Wednesday, May 24, 2006

give us your

The first many times I went to Europe, I was warned repeatedly not to be an ugly American - by teachers, parents, bosses, friends, complete strangers, the ticket lady at the airport - but check this out:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

In case you didn't know, that's the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French.

That's how the French see Americans. A bunch of charity cases. Nice. And, as the poem says, they're fobbing the whole lot of them off on us. What kind of gift is that? It looks like a statue but really it is one gigantic invitation for "masses" of "refuse" to dog pile us. Like a reverse Trojan horse or something.

Ha ha.

The truth is that Americans have always been ugly. Since our inception, our country has been full of rejects - political, economic, religious, and criminal - and if we weren't rejects, we rejected.
Take that combination of people, mix in abundant resources and the widest of natural barriers (the oceans, silly!) between us and everybody else and you've got a natural breeding ground - a geographical Petri dish, really - for a culture that is not just different from but in many ways antithetical to the originating one. Is it so surprising that the citizens of the Old World have never really liked us?

Add in a precipitous rise to the top of the economic and military heap along with a tendency to swagger about it, and you have the pre-9/11 American.

If the citizens of the rest of the world are the arbiters of "ugly" - in other words, if they get decide who is "ugly" and who isn't - what can we do to avoid that label besides try to disown our origins altogether?

3 Comments:

Blogger ryan said...

I can't believe you can come up with all this shit and write so eloquently about it at 6:30 in the morning. I like this post a lot.

10:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6:28 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3:15 PM

 

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