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Here's the deal: I'm going to discuss something that's been mildly bugging me for a while now. I will undoubtedly step on some toes, be declared an ungrateful member of Generation X, cause an international incident... alright, perhaps that's a bit exaggerated. The point is, I'm going to voice my opinions and if you want to swallow them or not is your business. This is filled with vast generalizations, rampant opinions, and a joke or two to lighten the mood.

The (mis)education of Greenbeans

I love studying about other cultures. While I don't think I could make a living doing it, it is something that at least keeps me interested during school. Anyone who looked over my college transcripts would quickly notice a pattern of history and humanities classes being taken. Both of these subjects lead to understanding better where people are coming from. One of the neatest learning experiences I had in college was when a history class and a humanities class I was taking were covering the same period of time at the same time. My eyes were widened at getting to see the cultural and historical periods side by side.

Thinking back to high school, there was a disappointing amount of classes on these topics offered. In fact, the only thing you could take were the requirements for your grade. Those requirements went along the lines of a half-year of US history, US government, and world history (which was really an over glorified geography class. Why else would we be coloring maps?) When you get right down to it, I didn't have my first true world history class until college.

The greatest stride my high school made in international study was quite inadvertent; being one of the first schools in the state of Oregon to have internet access. Of course, at that time, the internet was brand spanking new and very big news. I have fond memories of it being a lot less crowded, but that's neither here nor there. The point was, a door was opened for me for further exploration.

The door to opportunity or invasion?

'Let the information flow freely!' and thus it was writ. 'The masses of the world conveyed their thoughts to those of other nations, for let no barrier stand between them and understanding'.

Okay, the understanding point may be pressing it. If anything can be credited to the internet, it's ability to link those of other nations together should get top honors on the list. Honestly, before the net, I knew one Canadian, and that was it. Now I know more then I can count. But not just Canada, I've had the opportunity to speak with people from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, England, Austria, Germany, Russia, France, Spain, Finland, Japan, Australia and more! It's great!

Okay, maybe that's pressing it a bit. Now, don't get me wrong, I do love talking to people from all over, but the stigma of being an "arrogant American" is wearing thin on me. People can't hold my place of birth against me, can they?

Sorry, I ran over your culture

I've spent some time thinking about why there is this stigma, and what can be done about it. Let me throw out a few ideas for why there is one:

  • US products are everywhere: Whenever I'm watching the international news and see a person wearing a shirt for the Chicago Bulls or whatnot it boggles me.
  • People from North and South America tend to forget that not everyone is within 2 or 3 time zones of them: Everyone is guilty of this one at one time or another.
  • People from other countries tend to know more about the US then US citizens do about other countries: I have a couple thoughts on this one that I'll discuss.
  • US citizens do believe that they are better: Every barrel has a few bad apples.

US products are everywhere. The joys of mass marketing. Mc Donald's would have a restaurant on every corner if they could. So how is this Joe Average Citizen's fault? Well, it isn't, and it shouldn't be held against them. If a person doesn't like having a US company/product/whatever in their country, I'd suggest boycotting it and writing lawmakers asking them to put higher tariffs on products and/or stricter regulations.

People from North and South America tend to forget that not everyone is within 2 or 3 time zones of them. I've been accused of thinking that the world went around the US/Canada because I forgot about times zones. Setting aside my plans for proving Galileo wrong, it was an oversight on my part.

The two things I think should be kept in mind before flying off the handle. First, if a person from Europe is in a chat room full of people from North America, ignorance should be expected. Most won't go to the bother to ask you what time it is where you are, and some people get grumpy if you request their system time. Second, while I have no hard numbers to back this up, I do think it is a reasonable assumption to make that the larger percentage of internet users are from North and South America (going by time zone). When a person is used to encountering people from their own region of the world day after day with few exceptions, inserting foot A into mouth B becomes much more likely.

Before I'm flamed, let me point out that I'm making vast generalizations here. If I was to go onto the Austnet (Australia), then I would most likely be the odd man out and they would all be wondering why I was going to bed at such an early time. Unfortunately, the world is, indeed, round and does have time zones; work around them.

People from other countries tend to know more about the US then US citizens do about other countries. I have two thoughts on this. The first is that, as I demonstrated earlier, the education level that is offered is somewhat lacking when it comes to international studies. From what I have heard from friends in other countries, this is not the norm around the world. A friend in Australia was once complaining to me about how she had to take a class on US government. All I can answer this with is, complain to your school board if they're subjecting you to information on the US that you don't want. We can't decide other countries scholastic material (I'd even question why one would ever want us too..).

US citizens do believe that they are better. I will state it right now that this frustrates me as much as it does people from other countries. I could ramble off a long list of reasons why people could think that they are superior, but it really doesn't matter. My two cents is that looking down upon another person/culture/country is arrogant and wrong. Period. No exceptions or excuses. Saying 'We're better because we have a great military,' means very little to me. Whoopy if they have a great military, but what if that country places a greater value on education? Who's superior then? Such putting down of others is a childish way to build oneself up.

Proud to be an American United States citizen

In high school, I took three years of Spanish. Our teacher would often tell us stories of her time spent in Mexico and cultural things we should know/find interesting. She tells a story of when she was on a cab ride. The driver asked her where she was from? She answered, 'I'm an American'. The driver scowled then pointed out that he was an American also. So are the people from Canada, and all of South America. That story really hit home with me. I refrain from calling myself an American, since it's a broad term and presumptuous to lay claim to something that two continents have a right to.

I can say honestly that I don't mean to add to the 'American stigma'. But perhaps I do. I mean, I write fanfics that take place in the US and have them distributed on the internet. If this is out of line, someone should track me down and beat me senseless with pickles or something. I try to learn what I can about other countries, though there is always more to learn. In my mind, it's a cultural exchange in which I'm behind everyone!

I'm not saying that the US is totally lacking either. If anything, at least the area I live in is rich with international restaurants ^_^ (My stomach leads the way to learning once again ;)

So, if I say or do something that seems ignorant, I ask that people be patient with me. Just remember that ignorance is only that when the person refuses to learn, and that's certainly not the case with me.