The USA of America

Every country has its prejudices against other nations. For example: I was told several times last weekend that the Belgians think the Dutch arrogant and loud. (Which in all honesty we might just be – a little. Loud that is.) Then again: the British reserve and understatements find their soul in the coffee shops in Amsterdam: which are filled with British English tourists (let’s go for English as no one knows who the Scottish or the Welsh are anyway) The Italians are passionately loud and accentuate words with large handgestures, and still live with their mothers. The French hate anything foreign that doesn’t speak French. We still don’t mention the war in Germany. The Scandinavian countries we can never tell apart but they are all tall, blond, beautiful ice king and queen with an alcohol problem inherited from the old USSR.  These views exist and in turn all these countries have an opinion on the Western Super power: America.

I watched Crazy Heart yesterday about this washed-up country musician, played by Jeff Bridges. I get why the man got an Oscar for it because his portrayal of this red-neck alcoholic was endearing… as well as infuriatingly annoying. All of a sudden I got confronted with my own sense of a certain kind of American who I just think is challenging. See how I have qualified ‘certain kind’ of American? It’s because I have also met very cool and intelligent kinds of Americans. They still seem to be aware of how they are perceived though, one adding to it and I quote: ” Why do route 66? You only have LA and New York and nothing much in between.”

How come I have this warped view of Americans? I’m not sure.  I do know I am not the only one, once a British friend did Camp America for three summers in a row and I was highly suspicious no summer-romance was ever shared. When asked to spill the beans, she looked at me in what can only be described as disbelieve and said: “The only guys there are Yanks.”  End of conversation.

Maybe it’s because I once spent a summer in France attempting to learn French and failing miserably but making amazing friends – all but one non-American. The one also lived in Germany so that doesn’t really count, she was bilingual, as were all of us: French would be our third language if only we had studied. (Oh except for Doc who was an Aussie, but his attempt at French was so funny we had to include him for entertainment value.) Apart from us, there were also two American classes whose attendance was compulsory. The girls kept giggling, kept asking stupid questions usually starting with: ” Dans les Etats-Unis….” ending with Non Merci, always pronounced as No Mercy, which just killed me.

Maybe it’s because I once sat on a coach going from Victoria to Heathrow and an American family had a very animated conversation with the driver. They were surprised at how small everything was in particular the Smart-cars. When the driver said we bought those cars in flatpacks in  local supermarkets and assembled them ourselves, American Dad got very enthusiastic and would love to see something like that build. I and the rest of the passengers agreed.

Maybe because we use the phrase Only in America when quirky stories break in the news. From religious nuts with multiple wives and promise rings, to people without health insurance having to give up their home and then winning the lottery with a lot found in the street.

Maybe it’s because they are Americans but still insist they are Dutch/Italian/Scottish. Listen up: if you weren’t born there, if your family hasn’t touched the soil of your ancestors birthland for at least 2 centuries, you cannot claim it as your own. No matter how many chains you build there!  And whilst we are on the topic of chains: what is up with Hollywood endings? Come on, life is not all happy endings – people do die sometimes! (Don’t get me wrong I am not a hidden social revolutionist, there is no hidden message in this blog. You will not see me on the barricades denouncing capitalism: it only chips your nailvarnish.)

Writing this I realise it  makes me sound like an American hater, which I didn’t think I was. I am surprised by my own prejudice and I even know that should an American boy ever be in the picture the threshold for him to impress me would be (to my shameful admittance) be higher than any other man. This might also be because of a really bad experience with an  example of American  boy in the  past… I cannot share too much but it involved something disgusting and my curtains…(of the window – no euphemism you dirty sods.)

I don’t know, maybe it’s because the first American president I can kind of remember was Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Followed by two terms, eight years!, of George W Bush. The man who shouldn’t have won the first time around anyway. Eight years. Perhaps this is when I started losing faith in Americans a little: one term could have been a mistake, but to vote him in a second time was just unbelievable.  To have seen them lead the world into a highly controversial war, to have seen them veto against climate change prevention, to know about Guantanamo Bay…

Though there is hope: I for one had my laptop on all night, just to witness a near miracle that night in November. Yes who knows, during the new decade: America might just show me wrong.

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