MADRID, Spain – Americans drink too much, the women are easy, they are irrational, they are trashing the world and what’s worse, among all of these faults, they are still arrogant.
They actually think they rule the world. They forget they share it with hundreds of other countries and billions of other people.
Well, at least, that’s what the rest of the world thinks of us. As my stay in Spain continues and I talk to more and more students from around the world, I almost become embarrassed to admit my home country. When I do, they smile a little, nod their head, and say “oh” in a knowing way.
They’re nice to me, and we laugh and have a good time – until sooner or later the topic of Bush politics or the environment comes up, and then it’s a no holds barred attack on America.
They have a hard time understanding why America has appointed itself as the babysitter of the world and time after time tries to solve conflicts that it has nothing to do with.
“That’s just so rude,” my friend Birte from Germany told me.
Many don’t understand why we’re not fighting harder for the environment. In Europe, the cost of gas is so high (about $4 a gallon). Europeans are also paying the cost of the environmental damage their car has on the world.
As a result, Europeans depend highly on alternative forms of transportation and the cars they do have are much smaller and more efficient with gasoline.
“Why do (Americans) get to drive everywhere in their huge vehicles, screwing up the world for everyone, and then not even try to pay for it? Aren’t they the richest country?” my friend Lyn from Sweden asked me.
These complaints are just the tip of the iceberg. When you start asking them if Europe should into what seems an immanent war with Iraq, they really get heated.
Even Spain, a country that has it’s own problems with terrorism (four people have died from ETA bombings in the last week) is passive about helping the United States.
“We’ve got our own problems, why should we worry about yours?” my friend Leo from Madrid told me.
Coming into Europe, I knew that America wasn’t winning a popularity contest with the rest of the world. But I had no idea it was this bad. I definitely understand most of my friends’ concerns, and agreed with them on most points, but I still wanted to defend our country.
After all, even though they bash us and say how much they don’t like us, most of the movies playing at the theaters here are American. There’s a McDonald’s on every block, with lines reaching out of the door.
If we’re so bad, why do they watch our movies and eat our food? If we’re so bad, why do they wear our clothing?
Obviously I’m still torn on the subject. People should be critical of America. And Americans, instead of always thinking we know more than the rest of the world, should actually listen. We affect their world too.
But I can’t convince myself that America is the cause of all the world’s problems, as many of my European friends seem to believe. We need to change, yes, but we’re not bad.
Perhaps this is my American arrogance showing through. While my stay in Europe has helped me see my country through the view of an outsider, I’m still looking at it with red, white and blue glasses.
Maria is a senior majoring in English and Journalism. She is studying abroad this semester in Spain. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org