Search This Blog

Thursday, February 2, 2017

World Travel and The New Ugly-American

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Mexico where the people are open, warmhearted, and welcoming to all. I went to visit a friend who has had a dream--the true American dream--since she was young, to join the Peace Corps to help others in parts of the world that don't share many of the advantages we do. (Of course, if you're paying attention, you'll also know that they have many advantages we're short on: things like empathy and a willingness to help others even if they can't get anything from that person  in return, and the willingness to share what they have, even when they have very little.) 

picture of the Plaza Principal, Mascota, Jalisco, Mexico
Mascota, Jalisco, MX
Well, at least I believe that part of the American dream is to help others achieve similar levels of success to what we've done. When I think about our country, about our standing on the world stage, I see us as helpers. Whether it's been protecting freedom and democracy from fascism during two world wars, or sharing our technology, resources, and knowledge with other countries in the aftermath of those wars, or in the aftermath of natural disasters, the United States has always stood as a beacon of freedom, exploration, discovery, and above all, sharing with those in need. 

Or maybe that image is all in my mind. That's what I got--mostly--from textbooks and history classes: this idea of a noble patriotism, based not in shallow symbolism (flag waving, sloganeering, and Bible-thumping), but in scientific and engineering accomplishments, learning, and an unending abundance of goodwill toward humanity, regardless of nationality.

But now, all that's in question, isn't it? Were we every truly that way, or have we always been the selfish, loud, and petulant little kid that tagged along, annoying the more reserved, established, and reputable older kids on the block? Have we only been tolerated because of their good manners?

Everyone's heard the reputation of US tourists as "ugly Americans." Anyone who has traveled extensively for the purpose of broadening their horizons, learning about history and new cultures, and with genuine curiosity has witnessed the reason for that nomenclature. There are certainly a good deal of loud and abrasive tourists who love to go elsewhere just to reassure themselves that everywhere else is different--and therefore worse--than home.  

Ugly Americans. For a good summary of the characteristics of
this species, check out this blog post.

In my travels around Jalisco, Mexico, I had the opportunity to speak with Mexicans and Canadians about what's going on in the US these days. Their perspectives were eye-opening and a bit discouraging to someone who loves to travel and explore other cultures, geographies, ecosystems, and societies. 

For the most part, the Mexican people have something of a cynical/fatalistic/pragmatic view of government--what happens happens and we can't do anything about it, so just go on about your life and do the best you can. Yes, they can and do vote, but it's the money in the background that makes the decisions, not the voting public. While they empathize with the US's current plight, they've also found a silver lining: Hurray! At last, they don't have the worst leader in the world! Trump is making their very unpopular president, Enrique Peña Nieto, look like a hero for the working class people. I'm sure they're all getting a good chuckle over Trump shooting his own country in the foot with his temper tantrum over a wall. (I guess he doesn't know that our flat screen televisions, refrigerators, avocados, and a great deal of other foods we enjoy come from there, and their prices are all going to skyrocket if he gets his way.)

I think the funny-scariest part of their response is that they're calling what they're observing north of the border the "Mexicanization of the USA." With their vantage of hindsight--they've "been here, done this"--they know we're following in their footsteps.

Give that some thought! 

Solar lighting to "evitan el calentamiento global" (global warming).
Maybe the Mexicanization of the US would be an improvement, given their embrace and application of
scientific evidence and factual information is so much more advanced than ours?

Perhaps even more telling about our position on the world stage these days was the reception from Canadians when I was in Puerto Vallarta. They're usually pretty gregarious, but weren't. They'd politely say hello and talk generally about where they were from and for how long they'd be visiting Mexico, then turn away to diligently study their novel, phone, or start an intense conversation with someone else.

I wondered if I needed to shower or something, but passed the sniff-test. 

So, I sat in my lounge chair and listened in as they joked about how US citizens don't realize that they (Canadians) and the Mexicans are also Americans, how there's a whole other American continent to the south of us, and how we aren't A-mericans, but 'Muricans. Then I knew it was safe to initiate a conversation.

What they told me is that they'd been avoiding talking with any US Americans lest they be one of those "crazy, angry Trumpers." They are actually afraid, not just to talk with them, but physically afraid of them! They've seen the news, heard the stories, and heard Trump himself--as well as his supporters--bully, berate, and brag about using physical violence with anyone who doesn't wholeheartedly agree with them. Of course they're afraid. (Aren't we all?)

Image from Storify. Click to see 82 of the best Donald Trump cartoons on Twitter.

Yep...that's the reputation we now have around the world thanks to Trump and his ilk. The Ugly American stereotype has gone from a pleasant joke to a fear-filled and possibly legitimate concern. How long before other countries impose travel bans on us to prevent violent 'Muricans from entering their countries? "But the stereotype isn't true of all US Americans," you say. That doesn't matter to our government implementing bans on others, why should it matter to others when banning us? Don't forget--we're leading the charge to have a "facts-be damned" world.

These folks were from BC and Saskatchewan. There were others from Quebec. They all had questions about how the American people could be so stupid, so duped by a man who is--clearly to the rest of the world watching--a con-artist. I wish I had answers, but I could only share in their confusion.

The Mexicans are, as always, open, gracious, and happy to accept expats. There are many thriving expat communities all around Mexico, including in Puerto Vallarta. Nice to know that's an option, should we become refugees from an increasingly fascist and hostile government. 

Yerbabuena: a possible refuge in the mountains of Jalisco, Mexico.
Or Puerto Vallarta, if you prefer the coast.
The Canadians, too, said their communities are making plans and discussing how best to deal with the anticipated rise in medical visitors once the ACA is gone, and with an expected influx of American refugees as the racist, misogynistic attacks, abuse of academics, scientists, and other non-white, non-ultra-right increase. 

Or maybe Canada is more your thing? (image from @KalenaKalena on Twitter)
It's disheartening to know that now the default impression that people from other countries have of us is that we're all like the petty, vindictive little boy in the White House right now. It's also encouraging to know they're supportive and willing to help of those of us who aren't. 

Yep. This is what the morons who voted for the #LiarInChief (aka #BullyInChief) wanted. They got it, but sadly, so did the rest of us. 

We are now all labeled the new Ugly Americans. It will be assumed we are all ignorant troglodytes who'd as soon shoot a foreigner (or compatriot) as hear facts or have an intelligent discussion. People's first reaction, worldwide when they see someone clad in a baseball cap and running shoes (the uniform of the ugly American) will be to cross to the other side of the street, pull their children in closer, and avert their eyes. Trumpers may be dumb enough to believe him when he says, "I didn't do/say that" and "My supporters didn't do/say that"--even when it's captured live on television and shown again and again on the news and shared on social media around the world. The rest of the world isn't as easily gaslighted. They've seen what you're capable of and will protect themselves from it...from us. 

For those gullible, naive, or dumb enough (take your pick) to believe that the rest of us are upset because our candidate lost, I say a resounding NO! That's not why sane people protest and resist. 

Here's the reality of why we're upset: Because an angry, ignorant, belligerent fool now represents to the world the face of the US and of US citizens everywhere. Because his words and actions make us less safe in the world. Because he--and his supporters--don't represent my values, American values, Christian values, or decent human being values. He--and now the rest of us by association--represent the triumph of evil over good, greed over mercy, and ignorance over knowledge.

THAT is why we won't accept this. That is why we #resist

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Lynne... Yes to all of the above. The Ugly American is getting a comeback, in the most awful way possible. The weird thing is that in Europe (and here in the Europe-influenced Caribbean) that image of US citizens had always been a given -- and has now been legitimized by Cheeto Face. I think that's the part that I still can't get over: the shattering of the idea that the US was a beacon of hope and an example of justice and liberty for the entire world. That loss... it keeps breaking my heart, over and over.