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  1. #1
    Vulnerability Eilonwy's Avatar
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    Default 10 Things Most Americans Don't Know About America

    I agree with the blogger's opinion, even though I haven't been out of the US much and don't have the wider perspective on things. So, what do my fellow Americans think about this? What do those of you from other countries think about this? (You'll have to follow the link to read the whole blog post)


    10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America


    Imagine you have a brother and he’s an alcoholic. He has his moments, but you keep your distance from him. You don’t mind him for the occasional family gathering or holiday. You still love him. But you don’t want to be around him.

    This is how I lovingly describe my current relationship with the United States. The United States is my alcoholic brother. And although I will always love him, I don’t want to be near him at the moment.

    I know that’s harsh, but I really feel my home country is not in a good place these days. That’s not a socio-economic statement (although that’s on the decline as well), but rather a cultural one.

    I realize it’s going to be impossible to write sentences like the ones above without coming across as a raging prick, so let me try to soften the blow to my American readers with an analogy:

    You know when you move out of your parents’ house and live on your own, how you start hanging out with your friends’ families and you realize that actually, your family was a little screwed up? Stuff you always assumed was normal your entire childhood, it turns out was pretty weird and may have actually fucked you up a little bit. You know, dad thinking it was funny to wear a Santa Claus hat in his underwear every Christmas or the fact that you and your sister slept in the same bed until you were 22, or that your mother routinely cried over a bottle of wine while listening to Elton John.

    The point is we don’t really get perspective on what’s close to us until we spend time away from it. Just like you didn’t realize the weird quirks and nuances of your family until you left and spent time with others, the same is true for country and culture. You often don’t see what’s messed up about your country and culture until you step outside of it.

    And so even though this article is going to come across as fairly scathing, I want my American readers to know: some of the stuff we do, some of the stuff that we always assumed was normal, it’s kind of screwed up. And that’s OK. Because that’s true with every culture. It’s just easier to spot it in others (i.e., the French) so we don’t always notice it in ourselves.

    So as you read this article, know that I’m saying everything with tough love, the same tough love with which I’d sit down and lecture an alcoholic family member. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some awesome things about you (BRO, THAT’S AWESOME!!!). And it doesn’t mean I’m some saint either, because god knows I’m pretty screwed up (I’m American, after all). There are just a few things you need to hear. And as a friend, I’m going to tell them to you.

    And to my foreign readers, get your necks ready, because this is going to be a nod-a-thon.
    Johari / Nohari

    “That we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin.” ― Gene Wolfe

    reminder to self: "That YOU that you are so proud of is a story woven together by your interpreter module to account for as much of your behavior as it can incorporate, and it denies or rationalizes the rest." "Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain" by Michael S. Gazzaniga

  2. #2
    The High Priestess Amargith's Avatar
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    *nods*
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  3. #3
    Starcrossed Seafarer Aquarelle's Avatar
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    Seems pretty accurate to me. I loved the Wonka meme
    Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.

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    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    I meant to write a long blog post on my relationship with the USA on the 4th of july but then the angry burn-the-flagburner crowd changed my mind.

    Anyway:
    1. Impressed? Neither more nor less than by any other nation
    2. Hate? Less than many Americans seem to think. There was a period of fashionable US bashing during the Bush era - it was such an easy target, basically shooting fish in a barrel that I rejected it. But in the 90s during the Clinton era America was the coolest place on earth and everything that came here from over the pond was automatically awesome and had to be emulated "the latest trend from USA" was and to some extend still is almost a cliché.
    3. Knowledgable? Well, with a country this big there are representatives of both extremes. When I lived in America in the 90s I was shocked by the lack of knowledge I encountered, but there was also a lot of interest and eagerness to learn more and I have also encountered many very knowledgable people with a keen interest in world history and world affairs. So I'm undecided about this one. 50-50.
    4. Emotionless? Hey, I'm a Prussian INTP, not exactly emo. But yes, other nations are more expressive. However, my own culture is similar to America in this, so I don't mind at all.
    5. Quality of life? Agree, at least based on the information I have at hand.
    6. Slum hole? Of course not. Naturally there are enormous differences in the world, but expecting the rest of the world to be hopelessly backward and miserable is naive.
    7. Paranoid? Yes and no. Definitely yes on the gun thing and the media constantly predicting the apocalypse. But I still think Americans value liberty over security (and they pay the price)
    8. Status? Yes and no. Americans are incredibly competitive about so many things and obsessed with always being the best and making everything bigger and louder and faster and with more shiny LED lights than ever before and buying and selling more and more of that stuff. But they are also very value focussed people, very kind hearted and very charitable on an individual level.
    9. Health care? God yes. Full nod on this one.
    10. Comfort seeking? Don't know. I can't really say.

    All in all I'd say it is a beautiful country with lots of lovely people that has a lot of strengths and a lot of weaknesses. It is not the navel of the world, but it is important. The Christian right's rise during the last decade has caused considerable damage to America's reputation overseas (and to the country itself!!!), but I think that is only temporary. It is an innovative nation that - despite the mixed outcome - values knowledge and education and science more than my own culture, something I appreciate a lot. It has raised liberty, independence and individualism to a fetishistic state at the cost of fairness, solidarity and compassion, it accepts physical violence as a given part of life, it fetishises its military, but it also values innovation and courage and creativity and thinking the unthinkable and surprisingly often acomplishes the impossible and has a big, big heart. Also, even as an introvert I value how open, sociable and friendly most Americans that I met have been. They seem casual and informal on the surface and old school polite and formal under that surface. Academic texts written by Americans are much, much less formal than those written by Germans and are much more accessible while doing the lion's share of the current research (which takes money which their ivy league has). The difference is so extreme I prefer to read American rather than European authors whenever I can.

    Living in a country where people don't have flags hanging around and don't openly show their feelings for their country (if they exist) unless there is a soccer game on I am flabbergasted at how defensive of their country and passionately patriotic many Americans are. You have to be very careful when you criticize any aspect of their country. I have recently been compared to Goebbels for daring to do that - by somebody I considered a calm, rational and educated person and a friend!
    The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. - Bertrand Russell
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    sophiloist Kaizer's Avatar
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    i thought this thread was about something political like The NDAA's historic assault on American liberty

    but its essentially similar in that its about the difference between the people and the projection and manifestation of the state by the government as both are viewed by those outside the US
    The answer must be in the attempt
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    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eilonwy View Post
    What do those of you from other countries think about this?
    1. Few People Are Impressed By Us - yep
    2. Few People Hate Us - yep, as a group anyway. individuals can be annoying or wonderful.
    3. We Know Nothing About The Rest Of The World - I haven't really met enough Americans to say, that is the stereotype though (as a Canadian I don't know much about the rest of the world either).
    4. We Are Poor At Expressing Gratitude And Affection - cultural differences, meh. I don't think this is good or bad.
    5. The Quality of Life For The Average American Is Not That Great - agree that it isn't great, although certainly better than many countries.
    6. The Rest Of The World Is Not A Slum-Ridden Shithole Compared To Us - no idea if americans think this. I didn't think Singapore or Hong Kong was a "shithole", that's a strange thought.
    7. We’re Paranoid - in some ways yes
    8. We’re Status-Obsessed And Seek Attention - definitely depends on the individual, although some subcultures in the US (and other countries, probably) are like this
    9. We Are Very Unhealthy - yeah, US health care is obviously not good
    10. We Mistake Comfort For Happiness - I don't really know what this means. Comfort and happiness go together for me. They seem to be redefining comfort as apathy/consumerism or something, though.
    -end of thread-

  7. #7
    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Herring View Post
    It is an innovative nation that - despite the mixed outcome - values knowledge and education and science [...]
    Quite like the Fremen value water.


  8. #8
    The High Priestess Amargith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Herring View Post
    Living in a country where people don't have flags hanging around and don't openly show their feelings for their country (if they exist) unless there is a soccer game on I am flabbergasted at how defensive of their country and passionately patriotic many Americans are. You have to be very careful when you criticize any aspect of their country. I have recently been compared to Goebbels for daring to do that - by somebody I considered a calm, rational and educated person and a friend!
    No kidding. I come from a country where being a patriot is considered naive and ridiculous almost (due to our national history). I've always been confounded as to how you can be so god darn patriotic, passionate and well.. almost self-glorifying as a people. I live in another country now, where patriotism is also part of the culture and I'm slowly starting to see how it works and where it comes from, but even still..someone attacking Belgium is likely to get a mock-defensive response out of me, followed by me targeting Belgium even more myself. It's not part of my identity, nor pride, tbh.
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  9. #9
    Superwoman Red Herring's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amargith View Post
    No kidding. I come from a country where being a patriot is considered naive and ridiculous almost (due to our national history). I've always been confounded as to how you can be so god darn patriotic, passionate and well.. almost self-glorifying as a people. I live in another country now, where patriotism is also part of the culture and I'm slowly starting to see how it works and where it comes from, but even still..someone attacking Belgium is likely to get a mock-defensive response out of me, followed by me targeting Belgium even more myself. It's not part of my identity, nor pride, tbh.
    Yupp. Similar here. The patriotism is either more subtle and takes the form of subconscious chauvinism or it is playful and orbiting around sports events.

    As a German you learn from a very early age that bad things tend to happen when we get too carried away with this stuff. Passionate patriotism is associated with young unemployed, uneducated white trash nazis beating or even killing immigrants to feel better about themselves - the last resort of the pathetic.
    The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life. - Bertrand Russell
    A herring's blog
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Herring View Post
    The patriotism is either more subtle and takes the form of subconscious chauvinism or it is playful and orbiting around sports events.

    As a German you learn from a very early age that bad things tend to happen when we get too carried away with this stuff. Passionate patriotism is associated with young unemployed, uneducated white trash nazis beating or even killing immigrants to feel better about themselves - the last resort of the pathetic.
    Maybe the patriotism in Germany is expressed primarily through chauvinism and sporting events.

    But in the US, patriotism means just a little bit more.

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