This is not a political blog. I have no desire to rant and rattle on about my political views and why you should or should not vote for this one, that one, or the third one who really shouldn't even be running because he's just mucking up the chances of the second one. There are plenty of blogs exactly like that, though, so if that's the horse you want to ride, well, do a search and saddle up, cowboy.

This is not a blog about the short-comings of the American education system or the stupidity of the next ( or any) generation. If you think the school system failed you and you can still read this, then congratulations,Kilroy! You managed to rise above it. Kudos to you.

This is absolutely not an anti-American blog. I may have named it "Stupid America", but as corny as it sounds, I really do love this country. I will, however, admit I am often embarrassed by it. I just don't understand how a country that once gave us Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Sojourner Truth and Walt Whitman could now be serving up Real Housewives, teen vampires, info-mercials, Humvee limousines and all things Kardashian. Where, exactly, did we go off-script? This blog is my journal of musings on American culture and mores as I try to find some answers.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Things First

      Americans are always so surprised when we find out that people from other countries hate us. "Why would they hate us, they don't even know us!", we exclaim, shocked and taken aback at the hurtful knowledge that there are  strangers in countries where they speak gibberish and wear funny clothes and eat smelly food, who would just as soon spit on us as say hello. And it's not just the French. There are plenty of other hairy unwashed strangers in other weird, odd smelling and dressing countries who also hate us. Go figure. Some people are so negative. Haters.
      I won't even begin to comment on how off the mark some Americans can be when it comes to their knowledge of the world at large. What is interesting to me is the way Americans speak about other Americans. There are certain regional stereotypes that won't give up the ghost.  I think The South has never completely forgiven The North for the "War of Northern Aggression". Upon hearing that I was from New York, a lovely little old lady in Tupelo, Mississippi, once told me that I " should stay on down here, give the South some time. It'll melt your cold Yankee heart!". This was said in the nicest possible way. We were sitting on a porch swing, drinking sweet tea and chatting on a sultry day in early October.  She was quite taken with me, but when she heard I was not only a Yankee, but a New Yorker to boot ( the worst of the worst!), she felt it her duty to try and save me from myself.  I can't really blame her. The South still bears the deep scars of the Civil War, and how could she be sure I had no ancestors who marched with Sherman to the sea or mowed down Confederate troops with General Meade at Gettysburg? Even I don't know that. 
      Likewise, The North never seems to entirely trust The South. Give 'em too much of a chance and they'll try to "rise again" and we'll all be wearing hoop skirts and drinking juleps.  To many northerners, especially those who have never actually been down south, the southern United States is a place full of backwoods hillbillies, women with big hair and, of course, lots of snakes and alligators. I think the movies, "Steel Magnolias" and "Deliverance" have stoked the fires of these misconceptions, but then again, there are a lot of gators in some places. And hair. Of course, there's all those palm trees and lovely beaches in Florida, but Florida somehow doesn't really count as The South. Florida is a separate entity, created  by Disney, Jimmy Buffet and real estate developers. It serves as a place for tanning,sport fishing, good clean family fun and of course, the humane storage of senior citizens. Sure, there are those pesky endangered manatees to worry about, and the whole vanishing wetlands thing, but someone will fix that eventually.
     Some East Coasters and Midwesterners think California is full of spaced-out super liberal ex-hippie vegans who are either A: trying to bring the country to ruination with their spaced-out super liberal ex-hippie vegan views, B: running Hollywood and that's why there is nothing but overpriced banal crap at our local theaters,what ever happened to good old-fashioned entertainment? or C: going to fall into the ocean when that big earthquake finally hits and that's why it would be wise to buy future beachfront property in Nevada and Arizona. The West Coasters often regard the East Coasters as dismal and money-driven.The West Coast may be money-driven, but at least they aren't dismal.  People on both coasts seem to think Midwesterners sit around eating white bread and reading their bibles when they aren't farming, watching wholesome, family-friendly TV, voting Republican and dressing conservatively.  Idaho is full of crazy survivalists. The Pacific Northwest is full of smug, eco-friendly computer millionaires and coffee loving failed grunge musicians. New Englanders hate outsiders. Midwesterners are dull. New Yorkers are rude and obnoxious and think the world revolves around them. Yeah, well. Some of it is true, some of it isn't. It's a big country. There are probably lots of people who do fit the stereotypes, but there are plenty more who don't.
     I spend a lot of time in Vermont. Some of my very best friends live there, and I am a frequent visitor. I know Vermont well enough at this point to navigate through a large part of it without the help of any maps or GPS ( which I hate, but that's a story for a different day). At this point, I feel like I am an honorary Vermonter.  So much so, that when I am driving through the Green Mountains and I see some idiot tail-gating or trying to pass someone who is already going ten miles over the speed limit,  I think,"Hah! Another asshole with Connecticut plates". On the flip-side of this coin, I have gotten yelled at, flipped off and once, a car full of teenagers in New Hampshire actually threw a sandwich at my car, because I happen to have New York State license plates. No, I'm not kidding. It was a big sandwich, too. Probably they paid good money for it at a sub shop, so it must have been a major decision to throw it at my car. How dare I shamelessly drive in New Hampshire with my New York plates?
     Vermonters and, I think, New Hampshire residents, call anyone not from their states, "flatlanders". New York City residents can frequently be heard commenting on all the "stupid tourists" who flock to the city.  Upstate New Yorkers, and New Yorkers from the western part of the state, often have a strong dislike for New York City, mainly because they feel the city takes and takes and doesn't give enough back to the State. New York City residents think of everything above the Bronx as being "upstate". I know this to be true because my own family regards Westchester County, directly above and adjacent to the Bronx, as being just as "upstate" as Malone or Ogdensburg, near the Canadian border.  Hey, if the subway can't get you there, it's upstate.  Likewise, if you don't live in New York or some other big city, you are a "bumpkin", or a "yokel", living out in "the sticks". And even within the city, people who come into Manhattan to enjoy the nightlife and culture of New York are dubbed the "bridge and tunnel crowd". Unless, of course, they hail from certain rarified neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens that are deemed hip enough to trump that moniker. Then they are dubbed, "hipsters", "artists" and "urban pioneers".  This sort of geographic factionalization on such a microcosmic level makes me wonder what residents of St.Paul might be saying about those of Minneapolis behind their backs. Twin Cities, huh? Could sibling rivalry be far behind?
      My point is, we are surprised when people from foreign lands take issue with us and dislike us without, perhaps,  really knowing us. Yet, at the same time, we are very busy actively disliking ourselves.  New York and New Jersey are like two neighbors who each think the other is a jerk. Likewise, I've heard more than one Texan speak ill of the folks from Oklahoma. On the whole, it seems America has a problem with self-loathing. Well, get over it, America. Stop hating yourself, get it together, go play some baseball-no, wait, there's that whole Boston/New York rivalry...ok, then, why not redecorate? What's that? Can't figure out whether to go for the red state or blue state color scheme? Yeah, that's a tough one. Wait, I know. Why not make fun of Canada, that's always a fun time! Those damn Canooks with their friendly people and excellent health care system and sparkling clean air! Talk about a bunch of bozos! They're just asking for it.

1 comment:

  1. What I think is most fun is if you speak to tech support folks with a southern accent they think you're an idiot. But inherently nice so they'll be friendly and try to be helpful. Works like a charm for me. Just add a "Let's see if we can Get 'R Done now" and "Wha's dat hoozimjig called again?".

    Only downside is when they look for a shipping address and it's "Neeeuuwww Yoorkk Sitty".

    They get suspicious. That and the kids in the background yelling "Mom, Dad's talking weird again."...

    Thanks for your thoughts. Stop holding back though...