They go on over your legs,
not on your head
Living in America is like spending the summer with your crazy rich cousin. Who happens to be Britney Spears. When you talk to the folks back home, everyone wants the scoop. Everybody demands an explanation for the latest shenanigan. They rattle the newspapers at you and ask just what the hell she was thinking. And how bad is it, really?
I can't tell you how ironic it is to find my self in the position of apologist for the U.S., but I try my best to represent what gets lost in transmission. It's complicated, I tell them. There's much more going on that what the media represents: more diversity, more intelligence, more self-awareness. Yeah, Brit's a little mixed up. But she's a good kid, at heart. There's some management issues.
Georgia tells me it's the same whenever she travels back home to Australia. Enquiring minds, the world over, want to know.
Some of this righteous indignation springs from genuine concern, fear, and moral objection. But it often comes garnished with a twist of spite. If the USA is a gal who goes clubbing with no panties, the Commonwealth nations are stuck home reading a book and wearing granny knickers.
They especially revel in fabled American ignorance of world and domestic affairs. They love to cite surveys that show some enormous percentage of the U.S. population unable to locate the Atlantic Ocean or Washington, D.C. on a mapthe "dumb blonde" jokes of the global village.
There was a weekly fake news show in Canada that had a wildly popular segment, "Talking to Americans." They would film Americans in the street congratulating Canada on joining North America, and state politicians imploring their northern neighbor to preserve the "National Igloo". It was hysterical, but I would wonder, who are these people? Not the Americans I know. It's true my circle of friends and acquaintances may not be a true representive sample (presumably, somebody here had to have voted for George Bush), but I've always had a hard time believing those surveys weren't, like the comedy show segment, a set-up. Ask me on camera to endorse the Ukraine's strawbale house of legislature, and I would probably go along.
Then I went to Boy Scout day camp with my son last week. Having kids is consciousness-raising for many reasons, one of which is that it occasionally forces you out of your social comfort zone. During the activity on "Collections", one of the children asked his grandfather, a heavyset white man in his fifties, what building was portrayed on a U.S. postage stamp. The man had no clue. "It's the Lincoln Memorial," I said. It was a tiny stamp, and I was prepared to extend the benefit of doubt and allow that it may have been his eyes and not his mind that was dim. But then he turned around and proceeded to entertain several of the cub scouts by talking loudly in a badly faked East Indian accent, while a couple of kids who clearly had ancestors on the Indian peninsula looked on.
Too bad the right to vote isn't a merit badge. Then everybody (not just immigrants like me) would have to earn it.