Happy 4th of July from a Canadian

As I flip through the newspapers, surf the net and watch the newscasts I can’t help but contemplate on the negativity that surrounds Americans and Americanism. It has become more than a sardonic joke about this most powerful and influential of countries. Criticizing the United States has pervaded all levels of society in probably every free nation in the world. Some even claim that global security has been compromised by the antagonistic actions of those who despise and loathe Americans. In essence, the world’s ills fall at the feet of Uncle Sam.
Even Canadians, who share a cultural, social and ethnic DNA with their American neighbors stand aloof, smug with the knowledge that they are morally superior. As a Canadian, I too have been tempted by the naysayers who are quick to condemn and even quicker to disassociate. Yet, I cannot but wonder, what is it that we are all so angry about? Let me examine a few myths.
1. Americans are too nationalistic. Sure, yankee doodle dandy, baseball and a plethora of other American images saturate our existence. The red, white and blue, military displays and a fierce pride are obvious manifestations of nation-building and the creation and maintenance of an identity. But are Americans so different? This website is dedicated to ancient Greeks, as fiercely nationalistic as any ethnicity to ever exist; so much so that the Greeks of today maintain an unbreakable link to their past. And fellow Canadians, let’s not forget our collective swelling of pride during the Olympics as oceans of red and white flooded this country’s streets. And as the World Cup continues, we see the prideful gatherings of people around the world celebrating or despairing together as their teams make their way through all the rounds it takes to win this trophy. Why is it okay for others to wave their flags?
2. Americans are rude and obnoxious. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have had the pleasure of graduating from an American university and now my son is enrolled in one. Kindness, respect and consideration are the norms in these schools and probably most other ones. The American people I meet are helpful, humorous and in the service industries the epitome of customer satisfaction. Canadians are very polite people but let me assure you, we don’t have a monopoly on good manners. Sure, some Americans can appear to be quite base or simplistic but in all my contacts, it is an honesty of emotion that is not present in other countries and I’ve travelled enough to be able to make some generalizations.   3.  Americans are ignorant. No more than any other group but I have to, as a teacher, wonder about the education system. Those “educated” Americans are the equals of any, as evidenced by the ingenuity, ambition and success that puts to shame every other country in the last century. But offloading industry, a refusal to pay decent wages, the inability to rebuild the middle class in the inner cities and a concerted attack upon the principles of public education have created not only a caste system worse than India’s but have denigrated the glorious accomplishments of this nation. One day the leaders of this country will discover that the nurturing of ignorance will hurtle America into an abyss so dark that the light will never shine within.

4. Americans want to dominate the world. Obama, Bush, Clinton or any other president can hardly be compared to a Ceasar, Alexander or Attila. The “American way of life”, celebrated in song, print and screen is a testament to free will, ingrained human rights and a sense of common decency. It might be, I won’t argue, American arrogance that  seems to drive American governments to convince, cajole or impose their political philosophy onto often unaware or unwilling peoples. This need to create an inclusive world regardless of methodology colors, perhaps negatively, the idea that democracy is the most benevolent of governments.  Understandibly, resentment abounds and the American aggrandizement of its cultural domination, epitomized by various countries around the world who try to limit Americanism in their own cultures, is the bane of its worldwide reputation.

Regardless, these are but a few thoughts from a “foreigner” more interested in history than the maelstrom of anti-Americanism that so many revel in. But as you burn a flag, toss a molotov, stage a protest, mock a president or buy Chinese, keep in mind that your ability to do these things, in spite of thousands of years of history, has been made possible by the good graces, whatever the motivation, of the United States of America.

So on the 4th of July, God Bless America. The rest of us too…

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