Remember when America was the “Ugly America” and we citizens were “the Ugly Americans?”
It started during the post WW 11 boom. America was the only superpower. Our economy was exploding and our military was untouchable. American tourists visited Europe like saviors with superiority complexes. Not only did Americans not have any inclination to learn foreign languages, they looked down on Americans who did and on foreigners who didn’t speak English.
We overbought, undertipped and walked around like we owned the place. Europe had all this “old stuff,” or what was left of it after the war, while America was bright, shiny, and new. We were told we were acting like colonists, even though it was the Europeans who wrote the book on that one.
Worse still it came from the top. Not necessarily from President Eisenhower, who knew better, but from his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, he with the attitude and brother who was the CIA director. It also came from our Under Secretaries, our Assistant Secretaries, and our Ambassadors.
We, governmentally and personally, thought we were doing the Europeans a favor by dropping by. They knew they needed the foreign aid and the American dollar. But that attitude! Sacre bleu! Finally, more of balance was struck, in part forced by the Cold War, atom bombs, a race into space, and other things that portended really scary stuff. We came to realize we needed allies, not lackeys.
But to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Here we go again!” As “America First” is being acted out in policy as “America Only,” we more and more appear to be the “Ugly Americans”–again. And even uglier than before. The one irony is that so far most Europeans welcome Americans and in a way feel sorry for us because of our Mr. Run-on-Sentence and Mr. Malaprop president, and will continue to unless our foreign policy gets them invaded, economically undermined, technologically infiltrated, and/or blown up.
The metaphor for all this oddly enough is not our relationship with a European country at all, but our relationship with Canada. Canada a huge, largely empty country with whom we have the most porous and non-confrontational border in the world. Canada with whom usually our deepest strains are over baseball and hockey. Canada whose citizens fought valiantly and without complaint alongside ours. Canada, a country most Americans think of as an extension of America whose people have a funny accent.
Canada is who we are picking fights with, bickering over tariffs with, being looked at like morons by because our President thought it was Canada that invaded America, trashed the nation’s capital, and burned down the White House. To quote my favorite metaphor for life, Charlie Brown, “Good Grief!
A third of our government is out to lunch. One-third of the government thinks it is 80% of the government. And the titular leader of the free world doesn’t know much at all about American history including immigration, or maybe anything. We citizens cash our paychecks, shake our heads and go along with daily life.
I mean really. What the hell is the matter with us?
This rant, unusual for this mild-mannered reporter, is part of his weekly blog found almost every Sunday in this space at http://www.atleastfrommyperspectiveblog.wordpress.com
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