by Madeleine Kando
I am leaving for Holland soon and I am bracing myself for yet another torrent of criticism, blame, accusations against my adopted country, America. This has been going on for so long now that I have started to look at it as a fact of life. But really, where does this hatred of America come from? How did it get to be so blatant?Anti-Americanism has gotten so bad that I could compare it to anti-semitism: it is not based on anything rational, like what America DOES, it is a general dislike of things that ARE American. People don’t even know why they are anti-semitic, they just know they don’t like Jews. In the same vain, they don’t know why they are anti-American, they just don’t like America(ns).
America is seen as too big and too powerful. Even though America saved Europe from Nazi Germany, created the Marshall Plan, I suspect that it is BECAUSE Europe could be saved by another country, that breeds resentment. After all, if another country can save you, it can also destroy you.
Let’s face it, anti-Americanism has a very long history. Originally anti-Americanism consisted of fear of a culture that was too materialistic, too much out to make money, too loose and decadent. It was the conservative European reaction to the American success story, a fear that their own cultural domination would be overshadowed by this new ‘independent culture’. People here didn’t have to abide by the social structure of the European countries. They were direct, out to make money, unencumbered by social rules. The European elite was shocked and pointed out to us commoners how inferior American culture really was, with its ageing women with purple hair, their fake jewelry, America’s tasteless art and kitchy Hollywood style movies.
But what is ideal about America is that it gets the people that it deserves: the adventurers, the risk takers, the non-conformists. This guarantees a constant replenishment of it’s population, it’s ideas, it’s raison d’etre. It is the difference between a pond that is filled with stagnant water, and a freshly flowing river. So obviously the people that are the least anti-american are the immigrants that moved to the United States. They came here for a reason: to get away from somewhere else. Why go to a place that you are critical of?
My personal reasons for immigrating to the United States was a longing for change, a desire to grow. As typical immigrants are, I was young and young people want to grow and change. Above all they want to find their own voice. I felt proud of my change, my growth. And I know that back home, I was considered the risk taker, the one that took the leap that others secretly dreamed of, and some of them felt somewhat envious. Especially because in those days America was still seen as the land of opportunity.
It’s American politics they say. But it isn’t American politics they hate, it is America itself. People say ‘It is not the Jews we don’t like, it is Jewish politics’. But where would the Jews be without Jewish politics? They would be buried in the desert.
I know why Anti-Americanism has reached epidemic proportions. Now that the whole world is wearing Levy’s, eating McDonalds and listening to American music, people are angry with America’s influence. Globalization and homogination of culture does not go without protest. It breeds resentment in the cultures that are being taken over. Europeans resent the fact that American culture is becoming dominant in the world. Theirs is an irrelevant culture: if there were any hope of counter balancing the advancement of world domination by American culture it would be a ‘European’ culture. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. There is Dutch culture, French culture, Spanish culture, but there is no ‘European culture’.
I, for one, like Americans’ self-deprecating humor, their informality with strangers, their childlike curiosity, their optimism and their resistance to the accepted way of doing things.
So watch out Europe, here I come. I have packed my boxing gloves and I’ll get you to kiss the canvas in no time.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009
by Madeleine Kando