Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It Ain't Me

During my first trip to Germany, back in high school, I visited relatives of my host student. They were very kind to me and showed me the sights of the Black Forest and surrounding areas. When we got back to their house for dinner, the aunt asked me if I wanted McDonald's for dinner. I was stunned and confused, and said, no, I would eat whatever they were preparing. The aunt said that she thought all Americans eat McDonald's. 

That wasn't the first time I realized that Americans are often misrepresented abroad...or even at home for that matter. It was just one of the first times it happened directly to me. Clearly, that had a resonating impact.

Now, I am aware of the unfavorable perception many around the world have about America and its citizens. Some perceptions are warranted, most are not. What's frustrating to me is that America isn't helping the cause, and it seems to be undermining us all the time by exporting the worst of American pop culture and politics, and much more. Unless you live in a particular society, you won't understand the intricacies of that culture. {This same philosophy applies to American perceptions about other cultures, too, 'k?} Stereotyping is just plain ignorant. Period.

A very simple example: When I hear ANYTHING about Snooki and her pals on Jersey Shore, I want to scream at the top of my lungs that "Not everyone from New Jersey is like that!!" We are as varied as the day is long.

Other examples: Not all Republicans are ignorant, bigoted Bible-thumping evil spawns of Satan (I can hear you mutter under your breath...you're not getting my point, are you?). Not all Democrats are ignorant, granola-loving, unwashed, unambitious, unemployed moochers. Not all Christians are born-again Tea Partiers and not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Americans are overweight diabetics that only eat McDonald's. And one more for good measure - not everyone who is working class wants to be a part of the 99%. Strong words? Sure. I'm sure you've heard - maybe even said - worse. I don't mean to offend. But it's time that people (here and abroad) stop pigeonholing folks because they have only part - or a gross misinterpretation - of the story.

I don't let these people speak for me - or define me - and neither should America.