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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


Those darned ferners

A while ago Ianaqui posted something about comments people from other countries may make about the US (it was something like "Oh, I have no interest in traveling to the US") and that it seems okay to say negative things about the US or Americans - but that a comment like that made about another country would likely be seen as judgmental or perhaps even xenophobic (did I get the gist right, ianqui? I can't find your archives).

Today I was talking to one of my TAs who is from Morocco or something (she told me a while ago, and I've forgotten - this likely supports her assertions), and asked her if she liked this city. She said, "No! I hate it!" I asked her what she disliked about it and she said, "I hate the US, I hate the culture, I hate the people, I hate how people behave and how they interact."

Ummm...okay. I wish I'd asked questions instead of feeling a bit hurt and defensive. I did note that this city is not necessarily like the rest of the US - and gave the West Coast as an example (because she noted that she misses how laid back people are in her country - and I miss that about the West Coast).

Even though I likely don't disagree with her, I'm surprised that she felt no compunction about denigrating the US - which happens to me my country. I can't imagine saying that to someone about their country - it would seem rude to me. Maybe americans just seem so self-centered and shallow that people from other countries think we have no feelings - or that they feel so alienated by our behaviors that they might not care about hurting our feelings.

I'm no patriot - but I do live here - and whether I like it or not, I'm part of this culture too. I don't take her comments super personally - but still, I guess I'm one of those annoying americans.


At 6:20 PM, Blogger Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I suppose the thing that makes me a bit defensive is that people who come here from elsewhere have chosen to come here and I kind of think that if they hate it so much they should choose to go elsewhere and they more than likely could have chosen to go elsewhere from the start. We really aren't all that different now than we were a few years ago, and you'd think that if they hated America so much, the decision to come here could be seen as irrational.

This isn't "America, love it or get out" - but, rather -- why would you possibly stay if it is as bad as you say it is?

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Ianqui said...

If that had happened to me, I'm sure I'd be a little defensive too, but that said, at least your TA has been living here, has experienced it, and has decided she didn't like it. It's a much ickier feeling (I think) when someone who's never been here says they have no desire to ever visit this country. Again--as shrinky aptly describes it--I don't care if they want to come or not, but I think it violates every tenet of human decency to actually say so.

And just so you know, the correct spelling is "furriners" :)

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Anastasia said...

this is tangential to your main point but I think you're so right to bring up regional difference> I don't think most people (americans included) take enough account of regional variation in american culture. This is a vast country and while there is certainly continuity across american culture there are also some pretty major differences. when it comes to things like how friendly people are, how easygoing, etc. you really can't say any one thing about "Americans" because it really depends on where you're talking about.

At 10:09 PM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

I was thinking that it is in some ways akin to the current zeitgeist that you can make fun of men and of white people - but making fun of other groups is offensive. America and Americans have more power than just about anyone in the world - just like, in the US at least, whites and men. It is okay to denigrate and make fun of those in power, but not okay to make fun of those with lesser power or those who are oppressed.

Maybe that's why some people think it is okay to denigrate Americans or make fun of us - but it would be offensive for us to do the same about other countries.

Not that I disagree with any of that - but it is a little odd. I think partly because I think a lot of us are really unaware of how much power and influence the US has in the world (which is partly why 9/11 was so shocking - how could we have so much power and influence that others' would want to destroy us?).

And there is so much anti-america sentiment in the world. I think they may see Bush and extrapolate that we must all support him in order for him to still be in power - thus this extends some of the negative beliefs about him to us.

But interestingly, it seems as though often when ferners (sorry Ianqui - I'm anti fur!) are asked about their feelings about America - they can separate their hatred for the country from the people. Maybe that disappears when people come here :(

Anastasia: I agree - I also wonder if those differences would be evident to someone not from the US though. I know it was a huge culture shock moving here from the west coast - I had no idea it would be sooooooo different.

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Anastasia said...

that's a good question, how much a person from a completely different context would notice. It was a pretty major shock for me to move from the west coast to where I live now. It's even a bit of shock visiting some other parts of the country for me. But still...I'm not sure if the differences would register.

Anyway, I wonder how much they expect or experience americans to be self-critical. If we run around talking about how we loathe america, maybe that gives others permission to voice their opinions? I feel like this was the case with some english friends of ours. We all criticized america, so they felt very free to do so and yet...it's like calling your brother a dork. You're allowed. The other kids on the block aren't.


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