24 November 2010

In praise of Americans and not giving a @#$%!

As an American living in Europe, I am often subjected to veiled and not-so-veiled remarks from Europeans about the cultural/political backwardness of our great nation.  From snickering comments about cowboys to outright falsehoods about the Tea Party, Europeans feel free to think out loud when it comes to taking elitist swipes at the American eagle.  Normally, I smile, say something self-deprecating, and move on.  

When I first arrived in Rome in 2008, a friar from an eastern European country acidly remarked on the U.S.'s military presence on the European continent.  Maybe it was just my mood that day, or maybe it was the strain of being one of the few Americans in the priory who didn't want to add Obama to the Holy Trinity; regardless, I replied, "Well, brother, I'd be happy to see us pull all of our troops out of Europe.  But then you guys who have to take up the slack and spend some of our state welfare money on keeping Putin out of your backyard.  It's the U.S.'s willingness to defend you that allows you to spend so much on government welfare."  Needless to say, he turned purple and the conversation ended.  

I'm reminded of this failure to keep my cool by this article from Inside Higher Ed, "In Praise of the Americans."  The piece ends with this observation: 

“All the world criticizes them and they don’t give a damn….Moralists cry over them, criminologists dissect them, writers shoot epigrams at them, prophets foretell the end of them, and they never move. Seventeen brilliant books analyze them every month; they don’t read them .… But that’s all right. The Americans don’t give a damn; don’t need to; never did need to. That is their salvation.”

This astute observation was written in 1932 by Canadian political scientist, Stephen Leacock.  His take on Americans still applies to 99.9% of us, I think.  However, it could be argued that we  are currently ruled by the .1% who do give a damn what Europeans think of us.  Maybe that's the Great Divide we're seeing in U.S. politics these days. . .

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  1. Anonymous8:28 AM

    Great quote from that Canadian. I like to compare America to the Nebraska Husker football team (back when they were good): There's no finesse, no nuance. They are going to run the ball up the middle. Every. Single. Time. They know they are running it up the middle, the other team knows they are running it up the middle, every fan in the stadium knows they are running it up the middle. They don't care that you know this.

    So it is a simple matter of stopping them running up the middle. Good luck with that.

  2. Anonymous5:16 AM

    What scares me is that this President seems to be an enemy of the American Dream and worse than that, of American values. What is more American than motherhood? For centureis (throughout all of human history) mothers have been known to defend their childrens' lives and with their own very lives if necessary. Now for the first time in human history, we have a generation of mothers fighting for the right to destroy their children. And this President is their strongest champion. And most American nuns seem to be with them! Tell me, is there any hope on any front?