Wednesday, July 9, 2008

America the beautiful... the blithering idiots... Pt. 1

...OK not really. Although as evidenced by this video some undoubtedly are. I was highly offended at first glance of this clip. Offended that this was the foreign media portrayal of Americans. Offended that I didn't know, well really know, that when I speak to someone outside this country that they are most likely patronizing me because they feel like I have the IQ of a 6th grader or that I'm a narrow-minded bigot.

I was speaking to a friend from Australia, who had just come in from feeding her pet kangaroo and practicing her boomerang toss, and we were discussing the world view on Americans. I was sharing a story of a guy from Australia who came to the States to visit this American girl whom he had met online a few years ago. Ironically this guy had a huge disdain for Americans and seemed to carry that chip on his shoulder the entire visit. Whenever we engaged in a conversation it always started off cordial but then he always digressed into some tirade of unfounded slandering of America/ns.

I was telling my Aussie friend, while she was wrestling a crocodile into submission, that it seems to be popular among those outside the U.S. to "strongly dislike" Americans. She said that she shares the same school of thought and is on the bandwagon of not thinking much of them. I became passionate in my response to defend my countrymen/women saying, "Not all of us are narrow-minded and lack a perspective limited to the U.S." She thought I must have had that speech rehearsed. She then sent me the following video as an example of why she feels the way she does. Without further ado, here is the video:

Chasers : War on Everything - Americans

I want to hear the thoughts of everyone who watches this. Especially since I have a few readers from other countries. Please note that this post was written tongue-in-cheek. I'm actually quite fond of the person I was talking to about this and we had a very intelligent discussion about it.

Additionally, I sent this video to a list of people from my email contacts. I will post some of their responses to it and my personal take on this subject in a follow-up post.

Please share!! Racist or bigoted responses are not necessary.


classy & fabulous said...

hmm...i loved how u incorporated australian stereotypes into ur post to prove your point...and that video..i dont even know what to say...

Angela said...

WTF. We've got some DUMB ASS citizens in the United States. That's why they say that most people born in the US would never pass the citizenship test. But c'mon! I can't believe some of those people! They're so STUPID! I'm at a loss for words. And that map with the wrong country names? Holy shit! Did Americans ever take geography???

Marianne said...

Not sure what to say - America is a big country - it produces some of the best minds in the world, and clearly some ignorant people too. Like all countries I guess. Interesting post, let us know what you think of it too.

L.C.T. said...

Sadly a lot of what is portrayed of Americans in stereotype is not great... But there are also some facts about education systems etc which some claim back up the stereotypes.

But if people are going to class Americans as a whole then they're hardly open-minded nor are they that intelligent themselves!

Alice said...

It's my experience that most folks form their opinions based on sound bites and movies. My Kenyan students were convinced that all white folks owned guns, big white guys were wrestlers, etc.

Now, I'm willing to concede that America houses some pretty damned stupid folk, but come on Australia....why did you have to send Ken Ham over here?!?! Hmm. Hmm. Answer me.

Alice said...

LOL - And I just asked my first grader to name a country that started with a 'U' and he didn't hestitate before saying 'United States of America'. Yay!

Miss Em said...

My kangaroo just bit me. Karma is a bitch.

Sean C said...

Classy & Fabulous: You like that huh? Hehe, pretty clever. I actually got that from a clever argument that a friend emailed back to me.

Angela: I know, it's jarring. Remember though, it's a bit disjointed, I mean they only kept the responses of the total idiots, not the ones who knew the answers. Like you, they didn't ask you did they?

Marianne: That was very diplomatic of you Marianne, I appreciate you saying what you did. Are you holding back a little though? I really want the opinions of those in other countries. Lets

L.C.T.: A very balanced view. You make some good points for all sides. What facts about our education system are you citing though? Now don't be reserved, you don't strike me as someone who is afraid to speak her mind. I don't expect your or someone to come out and say, "American's are spoiled dumb dumb heads", but a healthy debate would be nice...

Alice: Very good point Alice. Thank you for bringing your first hand overseas experience to the table. The Ken Hamm remark may slightly be fighting words though... it's obvious they wanted nothing to do with him ;)

Bravo for the little one. Admittedly I said The Ukraine and didn't think of the United States of America.

Miss Em: Well fortunately you've been sharpening those boomerang and croc wrestling skills to put that little joey in step. ;)

GMan said...

It really isn't all that surprising to me that so many people got the answers wrong. How many people though got all of them wrong and they just kept showing them?

It is somewhat embarrassing to think that people here care so little about anything outside our countries borders to know anything.

I am also curious to see what people from other countries say to those same questions. I guarantee there are plenty of stupid people there too.

Just think many of these people are going to decide the outcome of the elections in November? How many people are going to walk into the voting booth not knowing anything going on in the world?

But a question for all the commenters on many of you know where Iran is on a map?? Obviously you know it isn't Australia but do you know which Middle East country it is??

and I will be honest...I missed the first part of the starts with a U question. But I still got it right, I said Uruguay.

Marianne said...

Ok, I'll admit it, I HAVE been surprised by some pretty stupid questions / comments from Americans abroad in my time. Someone asked me what language we spoke in England. Someone called Adolf Hitler Rudolf Hitler. Another asked me if we had ice-cream in England. I was like, "no, how could we have ice-cream, we don't have fridges to keep it cold!"

It's a big country and some people like to stay within its borders, physically and mentally, and there seems to be an arrogance about some Americans that theirs is the best, and only country worth knowing about. I think the stats LCT might be talking about is that the US has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the developed world (if not the highest?) and like in the UK, state education seems to be a problem.

That said, it is a country of academic excellence, with the best universities in the world (and masses of them) producing generation after generation of world class thinkers. I've never been more impressed or felt so ignorant as in the company of highly "educated" Americans.

jenniferalaine said...

I'll be studying abroad in Madrid this year, so I'll do my best to negate all stereotypes about stupid Americans.

The video is ridiculous (my work computer doesn't have the plug-in but I'm 99% sure I know what it is and have seen it before) but it was edited JUST for that purpose. I'm positive that if we wanted to do the same thing in Australia, for example, we could find enough people there to sound stupid too.

It's a good point though - we ALL could be more/better informed.

Sean C said...

gman Thanks for stopping by! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject as well. I appreciate your being defensive of the people and the nation that you love, hopefully that makes you a part of the solution to this problem and not a part of it.

I second the shudders you get from thinking that these same people are going to march into that voting booth and decide the leadership of our country. Democracy is at once our greatest friend and our greatest enemy.

I also agree that I could, given the opportunity, take my camera and witty comedic journalist and reduce any country to millions of babbling idiots.

Sadly however this nation has glamorized ignorance. Our celebrities are an example of that. Paris Hilton, who made her famous? The media/paparazzi? Well, yes, but no. If we don't watch they don't give them air time. We deliver the ratings. Once again our own people decide the fate of this nation. George Norman Douglas said, "You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements" I would add to that,
"and by the popular programming and music"

We are as much to blame for other nations perceptions of us as they are for not critically thinking through such a show as Chasers or ploys of the media which assert that we as a nation are all dumb.

marianne Hmm. Excellent points Marianne, and still very fair.

The problem is, and I am going to speak on behalf of myself and those American's I've personally known, that quite simply our heads are often shrouded too far up our own asses to "care" about these "trivial" facts. Things that, to other nations people, are simple basic knowledge.

I would like some context for the devastatingly ignorant questions and answers that we're given by my fellow Americans. Why did they ask you about ice cream? Why did they say Rudolf Hitler? What states were they from? (Damn it, I think I asked a Finnish girl if they had ice cream once. Not because of freezer technology but because of our discussion of Finnish food staples vs US food staples. Blimey!)

You contradicted yourself a bit in saying that " is a country of academic excellence". After noting that our states are wrought with pandemic ignorance.

Ignorance aside, the arrogance you pointed out, was that assessed and surmised based on the conversations with the aforementioned people? Often times one can mistake our patriotism and passion for arrogance. Other chances - are you're right, we're bloody arrogant.

jenniferalaine Jennifer please, please do us all the favor of single-handedly battling the notion that we are disedJumakated. *Missing tooth grin* I agree with your take on the editing of the video and the Australians and the wake up call. Thanks so much for adding your input, and thanks for stopping by my blog. I'll be sure to stop by yours.

tiedtogetherwithasmile said...

There are plenty of stupid Americans, but its frustrating that people judge us based on those people. There are also a lot of well educated Americans who have done great things, but no one brings attention to them. I think most of those idiots in the video probably live in my hometown...but we call them white trash or small town, not a good sample of all Americans.

Also, thanks for checking out my blog! I love getting new readers! The tracker I used for my searches is in Wordpress, I love it.

Felisa said...

I'm miffed.... That's the safest way to put it.

I've long been wanting to blog about how people outside our country view us, Americans. I've been fortunate enough to come across blogs of people from other countries so I've been reading and commenting on their blogs regularly. They have also been kind enough to drop by mine. Just last night, I was thinking of the best way to word a blog post about the US (stereotypes and all) without coming off as either arrogant or stupid... and today I found your blog and will probably have to link to it when I talk about the topic (if and when I do).

The video obviously picked out only those who answered the questions wrong. If I was trying to make people of a certain country look dumb, I could easily do the same thing. A lot of your readers have commented on this... the US is a huge country and we have some of the dumbest people in the planet; however, no one can deny that we have some of the smartest as well.

I think the American media has a lot to do with this stereotype that we are all dumb. I don't think I'm at all mistaken when I say that no other country in the world is as "out there" as our country. And what does our popular media like to show? Jessica Simpson asking if buffalos had wings, Paris Hilton wondering if Walmart sold walls, etc. Other than that, every single thing that happens in the US (some of which are about the dumbest people in our country) makes it to the internet therefore giving other people the impression that we're all dysfunctional and dumb.

One time, in a forum, a guy compiled some horrendous news reports about Americans. An American man raped a cow, an American teenage boy raped a dead woman in a morgue, etc. He went on to say, "This is what too much freedom does... everyone becomes stupid." I didn't want to be the stupid American who defends her country heatedly and with racial slurs and all but I had to say something. "If these people were in their right mind, they wouldn't do what they did. Most people would not rape cows even if they had all the freedoms in the world."

Our educational system isn't always the best but as a product of public US education, I find it offensive when people refer to ALL OF US as just dumb, narrow-minded people who don't care about the world outside of our country. I wouldn't claim to be smart and there's a lot for me to learn (both about our country and the other countries in the world) but I would never accept being called ignorant. I took a class called Contemporary World Problems in the first semester of my senior year in high school and I wish the people who put this video together could have listened to a bunch of 16, 17 and 18-year-old Americans talk about Benazir Bhutto's assassination (which we predicted literally a couple of weeks before she died), argue about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech when he went to Columbia University, how human rights were violated in Burma and how much the US should meddle, etc. True, not a lot of American teenagers are equipped with that knowledge (and not a lot of them probably care to learn that much) but it was an elective and every single semester, the class filled up. It at least shows interest... and proves that the country is not entirely filled with people who don't care. Oh, and just for the record, the US was hardly ever put in a false light of superiority or righteousness in our talks. If anything, we looked at our actions from the perspective of people who aren't Americans and we weren't always impressed by how our nation's leaders have portrayed us.

The US does have dumb people but saying that all Americans are dumb is as true as "all Australians have kangaroos for pets."

Excuse the length of my reply. I think it's longer than your post. Haha