Stumbled upon this article (linked below), published today on July 4th, and couldn’t agree with her more as a fellow American living abroad. Below are my top 3 excerpts from “Fellow a’Muricans, Please Drop the Ego” by Rachel Markowitz including my own commentary underneath:
What is seemingly American to most outsiders? To those who don’t have individual human examples to demonstrate otherwise, an American is loud, demanding, rich and self-centered. (In fact, an American might even use the label American in an international context without taking into consideration that North, South and Central America comprise half of the globe.)
The poor impressions that others have of us are nothing but a reflection of how we have projected ourselves throughout modern times; we invented the products whose packaging litters the streets of towns around the world who don’t have waste disposal systems and we justify treating the rest of the world with disrespect under the guise of “freedom.”
What is a’Murica to me? It’s an incredibly beautiful and diverse land full of my family, friends and millions of other kind-hearted people who are raised with the idea that we can all do whatever we want and therefore have the potential to make positive changes in the world. But first, we need to own up to the fact that we need to change.
Off the top of my head, I’d emphasize that the America-isn’t-America idea is widely spread. Latin Americans hate when we refer to the USA as America and especially the people from there as Americans. We’re all Americans, from Tierra del Fuego to Vancouver.
Additionally, while outsiders – for lack of a better word – are huge fans of our entertainment, clothing lines, and electronics (and Disney), they don’t let this brainwash them into thinking the U.S. is perfect and amazing (like many believe is the opinion of foreigners). Instead, they are shocked by the outright racism that our country breeds and dumfounded that a visit to a classroom, night club, movie theater or church could mean our last breath. Many are aware of how their own country’s politics and bloody histories are wrapped up in the United States politics, and how new trade deals are now threatening local businesses. Others are convinced that 9/11 was a conspiracy created to justify U.S. intervention in oil rich countries. Typical U.S.A. to conveniently cause a ruckus where the politics of another country don’t align with its economic desires.
While the U.S. is somehow internally creating the impression that everyone wants to be us, a step outside can swing things into balance. If you’re a privileged citizen, this news may be a shock, although I think enough has been going on in the country lately that it’s impossible to ignore. While some comments I’ve received abroad have put me on the defensive, I’ve learned it’s crucial not to base credibility on what’s familiar. I am grateful for being challenged in this way and choosing to be curious.
I’m not writing this from a place of disillusionment or disappointment (although I do feel these things). Instead, I hope to inspire more reflection and consideration of what makes a country successful versus powerful. Greedy corporations and systematic discrimination doesn’t look good on us, no matter how many James Bond movies, 90s hits, or Gap sweatshirts we have.
“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us walk together…” ~ Lila Watson, Australian Aboriginal woman