Monday, May 01, 2006

The Search for Ugly America

We’re fat. We’re loud. And we’re proud to be American. Screw the rest of the world! That’s what I say.

Think about Bram Stroker’s Dracula for a moment. Was it one of the tea drinking British twits that took out Dracula, the blood sucking Romanian, in the end? Heck NO! It was red-white-and-blue-bleeding, straight-talking, bowie-knife-toting, Yankee Quincy Morris.

I keep hearing this stuff about Ugly Americans and I don’t like it. Sure I agree that we are kind of fat and greasy, but Ugly?

Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA), a non-profit organization, is launching a program this month to teach Americans to be less Ugly. In their publication, The World Citizen’s Guide, they lay out how this can be accomplished: speak lower and softer, don’t use any slang, listen as much as you talk, and dress up.

Apparently, no matter how fast or loud we talk to foreigners they won’t be able to understand us. Who knew? And if we are wearing flip-flops and a tank top there is no way they will be able to understand us because they won’t be able to stop staring at the tufts of hair on our shoulders and back.

I am just as guilty as the rest of us. I try to be nice and polite. I don’t wear tank tops, but I have been known to talk with a strange accented, fast-paced, loud staccato when trying to get my point across to non-native English speakers. Usually this doesn’t annoy people, but it makes them laugh. It makes me laugh.

Does that make me Ugly? No, but my long straight nose does.

I do understand what the BDA is trying to accomplish. I had a friend traveling in South America on business and his co-worker was an Ugly American. They were at a market and the merchant told him how much money he owed in the local currency and my friend’s co-worker said something like: “How much is that in REAL MONEY? IN DOLLARS?

As a nation we are culturally-isolated – we border as many oceans as we do countries. Unlike Europe, where a three hour drive may take you through three countries, here in the US a three-hour drive may take you from Ohio to exotic Indiana - maybe. We aren’t used to dealing with people who don’t sound like us, who don’t use our currency, and who don’t know all of the words to “Take me out to the Ballgame.”

So we are a bit Ugly. But the French are a bit rude, the English a bit prissy, the Aussies are drunks, the Germans are perverts, the Israelis conceited, etc. etc. As humans we can’t help but label nationalities with certain qualities even if they are wrong. This sort of prejudice is not pretty, but it exists.

I’ve had foreigners tell me that I am pretty nice for an American. Of course I am. I was raised in a small town in the Mid-west by loving parents who instilled in me a strong sense of values. The Americans that these foreigners met must have been from the East or West Coast.

People on the East coast are loud and annoying; Westcoasters are a bunch of pot-smoking hippies. That’s where the Ugly Americans are. In the Mid-west and the South we’re pretty. Well maybe not people from Kentucky and Arkansas. But people from Ohio. Except for people from Cleveland or Akron – they’re strange. But people from my part of Ohio we’re great, real winners, with genuine likeability. Well, not always people on Elm Street seem to be bunch of jerks…

Regardless, of our inherent lack of beauty, if it wasn’t for the brashness and boldness that our great nation engrained in Quincey Morris the world be overrun with vampires. We’d all be minions of Dracula.

Think about that!

1 comment:

Kyle "The Vampire Slayer" said...

I thought about it. Sounds cool. You, Me, Sammy and a s**t-load of No.2 pencils.