".  I was told the movie was all "hoo-rah!  We're America and we save the day!", which I actually didn't see.  I thought it focused a lot on how the USA got itself into the position by being obtuse and how it was actually Canada who saves the day.

But anyways, my general answer to the question: Yes and No.  Maybe after my "rest of the world" friends finish reading this blog it might just be "yes"!

Let me go ahead and clarify the word I use- "Americans".  Here in Central America and South America, lots get testy when people from the USA claim to be "Americans".  This is because technically "America" is- all countries in North America, all countries in Central America and all countries in South America.  But I gotta say, I just feel like this is just another reason to hate American tourists.  I've gotten used to saying I'm from "los estados" down here, but I've even gotten flack for saying that!  I once told a guy from Mexico I'm from "los estados" and he got all pissy saying "los estados de que?" because Mexico is also technically "los estados de Mexico".  When I went to Spain, France and Germany and said I was from "los estados"/"the states" everyone looked at me like I was crazy and I had to clarify "America".

Why does this have to be so difficult?  Do I need to say I'm from "los estados unidos de America"/"the united states of America" every single time?  I just feel like no one in Central or South America would ever claim to be "American", so why make it an issue?  If you're not even going to claim to be "American", why do you have to take it away from the people who do?  In Spanish there happens to be a very convenient word "estadounidense", but not in English.  So I'd like to say this right now to the rest of the world- when we say we're American we're not trying to be offensive.  We're just trying to say where we're from.  Give us a break.  Okay?  I get why people don't like it, but no one is trying to make you angry.  Let it slide, okay?

Anyways, back to my question- does the rest of the world hate [United States of] Americans?

I've had lots of USA friends who like to say they're form Canada so people won't "hate" them.  But I've never done that.  The USA is not the greatest country in the world, but it's also not the worse.  I was given a plethora of opportunities just by being born in middle-class USA.  I was able to achieve so much by being raised in a wealthy country.  (of course this is also attributed to being born into a middle class family, who cared about me, encouraged me, fed me, etc.)  And for that, I'm eternally grateful for being American.  I'm not claiming that these opportunities don't occur in other countries, of course they do.  But I am saying that these privileges (free education, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, public libraries, paved roads, etc) do not present themselves in every place in the world.

Some of my friends like to make jabs at the USA or Americans.  And I'm cool with it.  I can take a joke, and I agree with a lot of things being said.  But there comes a time when it's time to lay off my country.  It's sort of like jokes about women- I find most of them funny, but if that's the only joke you have it gets old and it gets offensive.

I find the "rest of the world" seems to think it's okay to constantly critique the USA, its people and its politics.  And again, a lot of the times they have a point that I can certainly agree with.  But no one comes from a perfect country free of corruption and greed.  You'd never see me constantly picking apart someone else's homeland, it's not my place.  I have my opinions about Costa Rica, sure.  But I don't spend my days researching ways its government has failed and offended me and the rest of the world.  I try to make the best of any situation, or find ways to improve what I don't like or find unfair.

I've never met anyone who wouldn't talk to me because I'm American.  (side story- my mom lived in Spain right when Franco died and told me she had friends who thought she was French.  As soon as they found out she was American they left and never spoke to her again.)  I've never even met someone who judged me for being American.  Although, maybe I was judged for saying I'm "American".  I have felt zero prejudice for being American, anywhere.  I haven't traveled the entire world, haven't even been to all the continents, but I can safely say I've never felt unwanted because of my nationality.

My opinion is the rest of the world doesn't hate individual Americans.  They hate the idea of the rude, ignorant, fat, selfish, imperialistic, rich, gun-totting, toothless, bigot asshole that is "America".  

I hate that "person", too.  And I try very hard to defend my people's integrity by educating myself and showing the world that Americans can be okay.  You should see the shock on people's faces when they realize I actually speak Spanish.  I often get comments about how "gringos usually don't speak Spanish".  The USA is a huge country full of lots of oblivious, uncultured jerks.  But that's not the only type of people that live there, and the USA is not the only place in the world they live.  For the most part, I think the "rest of the world" knows that.  And for that, I'm also thankful.

I hope I didn't come off as a "wise I've-been-to-Europe-so-now-I-know-everything young person" in this blog.  Just wanted to write out my thoughts.


Jimena said...

it's great that you're thinking through this, but you might consider the role of imperialism and colonialism. The US is not something we oppose in theory, it has been responsible for a lot of killing and exploitation RIGHT HERE, and next door, and a little bit over, and all through Latin America.
How do the people from the states relate to countries that have been responsible for fleecing and massacring them?