I'm sometimes embarrassed to say I'm American because of the perceptions of some foreigners. Is all of this animosity just based on bad American foreign policy, or is it something about Americans as people that really bothers others? What can American individuals do to improve this?

And don't say get rid of George Bush. I'm already painfully aware that this administration sucks. I've had about as much Bush-bashing as I can take. I'm already nauseous at having to listen to it from the 50,000 students at the university and hearing John Kerry sling mud on the radio.
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I can't answer your question because I do not share these perceptions of which you speak. But I have a counter-question, which may be related.

What exactly is "the American dream"?

In what way is "the American dream" different from "the human dream"? Is it a dream shared only by Americans. If so, that would be highly remarkable in itself. Is it shared by all Americans? Or even a majority of Americans? If it's shared by non-Americans, why isn't it called "the human dream"? And how close are Americans (or humans) to realizing that dream?

I've been curious about this one for a while.
I think the term "American dream" is extendable to all of humanity. In principle, it means the freedom and the opportunity to pull yourself up into achievement and out of the throng according to your ability and work ethic without interference from feudal or authoritarian regulation. Historically, the United States was one of the few places in the world where this was possible in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Whether it was readily achievable is another story. Often, industrial and commercial tyrrany took the place of governmental tyrrany.

The labelling of the "dream" as American is, I think, just a result of the wild popularity for the concept which IS the human dream at a particular historical time in US history.
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Then I may have part of an answer for you.

Chameleon, I admire your courage in asking this question. I think that perhaps people may be afraid of replying to your query lest they offend you, or lest they themselves become labeled as nationalistic. So I'll take the risk. I think you already know that I mean none of this personally, that it is not an attack, and that my answer is in the spirit of your original query. With that in mind, here goes...

I have observed a tendency for a statistically significant number of people (who I assume without proof to be American) to use the word "American" as if it meant "human" or "person", and to use the word "Americans" as if it meant "humans" or "people". Superman's claim to be fighting for "truth, justice and the American way" is a classic example of this. From the outside, it appears as though the existence of the rest of the Earth is not acknowledged as being sufficiently important to mention.

I remember watching an interview with some guy about Star Trek. He mentioned that Star Trek was an immensely popular program, and that is was watched, and I quote, "all over America". Then, as an afterthought, he added "...and the rest of the world too". It is as though the concept of there being intelligent life outside America is a difficult one to grasp.

Another off-putter is the strange notion that many people seem to have that American national politics is even remotely interesting to the rest of the world. The appearance of American political threads on the World Wide Web can often drive away many a non-American. The phrase "the government" is frequently used throughout fora with the implicit assumption that everyone will understand it to mean "the American government". American laws are frequently cited as if they applied in all jurisdictions.

Finally, the casual use with which Americans (including yourself, funnily enough) deploy the word "foreigner" in everyday conversations does raise eyebrows elsewhere. The word is rarely heard in British English. It is widely felt to be devisive, and is perceived as somewhat insulting.

Does any of that help?


PS. Just in case anyone should assume (incorrectly) that I'm in some way anti-American, I'm not. I would prefer to see Earth become a world without borders or nations at all.
Hi Chamaleon and all.

The existence of a negative view about USA by non-USA people is just part of one of the tendencies of humans, to criticize/defame something, prefereably something we don't belong to, but as USA has so deep effect on the rest of countries, the effect of the criticism is bigger, it has been extended and in some places it seems that to talk bad about USA is "cool" .

A thing, why it is so common to refer USA as America? America has a lot of countries, Canada is America, and Panama, and Argentina, and Chile and.....see the planisphere!

I join Rommie's dream, no borders in the Earth, yes all cultures and yes to learn from each other and, .. oh, I am diverting from the thread, ok ok.
Thanks so much for your posts ladies!

Re: Superman - I believe that as the younger generations of Americans mature, this kind of useage is dying out. The word "nationalist" is a dirty word to most people my age and younger (~25). I am proud of my country, but I also hold it accountable for poor policy.

Re: politics - I think a lot of this kind of misunderstanding on the part of Americans has to do with confusion over the popularity of all things US. The proliferation of American idioms and speech (for better or, like, totally worse) is ubiquitous. Brittney Spears is playing on the radio in Kabul. For some, the logical conclusion is that other unrelated American culture is also of interest to the world. Let me tell you, not even many Americans can watch CSPAN-3 for more than 5 minutes without going into a coma (CSPAN-3 is a TV channel that usually has only live coverage of Senate and House proceedings).

But let's stop to consider this further. Sure, the world isn't interested in American energy deregulation policy. I'm not either. But a great deal of discussion about American politics in international forums is sparked by inflammatory commentary from non-Americans. If two Americans want to duke it out over Bush's tax cuts, let them have at it. Unless the forum is specifically for international discussions, it's up to them how they wear out their keyboards. However, it is frustrating for an American who wants not to be misrepresented when his or her country is criticized by someone who does not understand internal American politics.

But, in the same right, non-Americans shouldn't be expected to have a special interest in American politics and goings-on either (unless it behooves their argument to be well informed), nor should Americans expect this, so fundamentally I agree with you.

Re: foreigner - I was a little surprised at this one. I guess you are right about it though. I do tend to use the word a lot. Maybe the connotation is a little different this side of the Atlantic, but I've never had anyone tell me my use of the world was excessive or offensive. I'll try to keep that in mind in the future. As a country composed almost entirely of non-native blood, I hope it's clear that America has no great aversion to "foreigners". Just as an aside, you've probably noticed I have an (unhealthy? Emotion: smile ) interest in Japan. The Japanese word for foreigner, "gaijin" or (more politically correct) "gaikokujin" is employed with reckless abandon in Japan, but usually without antagonism. I've never been offended by it although I fit the bill. Maybe this is the same effect as being sworn at in a language that is not your first?

Last, a personal comment. I am agonized and depressed to no end that the only "culture" that America has been successful in exporting is the garbage of American pop music, awful Hollywood movies, and overpriced clothing brands. It breaks my heart to hear Ameri-trash playing on the radio in other countries whose culture is so rich. Is this it? Is there nothing else America can offer the world in the way of culture? Or are our only offerings varying bland shades of cultural graffiti? Even more disheartening is how the important goings-on of America take a back seat to this fluff. Our garbage is exported and devoured while it's still steaming, but start a serious discussion about how electing a Democratic Party president might affect American foreign policy and you can't get someone to pay attention for five minutes. And that's if you're lucky. Sometimes you just get a ranting diatribe about how Americans are the scourge of the earth from someone wearing a Tommy Hilfiger jacket. "Oh yeah, and Bush sucks!" How depressing...
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Okay, now a quick reply to Elena's post. Emotion: smile

Yes, a world without borders would be great. But I fear a world government. Who would check and balance this awesome, uncontested power? We haven't hit on a perfect system of government yet by a long shot. I'd be afraid to put everyone under one roof if there was a chance it could collapse and crush us. And there are still too many people around who hate each other for no good reason. As it stands now, the world is absolutely not ready for world consolidation. Much of the world doesn't even have clean drinking water, let alone electricity, libraries, self governace, etc.

It is a beautiful dream to have and I share it, but with caution. We might not get another chance at it if we screw up the first time.
Re "foreigner". Don't get me wrong. It's not actually "offensive" - just a little strange. In Britain, for example, it would be normal to refer to the French as "the French", to the Japanese as "the Japanese", to rain-forest indians as "rain forest indians", and so on. But there are almost no circumstances in which it becomes necessary to employ a word whose meaning is "All people except the English". What would be the point of such a pidgeonhole? I mean, it's not like "all people except the English" have any particular trait in common which is not shared by the English. So the word "foreigner" tends not to be used, except of course by racists, when it is often preceded by an adjective like "filthy" or "bloody".

The word "foreign" is used as an adjective much more frequently. "Foreign body" is a medical term. "Foreign policy" is a political term.

But I don't feel comfortable being placed into this category "All people except the Americans". It seems a pointless category. I don't know why it exists.

That's very interesting. I will keep it in mind when I'm tempted to use the word too often.
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