I am American. I cannot say, with certainty, that I am proud to be American or that I love my country, but still I am American. Contrary to some belief, I do not hate it nor do I wish undue harm to the USA or its people. However, I do not wish undue harm to any country or its people so that notion is not saved solely for the country of my birth. I suppose that, in many ways, I am complacent and a bit indifferent to the country of which I am a citizen. Better than some alternatives, no?
There are some (very vocal) people who have a much more negative view of the USA. These people are both citizens who live within (and outside of) its borders are well as those who are foreign. Some of those who choose to voice their complaints have never even set foot on American soil. To me, this seems like a rash judgment. How can anyone know the inner workings of a country, a people or a government without experiencing it? But, that is not my point.
A lot of those who have a bone to pick with America feel as such because the “system” has somehow done them wrong. I cannot deny this. The “system” is not perfect; none ever is. I doubt anyone could ever be truly happy and satisfied with the system, despite his or her country of citizenship. There’s just no way to please anyway and by allowing freedom of speech, as our constitution does, allows for those who are unhappy to freely voice their discontent – a privilege which they might not have anywhere else. So while I may not be entirely happy with my country, I realize I probably have it much better than others and I’d probably come running back in a heartbeat if I had to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”
On the other hand, there are a lot of people who are just as outspoken when it comes to their love of and allegiance the USA. Indeed, both groups have their extremists and ignoramuses who would bring shame to the moderates of each group, respectively. These tend to be the most outspoken and, regardless of their stance, do a fair job of making the USA look bad.
Americans have always been loud (and disrespectful). Hell, the very foundation on the country was in part due/related to this specific “character trait.” Unhappy in/with England, we made a big stink out of it and eventually wound up at war with them. In fact, our civil war was just both sides of America being loud about their beliefs to the other and one might consider it “unique” in that it wasn’t over religion, like many civil wars often are. But that, again is not my topic.
Loud Americans, who are often loud in disrespectful ways, do not save this noise for only other Americans or keep it in check outside of American borders. No, Americans display this attitude to everyone, everywhere in spite of or perhaps even because of the reactions and ramifications this behaviour might receive.
Unfortunately, the view of Americans and the USA that many nations and people hold is only due to how we represent ourselves as a nation and a people and, even more unfortunately, I often see this behaviour in my fellow Americans living abroad.
I am not the most respectful person and I often make mistakes of etiquette simply by accident, because I do not think enough before I act or speak. And, sometimes I do or say things regardless of what others will think because I simply don’t care but I’ve tried to curb that mindset while in Japan. We are in someone else’s country and we have no right to be here. We are guests and it is still their land, their laws, their way.
Just because we are from “American the great, America the beautiful” doesn’t give us the right to abuse the generosity the Japanese (and countless other countries) have shown us by allowing us to have military stations here. Furthermore, we are here for their protection as much as we are here for ours. Because of restrictions we have placed on their military and arms, no matter how justified they may be, Japan (and other countries – can you say Germany?) is left defenseless against close enemies such as China which is coming into its own technologically and North Korea which is a potential threat to numerous people and nations. Recently, the political powers of Japan have expressed the desire for better self defense against these and other potential threats. Additionally, these potential threats toward Japan are only increased by American occupancy. Where Japan might not be a target or priority, attention is more focused on it because we are here.
Let us not forget that one of the most compelling reasons for the Japanese-American alliance and relations is because we owe it to them because of our previous actions. IE the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII, an act which many, including myself, find reprehensible and look upon gravely. No matter how we might have justified it at the time, I do not condone it and view it as a great mistake, a tragic mistake which ended many and ruined countless more Japanese (and may I say – indirectly – American) lives.
Just the other day, I was riding the shuttle bus home after work. Along with myself, was a group – 6 or so – of high schoolers. Now, it’s only been 3 years since I’ve graduated and I know that teenagers are among the loudest, the rudest and the most ignorant bunch of Americans there are. I know because I was one and remnants of that are still visible in my personality. However, the behaviour this particular group exhibited was beyond was is acceptable and has crossed the line into what I would consider punishable.
It started as a complaint (a very loud one, might I add, as I had my mp3 player on the entire and still could not drown them out) amongst themselves about how a bus driver had once kicked them off for dancing. Kicked off for danger which could potentially put yourself and others in bodily harm should the bus need to stop suddenly or, even worse, be involved in an accident? For behaviour that, even though your own, the driver would probably be held responsible by your ignorant American parents? GASP! NO WAY! But, as Sav says, all teenagers have a feud with bus drivers. That’s just the way of things.
But it didn’t stop there, sadly. One kid went on to explain how the others should stop fighting because whenever they did, the driver would look bad (logical, to me). The others said who cares, which led one to exclaim that they shouldn’t talk about the driver behind his back. Of course, someone replied that he probably didn’t even speak English (which, I believe he does) and went on to mimic him in poor English with a “faux oriental” accent.
To add insult to injury, the kids then labeled all the Japanese drivers (and perhaps all Japanese people) as “fucked in the head” and possibly as a result of the bombing of Hiroshima. It ensued to the point of one kid saying something along the lines of “Remember Hiroshima? Boom! You fucking retard. That’s why you’re fucked in the head.” If I were the driver, I think I’d not only kick the kids off but try to get them banned from the bus, at that point. When I say shuttle bus, it’s actually a large 15 person van but small enough that this conversation could easily be overheard by anyone.
I was close to turning around and screaming at this group, if not something worse. Didn’t they realize how ignorant they sounded? Didn’t they realize that this behaviour was the exact reason that foreigners look down upon Americans and think that we are stupid?! Fortunately, I did not yell. I did not throw anything and I most certainly did not bash in any skulls. But I wanted to. Luckily, I realize that my behaviour would not have been any better than their own and while I may not always show it, I am better than that.
Unfortunately, their behaviour is probably spawned by behaviour they see in their own parents and other adults who are equally as disrespectful and ignorant, if not worse, when it comes to Japan and Japanese people. I am so sick of anti-Japanese sentiment. Who are we to massacre these people, build a military base (one of several actually) in their country, to impose restrictions on their military, to use their restrictions and expect their compliance – all while badmouthing them and spreading racism and ignorance? Who are we to expect that our place here should go undisputed? Who the hell are we to expect safety in any country that is not our own? Who are we?
That’s right, we’re American. And all that is dishonourable about us, is only magnified amidst the militarism and patriotism which is so prevalent here. Maybe I shouldn’t talk because, as everyone so eloquently puts it, I knew what I was marrying into or maybe I really am one of the few who sees that we ought to be behaving better and be better representatives of our country when we’re abroad. It wouldn’t hurt if we did the same at home, actually, but I don’t want to be too optimistic.