In Defense of Americans

Bangkok Travel Blog

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I've been itching to write this for ages.  Now that I'm at the end of my trip I feel like I've earned the right to set the record straight.  Excuse me while I reach for my soapbox.

I have two words for all you non-American westerners out there: BACK OFF.

There are a lot of stereotypes against Americans.  Sure, every country (and culture) has its stereotypes.  But there are an inordinate amount of them aimed at Americans.  I think it's fair to say Americans bear their fair share of flak, and then some.

I couldn't possibly count how many times I've been told how "un-American" I am.  I've heard it from almost every non-American I've met, declared in the tone of pleasant surprise.  Which begs the question: isn't it time you reevaluate what you perceive to be American?

Let's get something straight: no one liked Bush.  NO ONE.  As for the few that did, you can rest assured you won't bump into them outside of the States.  The very reddest of the red states.  So when you meet an American and you're ANYWHERE but oh, say, West Virginia, do us all a favor and save the Bush talk.  No one wants to hear it.  We feel the same way you do.  And we're tired of saying it.

I cried when Bush was reelected.  Sobbed.  Hysterically.  And I cried for days and days afterward.  I watched Kerry's concession speech in class, throughout which all of us cried our eyes out.  We were devastated.  My professors cried right along with us, and then cancelled classes for two days.  No one knew how to face the world.

Politics aside (although I'm coming back to politics -- you couldn't possibly think you were let off the hook that easily), there are reasons why Americans don't travel as extensively abroad as Europeans do.  For starters, we get two weeks' vacation.  TWO.  At a minimum, Europeans get four; many get six.  It doesn't begin to compare.  Do you know how fast two weeks is?  Allow me to paint you a picture.

Two weeks.  That's ten (business) days.  Let's just go ahead and scratch five of them right off the bat, as those are used piecemeal here and there for things like the Friday after Thanksgiving (if I'm flying across the country to see my family for one meal, you better believe I'm making a weekend out of it) and Christmas Eve.  You heard me.  CHRISTMAS EVE.  We only get Christmas Day; the other is on us.  The same thing happens with the Fourth of July and other national holidays: if you're doing something, it pays to extend the holiday by an extra day to make a weekend of it.  Please also note that the vast majority of us don't get the week off between Christmas and New Year's.  That whole holiday spirit?  It consumes HALF of our vacation time.

So now you're down to five days.  Five days is hardly enough time to cross the Atlantic, admire Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower or what have you, and come home.  By the time you've kicked your jetlag you're boarding the plane back.  Savvy?

As for giving us shit about only targeting the big hitters: London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Berlin, etc, I have a little something called PERSPECTIVE for you.  When was the last time an American gave you shit for never visiting Kansas?  Hmm?

I'd venture to say half of the Europeans I've met have never been to the States.  HALF.  And those that have wave the New York card.  Which is great for me; I've lived in New York, I love New York, it gives us something to talk about.  But for those of you who haven't noticed, our country is ENORMOUS.  We have beaches, mountains, rivers, oceans, every climate under the sun, and all of those things before leaving either coast.  Throw in Alaska and Hawaii and you've got yourself one hell of a playground.

It's not fair to compare your having been to a dozen countries before you turned twelve, whereas most Americans won't go to a dozen countries in their life.  You have loads of vacation time and crossing borders is a matter of mere hours in a car or train, not days spent in airplanes crossing massive continents and oceans.  When you country-hop for a weekend, it's like the Cleavelander checking out Chicago.  The time and money you spend internationally is what it costs us domestically; the time and money we spend internationally is what you guys spend during your "gap year," something I had never heard of until a few months ago.  To say the least, international travel is wildly costly (often prohibitively so) for us.

So the whole "I heard only 10% of Americans have a passport" bullshit needs to stop.  Americans are constantly traveling.  Constantly.  We do what we can, which usually translates to short domestic trips.  And if we can throw in Canada or Mexico or the Caribbean every couple of years, we consider it a bonus.  We're making the best of what we've got.  And I don't think we're doing too shabby.

As for those who clearly don't fall into the European contingent (i.e. Canadians and Australians), I'd say you guys are somewhere in between.  I haven't had a Canadian or an Australian give me shit about being American.  You seem to be runners-up in the flak from Europeans department, and therefore more careful about doling it out.  Canadians and Australians also seem surprised by my "un-Americanness," but not to the extent that their European counterparts are.  Their vacation time is typically higher than Americans but lower than Europeans, and both their geographic location and the size of their countries mean their international traveling trends are somewhere between as well.  We also seem to understand each other without any preface.

Now, back to politics.  This isn't directly related to the above but he's an American too, so I'm lumping him in here.

Barack Obama is the man.  I've fucking had it with all you haters out there.  And I'm not talking to or about Americans.  I'm talking to the rest of you.  You who had nothing to do with his election.

Obama is a sharp, thoughtful, diligent person.  We elected him for these very reasons.  He is not rash or impractical or swayed by whatever the "passion" of the moment is.  He is not Bush.  He does not get hotheaded or emotional, nor is he impulsive.  He takes his time, he thinks things through, he gives his all to his commitments.

I shouldn't need to remind anyone that Obama inherited a -- what is the technical term? oh yes -- BIG FUCKING MESS.  A mess nationally, a mess globally.  The economy, the war, healthcare, education, civil (gay) rights, the environment.  Shit's bananas.  (And not the good kind.)  He's got A LOT to clean up.  It doesn't happen over night.  There is no magic switch.  And the fact that he takes his time and thinks things through and puts himself in others' shoes doesn't mean he's pussyfooting around.  It means he's doing his job.  And he's doing it well.

And since so many people seem to think he's incompetent or worse, I would also like to remind you that America is a democracy.  One with three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial.  Contrary to what all the Obama haters seem to think, Obama can't just say something is, and then it is.  Bush expanded executive power enormously, the terrifying results of which are currently surfacing in the whole Cheney/Gitmo fiasco.  The executive branch isn't supposed to have that kind of unchecked power.  Obama needs the cooperation of those in Congress, and even then, should a bill pass, it can always be smacked down in the courts.  It's a long, trying process.  And it's kept us safe and free and prosperous over the years.  It's what sets us apart from the rest.

Obama's doing the best he can.  He's making progress every day.  Things are starting to turn around.  Everyone needs to hang onto their knickers and take a deep breath.  PATIENCE.

Connie says:
Good for you getting that out there! I'm Canadian and I'M starting to get irritated about how much American stereotyping there is out there. It's not in Sydney that I hear it the most, but the smaller towns in Oz and NZ I travel to on my vacations. It's sad to hear so many people repeat stereotypes they hear about Americans when they themselves are guilty of the same offenses.
Posted on: Mar 01, 2010
domnicella says:
Haha, thanks Elke, I know. I actually wrote this a few days ago and when I re-read it I realized how heavy handed it came across. I couldn't find any tweaks I liked, aside from scrapping the whole thing and starting over. I'm not nearly as pissed or offended as I sound, just wanted to set the record straight.
Posted on: Mar 01, 2010
Sunflower300 says:
Bloody Americans, always whinging about something. Ok, I want you to know I am joking, I just couldn't resist. :)

So, Americans have the reputation of not travelling; I’ve never heard that one. I have heard plenty of other derogatory remarks about Americans though; along with Canadians, Poms (English) Irish, French, well, you name the country I’ve heard a negative comment about the travellers from there. But I have also heard plenty about Aussies travelling abroad as well. The main thing I seem to hear is we are all loud-mouthed piss heads. Well, we can't all be perfect. So depending on how much I like the person who said it, I will try to either prove them right, prove them wrong or not give a shit. :)

So come on down off your soapbox and let’s have a drink.
Posted on: Feb 28, 2010
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