On Being American
Trip Start Nov 30, 2005
63Trip End May 13, 2006
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This is a topic that comes up everywhere I go. The first thing people ask you, or the first thing they hear in your voice is that you are American (or Canadian). In the UK, the first response to this fact was, "What are you guys doing electing that guy? You're killing us!" Or "So do you like George Bush" and that always led into conversations where I would try to explain that we aren't all like him, that we don't all even like him, and that actually there are many Americans with different views. At first I felt like I had to be the ambassador to save face as an American. I had to explain to everyone, to show to everyone, that there are some decent ones out there. I felt like I had to diss on George just to show we aren't all the same (not a hard task for me anyway).
Touring Europe so many of the Americans did fit the category that most of us are stereotyped for: loud, rude, obnoxious, etc. I thought, "Ohhh man- you guys are ruining everything I'm trying to prove!"
There are not a lot of Americans travelling around the world. I met tons of Aussies, heaps of Europeans, South Africans, Japanese, and so many Canadians. But Americans are known throughout for not travelling as much. When I do meet an American it is sort of exciting. But sometimes they do embarass me with the things they say. Recently one told me, "Man, I'm so glad to be an American now that I'm travelling-- I've met all these other people and I sure don't want to be like them!" See...just bad attitudes, closed minds.
Since Europe, I haven't tried so much to go out of my way to prove myself as a good American. I have had to sort of accept what people say about Americans and try to learn to laugh at it. I just wish people didn't think so many things about 300 million people just from the things they see on TV. All the time people (even some friends who've travelled through America) make blanket statements about America. "Oh there are so many shootings there." "Americans love blowing stuff up." "Oh, that's because Americans are just so loud." "Thats because everything in America is huge." There are reasons they think this- its just because maybe a lot of people do feel that way, maybe the stereotypes are based on something. Obviously they get horrible things on the news, obviously they see that the American government is making some messes around the world, and so they associate that with the people too. I mean, its supposed to be a democracy right? It must be what the people want....how to explain that democracy is based on a majority- and a minority is still a lot of people in a country the size of ours, so there are a lot of people that might not be happy. But I just keep trying to tell people- there are a whole lot of Americans, and so there are a whole lot of different opinions and characters. It drives me crazy, of course, because I take these statements personally. Because they are talking to an American- even one who has a pretty open mind and is relatively well travelled and sees other perspectives. But, I am an American nonetheless and despite what everybody thinks about it-- I'm still kind of proud of it.