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A question about the US

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
I'd like to pose a question. It's not meant as contentious or offensive, but borne out of the huge contrasts within American society that I observe via the media.

These forums are the first time I have had anything much to do with anybody from the US, and the picture the media paints is at huge odds to the experiences I'm getting here.

Obviously the media will primarily pick up on negative issues such as racial violence, immigration problems, poverty etc.

This thread is prompted by a beautiful poem I read just now on the site, dealing with Christian Angels. I didn't want to disrupt that thread (see I'm learning), so have started a new one.

The poem, and other comments from many members makes me think that the US is a country full of God-fearing and law-respecting individuals with family values as a priority and care and consideration for those around them uppermost.

Why is there is this not represented to the world at large?

:confused2:Why is the US and it's citizens portrayed mainly as either bible-thumping mid-western zealots or mad, violence ridden urban communities?

:confused3oes this not make you all very angry?

Your country is one I'd like to visit at some point. If I overcome my fear of flying long distances, I may well do that. Having communicated with some US citizens here, I feel very reassured I'd receive a warm welcome, and not get mugged as soon as I stepped out of the airport.

Further more, I'd be REALLY interested to hear of further discrepancies between the way countries and their peoples are perceived as against what they are actually like!

All the best!
post #2 of 37
I'm going to jump right in here and answer first if nobody minds
Yola, I am an American but I spent 7 years living in Germany w/ my husband. And you are so right, there are many misconceptions about the USA, and most of them are media related. I think a lot of what they portray may be accurate in some areas, but its not a nationwide thing.
Yes, there are places where you may get mugged just walking down the street, and yes there are places where there is racial and gang violence. But you will find places like this anywhere you go, in any country. When I was in Germany, I lived very close to an area that was plagued with crime, even though the actual place I was in was great.

The USA is a wonderful country and the majority of people are good hard working people. Most of us have good morals and values. As far as religion, well this is a melting pot society. We have Christians,Jews, Muslims, Hindues, and others, and most of us respect the rights of others to believe in what they want.
This is a nation of freedom. The freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of choice. We have a democracy, we vote in our leaders, and we are law abiding citizens ( well most of us

I hope someday you do decide to visit this great nation. We are a wonderful country, great people, great places. Someday perhaps the media will portray us correctly.
post #3 of 37
I am going to answer from a Canadian perspective and as America's neighbour. When I did a tour of Europe, people looked at me as if I was about to do something weird - that is until they noticed the Canadian Flag on my bag. I always got "ah - Canadian - not American" and then they would be friendly to me. I was part of a bus tour that included Canadians and Americans and I noticed the difference in people's reaction to us - some of the American actually asked if we had extra Canadian flags for them. Now, form my observance of my group of 50 people there was no discernable difference between the people on the trip (except for an accent here or there). Everyone was polite and having a good time. I think that you have a stereotypical American tourist as portrayed in movies (the southern man in bermuda shorts socks and sandals with the loud booming voice).

My own theory may be far fetched, but here it is. I think it all goes back to WW1 and WW2. America is the biggest super power in the world. With that title comes a sense of, I want to say superiority, but that isn't quite the word. Americans have a sense of strength is who they are as a people and that can come across as superior (that of course not being what the intend). I have many American friends and I have family living there as well. I have never had a problem in visiting and was always recieved with courtesy. The media is awlays looking for a scape goat or a bogeyman and they tend to focus on the negative. You never hear of the people who make a difference in the world. Like the husband and wife in, I believe, Maine, who could not have children of their own have adopted 12 children in hard to adopt situations (cocaine babies, keeping 3 children from the same family together, physical disability). Or the man in Las Vegas who goes around every night and feeds 50 feral cats. There are always more stories of this kind, then the negative, but the media paints a certain picture.

Ok sorry for my lengthy response and I hope that I have not offended ayone in the group.
post #4 of 37
...but ourselves.

I'm very glad I'm an American (born and raised), but I'm also very ashamed a lot of the time. Yes, the good, God-fearing, law abiding people are here without question. Call me unpatriotic (I'm not, really), threaten to have me deported (you can't) but to me the bottom line is this:

Americans have fostered a greedy, arrogant, bullying, narcissistic culture quite far removed from the values and morals of our ancestors. We see no problem doling out mega-dollars to entertainment personalities (including sports figures) then shun/mock them when they (all too humanly) fail. We pay continually rising prices for the most inane things and barely give pocket change to the truly needy.

Even during this time of most recent crisis, as Americans are "Standing United", we're STILL lying, stealing, hurting and ripping each other off. Ex., "Americans" attempting to sell rubble from WTC on Ebay within hours, American teens planting mailbox bombs to make smilie face pattern on a map, and any of the participants of the "hit" TV show The Amazing Race...truly the epitome of "the ugly American" with limited exception. Just look at the plethora of "reality" shows...we'll do damn near anything for money!

Yes, the "good" Americans raised an enormous amount of money and support, but just think what would happen if we were ALL on the same page...

Well, enough ranting. Yes, the media is biased, but lets stop giving them so much garbage to report on...

post #5 of 37
I'm not trying to imply our ancestors were perfect; they weren't.
Not a one of them would have seen this coming (or so I think).

post #6 of 37
If America is so awful, why is it the #1 place for people trying to emigrate? We have the highest standard of living and anyone, who is willing to work, can make it, here. The problem is that too many people want to blame others, for their problems.

Most of the misconceptoins DO come from the media. The network news is slanted, most of the movies are crap and look at the garbage, on TV. Is it any wonder that foreigners regard us, the way they do?

When I worked in the tourist industry, in Tombstone, I had to deal with a lot of Europeans who thought we were still in the 1880s. They were amazed that we had electricity, running water, phones and cars. Little did they know that, with exception of cars, Tombstone had all of that stuff in the 1880s.

Once the get to know us, as individuals, most foreigners realize that they've been fed a load of bull$#!%.
post #7 of 37
I think we are a nation of contradictions. While I have to agree with a lot of what Bill had to say, it is also true that most of us are pretty decent people. Unfortunately, our corporations are plagued by greed (look at Enron and Worldcom, if you have any doubts), and too often our government allows business to have its way.

There are extreme people here, of course. I can even remember a KKK march here in Lancaster about 10 years ago. There is also a lot of crime in this small city, mostly drug related, as in lots of other places. Despite that, most people try to live their lives as best as they know how, without becoming criminals.

We are not perfect, and neither is the media. Somehow the news always makes me think we are on the verge of total disaster. There are so few "good news" stories. I guess the negative is more compelling to viewers/readers, or so the media thinks. Maybe someday they'll be more balanced.
post #8 of 37
Dear Yola, I will start by telling you that my father came here from Devonshire when he was 40 years old. My mother, brother, and sister were all born in Scotland. My brother and sister were about 5 and 6 years old when they came. They all returned "home" when a new baby, born in the States, died. That did not relieve their grief, so they came back to Pennsylvania. I was born about 10 years after they came to the U.S. My father had "old world" values and there was a huge generation gap, since he was 51 when I was born. We argued constantly over the U.S. vs Britain. My father was an avid reader of history, and almost everything else. He said the history books here were slanted and complained about the government. Both parents talked lovingly of "the old country."

I should have known it was only homesickness when my father, a veteran of 15 years in the British Navy, at age 61 tried to enlist in the American Navy. We were at war, and he felt it was his duty. He also wrote an article for the local newspaper concerning the disrespect for the flag (the Stars and Stripes, not the Union Jack). But I still didn't realize how he felt about our country. We continued to argue, and I once ended the argument by throwing the monarchy in his face! "At least we get to vote for our president!", Jeanie, the know-it-all, told him. Of course, our systems of government and laws are based on the British systems! Finally, he discussed these matters with a very outspoken young friend of mine. She said, "Mr. P---, if you don't like it here, why don't you go back to England?" He quietly told her, "This is my country. I have been a citizen for more years than you have been alive. This is my home, and I love my country. It has given me every freedom and opportunity I could ever want. I would die for this country! But your history books are still slanted. Now, please leave my home and don't come back!"

My father would be shocked at the difference in morality, however. But I am speaking of the world, not the United States. For many years there were two foreign film versions made, one for the U.S, the "clean" one, and the other for the rest of the world. We were considered to be prudes. I also remembered when we had to get to church early to get a seat, abortion and divorce were whispered about, and euthanasia was not even considered. We still claim to be a God fearing country, a God fearing world, and I believe man has an affinity to goodness, but something has gone terribly wrong. I believe it's a world-wide problem, however, not an American one. Am I saying things were better? Morally? yes. Everywhere? I believe so. People are people. Our values are your values. This is a wonderful country, much like your own, inspired by your own. It is unbelievably beautiful. Because of temperature differences, we have everything from Arctic climates and scenery to subtropical. Do we have problems? Yes, but we value our freedom and we love our country, and would die for her, just like my father.
post #9 of 37
Well said and written, Jeanie!

Thank you.

post #10 of 37
I like the expression from WWII to describe American servicemen: "Over paid, over sexed, and over here".

Americans are proud of their country and proud of what they have achieved - this can rub the wrong way with more reserved nations and cultures and can be viewed as arrogance. If someone makes a stand to say "look at how wonderful we are" then you can only expect criticism.

And what is the US exporting to the rest of the world? The main thing we see is TV. The guests on Jerry Springer do not really fill you with desire to want to celebrate the American way of life.

I've met many Americans whilst travelling around the world - and one thing that stands out is "insular". Americans stay together and don't mix that well with other nationalities, from my experience. I met a group of American University students in Italy recently who didn't know where Portugal was - i.e. Europe - I was with some Portugese people who were most disgusted. I've bought broadsheet newspapers whilst in NY - where is the foreign news section? I searched many papers looking for articles covering non-US issues - zilch - not even anything on Canada or Mexico, now that shocked me.

Again, I hope I haven't offended anyone.
post #11 of 37
Being on the inside looking out I can tell you that what you see in the media about America is true, yet as Ady had mentioned the media hardly ever talks about the better side of things. You won't ever see the 13 year old girl who started a sucessful fund rasier for breast cancer because her mom was diagnosed with it but you'll see the "bad" side of America and of which every country has.

My grandparents moved to America from Portugal when they were in their late twenties and early thrities. They came over here oweing money and spoke not a lick of english. At the time this town was as populated with portugese as it is today so they were the minority. My grandfather and grandmother worked hard to live here and to raise a seven year old son. They kept working honestly and consistantly and now have enough money to not work and live comfortably. If they still lived in Portugal they would not have everything they do today and even they will admit it.

I am proud to be an American and if that makes me arrogant then so be it. I am not proud because I feel America is superior to the rest of the world, I am proud because I am part of a great nation that belives living free and independently is a great way to live. I am also proud of my Portugese heritage because it is a part of me just as being an American is.

I think people tend to forget America is a melting pot so those arrogant Americans are Asian, Mexican, Indian, British, African ect. They are also your friends, your sister, your parents, your grandparents, your cousins, your fellow TCS members....
post #12 of 37
LOL-Vikki well put!
post #13 of 37
I have never in my life met the kind of trash one sees on Jerry Springer. They are no more typical of Americans than Jack the Ripper is a typical Englishman. Flimflam, I know you're too intelligent to believe that those are typical human beings!

The Ugly American--thinks of everyone else as foreigners-even in their own country. The typical description of the ugly American. Well, my little cousin from Devonshire came to visit with her family and listened to a tape of my singing, and she said,"Jeanie, you don't have an accent when you sing." That wasn't arrogance. She is used to hearing a Devonshire accent, so even here in the States, she considered me to be the one with the accent!

You know I'm British and very proud of my heritage. If I hear a Scottish or English accent I immediately start a conversation with those people. I spent my whole life until a few years ago having known only one uncle in Canada and his family. So it saddens me to think that Brittania, who ruled the waves, and upon whose flag the sun never set, would consider us to be arrogant. I was so proud of my motherland when she stood up against huge Argentina! You were the major power in the world for a long, long time! Are you not proud of the courage your boys displayed in WWII? Like the Americans, they were boys, 18 year old kids. I'm not surprised that the American boys, also 18 and older made up funny sayings to fight their fear! Do you really think they were overpaid? They got a meager pay. From what my father told me of his 15 years in the British Navy, he really did have a sweetheart in every port. I love both our countries, and I have great respect for you as a human being. If you really believe everything you hear on tv about Americans, that's really unfortunate, especially considering the number of Anglophiles in the United States.
post #14 of 37
My only 2¢ to add is that the American image sensationalized on tv by the media gets blown out of proportion overseas. My 13 year old daughter traveled to Australia last summer with a student group. During part of their trip, they were to visit an Australian school. The principal told the group leader that when he announced the American kids' visit, they were concerned and asked, "Are the American kids bringing their guns with them?" The type of incident like in Colorado shocks us too. Many people overseas seem to think it's daily fare over here.
post #15 of 37
Deb used the right word. We, as a nation, and as individuals were literally in shock--literally.
post #16 of 37
Originally posted by flimflam
I've bought broadsheet newspapers whilst in NY - where is the foreign news section? I searched many papers looking for articles covering non-US issues - zilch - not even anything on Canada or Mexico, now that shocked me.
I'm confused Most papers I read report on foreign news.
post #17 of 37
America certainly has its problems. Of course, those problems are the only things that the media reports - even in our own country. Honestly, if I was only exposed to the news I would be scared to leave the house! I will grant you, at least with some of the newspapers, we really don't pay attention to world events like we should. Generally, the world reports we hear about/read somehow involve the interest of the US. In that sense we are fairly closed to the rest of the world.

Stereotypes are bad, no matter who they are about. Americans are not all rude, violent, uneducated, and egotistical. Just like all French are not snobs, all Canadians are not lumberjacks, etc.

Most people here, like most people anywhere, have decent morals and values, try to treat others with respect and dignity, are hard working, and are proud of their heritage and nationality.
post #18 of 37
I think FlimFlam has some excellent points. I have college students who don't even know that New Mexico is a state in the USA!!!! I've even had a college student answer that England and Russia are the two countries that border the USA! We are a wonderful country and I am very proud to be a USAmerican, but I am ashamed of how insular and ethnocentric we are. My husband teaches Geology to college students, and most of them can't correctly identify even the largest of European countries and forget African or Asian countries, that's hopeless! Also, where I live there is no international news reported unless it is an earthquake or other disaster in which many people die (blood sells). If I was from another country and saw that so many USAmericans were so clueless about the rest of the world, I would probably also develop a bad attitude about the states.

Despite that...I would never trade the USA for another country. I love this country despite our faults!
post #19 of 37
It, pretty much, boils down to this: the majority of Americans, work, raise families and stay out of trouble. We live, love, laugh and worry. Most of us wouldn't live anywhere else in the world. The American system isn't perfect but, show me a better one!
post #20 of 37
I´ve been to the States several timesand have met really friendly and generous people.As soon as it gets to the officials it´s completely different. Last year I got deported despite my being disabled and in a wheelchair because INS had worked sloppily and missed 3 entries in their computer 6 years before. Although I could prove that I didn´t do anything wrong my file hasn´t been cleared yet so that I can´t apply for a visa and go to the States to visit my son.My friends in the States are very upset about this and promised to try and help me should Iever want to come and visit again Since my husband and Iwere treated very badly he´ll never go again but I want to see my son So that´s the situation Private people are wonderful but avoid the officials.
All the best Elisabeth in Bad Schwartau near Lübeck in the north ofGermany
post #21 of 37
Well unfortunately as Australians we perceive Americans to be loud, crime ridden and finatical towards religion. In the television we watch, the books we read, the movies we go to see and the news which has been edited. I dont think we know a TRUE American. I dont believe it is our fault as Australians, we merley perceive what we are shown.. The movies we watch are all crime, explosion thrillers etc, the news we are shown on TV is so religious based everyone including politicians saying "God bless America" and a general fear of going to America with the number 1 threat of being 'mugged'. What is true and what is false we have no idea here. Here in Australia, we are very laid back, there is no emphasis on religion, no one goes around saying God bless Australia, this just would never happen. I am not saying this is right or wrong just that I dont think Australians truly can judge an American fairly. All we see from Australia is movie stars, lots of 'Cop movies' and terrible violent films which seem to come out of America. I personally believe America is the capital of the world and perhaps if we here in Australia saw the true side of the average American we may not be so ignorant.

post #22 of 37
It's a shame really, the media serves no justice for anyone, no matter where you live. If I believed what I saw on tv or in the movies I'd think that all Asians know karate, the British are snobby and have dry senses of humor, the Polish are imbecilles, Mexicans run around with burritos and wearing somberos(?), Heck I'd even believe that Americans are loud, lazy and greedy if I didn't stop and take a look around.

The sad fact is that the media is a big part of our lives and unfortunatly that's not always a good thing. Often peeking at some American programing makes me sick to my stomach. I've never met anyone like the people you see on Jerry Springer or Jenny Jones but I'm sure they do exsist and I'm glad they're not the norm here. I can see from watching the reality shows why other countries would think we're greedy and obnoxious.

I've never been out of this country before so I don't know what it's like in other countries other than what I've seen on tv, the movies, books and what people have said. If I believed them all I certainly would have no desire to go anywhere but here.
post #23 of 37
Gee, Rebecca, I thought that Australians all ran around the Outback, wrestled crocodiles and said "Crikey".

Personally, I get a big laugh out of "The Crocodile Hunter". I DO think that he's crazy, though.
post #24 of 37
Americans don't seem to travel very well (like fine wines?) - I read somewhere that only 30% of the population have a passport and the majority of people who have travelled outside of the US have been with the services (army, navy, airforce etc). But then if we had the weather and the range of natural beauty like you've got then I probably wouldn't bother leaving the country. And yes, the clouds are gathering and it looks like rain here (wettest and coldest July for decades so far - grumble groan).

And yes, all British people are snobby - good job I'm Irish (drink loads, get into fights, have a craic).

Where does the "Polish are imbiciles" stereotype come from? Never heard that one before. In the UK they are almost revered, as so many of the Polish Airforce came over and flew for the RAF during WWII.

And Jerry Springer always makes me laugh - where do they get these people - I'm sure they are all actors and get paid for all their shennanigans and cursing.
post #25 of 37
I am beginning to think some people are using this thread as a excuse to put Americans on the defensive, and are thoroughly enjoying themselves. Let's not stoop to that level. There may be great differences in other cultures, but so far, we are dealing with countries with Judao-Christian ethics, and our friends from Europe are having fun at our expense. I was wrong in thinking they were interested, but confused. We were only too glad to be on the same side in WWII and will be grateful again, faced with a similar situation.
post #26 of 37
Sorry - wooden spoon back in the drawer.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa
post #27 of 37
Thread Starter 
I do know that the Polish joke in the US is the equivalent of the Irish joke in the UK - i.e., thick and stupid.

I also know that the Poles flew for the RAF and together with the British, Canadian, Free French and latterly the US pilots and succeeded in breaking the back of the Fascist stronghold in Europe.

I'm Polish by parentage, although born in London. My husband is largely Irish by parentage.

Blimey!! if popular myth was to believed what would that make our household then?

Sadly there are SO many misconceptions about nationalities we all get caught up with the popular media stereotyping.

FlimFlam - although the Polish were very respected at the start of the Battle of Britain, the British War Cabinet begun a discreditting exercise because they wanted to turn popular opinion against the Poles. Why?

Well Mr Churchill was working with Roosevelt and Stalin on a post-war settlement of territory and unfortunately Poland was to be the main bargaining tool (together with the remainder of the Eastern European states). If the Poles were held in high regard than there would be deep unrest at the thought of Poland being 'sold down the river'.

It succeeded too. For many years my parents endured racist remarks - even some parents at my primary school use to mutter 'Poles go home' under their breath to my mother (late 60s early 70s).

I'm sure FlimFlam and family have received similar treatment. Coz in the 50s, boarding houses in the UK used to have signs up in their windows saying 'No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish'

This isn't an attack on any one nation or political train of thought. But it is, sadly, a fact across the board.

Many nations, displaced persons and even bona fide nationals suffer this in pretty well every country around the world.

We're a daft bunch here on this planet not to be able to get along.

Lecture over - sorry for the rant.
post #28 of 37
Hey hey hey didn't mean anything by my post I was making a point that if we were to believe everything the media fed us then we'd be making some serious judgemental mistakes.

flimflam, I'm sorry you feel so negatively about Americans but Yola didn't start this thread to bash ANYONE. I personally thought we had a nice discussion about different views around the world, it doesn't have to turn hostile.

AND yes Jeanie I fully agree with you on that last statement. It's a shame we cannot have this discussion without it turning ugly.
post #29 of 37
Thread Starter 

Sorry I wasn't having a go. I thought opening the thread up a little to general perceptions of different nations might encourage further discussion.

I was only pointing things out from my own exeperiences. They're not designed to lash out at anyone - honest.

I know there are loads of different nationalities within the US - and most of them have arrived at their destinations at different times and for different reasons. I bet some families have some cool stories to tell.

Friends again?
post #30 of 37
Yola, check your pm's.
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