Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm Proud to be an American

Its time that I write a serious blog. While I'm still having a very good time here in Italy I have recently had a bad experience here. I am American and I am very proud to be an American. but i would be lying if I told you that me being American has not affected my exchange this year. While in a perfect world me being American would not have any affect at all on my exchange but unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where it has become popular or "fashionable" to hate/bash Americans and America.

I have found out that being in Italy has made me alot more proud to be an American and alot more ready to defend my country. I have now lived outside of the United States and I realize that we have so many good things that the bad things seem like nothing. That we actually do have alot more then other countries do. that we have alot more opportunities then alot of people in the world. I've realized that I love my country and I really am proud to be an American and that i was really lucky to be born here. before i came to Italy and saw that what people said about how lucky we were i never really believed it was like that but now i see how much i am proud of the United States of America and I'm proud to be an American. But I have also found out that people don't always like the USA/Americans. that they don't think that we should be proud of our country because of how our government is right now. But what would they like Americans to do? live in continual shame and apology for Bush's Actions in Iraq? Be embarrassed and humiliated when ever someone asks us where we are from? is that what everyone wants? and if we were to start doing that then "those Americans have no pride in their country how can they even call themselves Americans?" I am proud of my country! I may not like what is going on with the war right now but i am proud of my country and what it was founded on. I'm proud that all of the founding fathers respected man and acknowledged that we are capable of and have the right to look after ourselves and are not the children of a governmental machine. That our government helps us increase our dignity not take it away from us. I'M proud that my country started on these morals and that they still exist today. I would rather have people disgusted that I was proud to be an American then being ashamed every day of being American because i am NOT ashamed of being American. I guess its time that I tell you why I decided to write this blog.

About 2 days ago I was in school and me and one of my "friends" were talking and she started about how the USA is so horrible for being on Israels side in the war in Gaza and she was saying how we were so wrong to be for them and all of this stuff. I was so surprised because before she was always really nice to me and never had a problem with me being American. then she started saying that we have never done anything good in all of our existence at which this point i was really mad. I told her that i would like to see how the world would be without all of the Americans and America and without all of the things that we have done for the world and have contributed to the world. after this she goes on to tell me that she would rather live in a world where America didn't exist and neither did the Americans. that she believes the world would be better off without us. At this point I asked her "who would you rather be your WORLD leader? Hitler or Stalin? do you want to be in communist Russia or in Hitlers Germany? because without the USA there is a good chance that one of them would have done ALOT more damage to the world then they did do in there respective times" she didn't respond to me about this but she went on to say that we were horrible people. that we were hungry for war all the time. who thinks its ok to just go to war with other countries because we want to. that we only want to kill people that we think we are the worlds police force. but we have no right to be and the people shouldn't even be proud to be Americans that we should be ashamed of our country and our government. Well after this happened i was obviously very hurt. These are MY people MY country and MY home that she was insulting. I have thought alot about why people think this and give Americans such a hard time . these are the reasons that i have come up with along with alot of other exchange students/ volunteers from around the world.

We should get the first and most obvious reason out of the way first. Bush and the Iraq war. NO one better then Americans know how unpopular Bush was and how some of his actions were very unpopular. yes we know that. Yes we are a government of the people, for the people and by the people so that makes some people think that when they think of Americans they only think "Bush, i hate Bush so i hate all Americans!" that's not right. not all Americans voted for Bush, not all Americans like Bush, and not all Americans agree with his actions! A quote from Pedro Rodrigues (a host dad in Portugal) " A second line of defense of anti-Americanism comes from "the actions of Bush and America..." Well it may not look that way, but before I have heard this one I heard the ones about Clinton, Bush Sr. or going back in time Reagan... and I am sure that the same people who are now hailing Mr. Obama, will soon be justifying there anti-Americanism on the "actions of Mr. Obama". " I completely agree with him. Bush was just something to justify there actions. Then there is the fact of the Iraq war. and about that i have another quote from Pedro Rodrigues "Yes the Iraq war was a mistake.. but life is full of mistakes and one mistake does not justify tons of others... I am always appalled as to what people want to believe... I still get shocked at the supposedly intelligent people who believe some of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories, who blame 9/11 on "American arrogance" (and I suppose it was also probably the fault of the English, German, French, Italian and Portuguese,... victims at the world trade center)" So while yes I do believe that in the last 8 years the USA has made some bad choices and has made some mistakes in its policies i do not believe that these mistakes justify all of the world hating us and bashing us because one mistake does not justify others.

There is no denying the power that the United States has in the worlds politics/business/money and in almost every aspect of the world together. we do have alot of power in this world. we are one of the first countries in need turn to when they need help and we are one of the first countries to help when a country really needs it. but because of all of this power has come alot of eyes watching our every move. in every country in the world if you watch the news you will more then likely hear something about the USA. We have countries all over the world watching our every move, our every decision but all of these eyes that are watching us seem to be blind when ever we do something good. or just chalk it up to "well they just did what they had to do. what anyone would have done" but when heaven forbid we do something that is unpopular, make a decision that is not good for everyone involved, or our country does something that is bad for someone else all of these little eyes are all wide open. They do not seem to register the things that we do do that are good. And what's even worse then that they seem to forget all the good that we have done in the past. We have done alot for the world in the past (and even now). They forget that their history (not every country but a fair few) would be alot different for the worse if the USA had not existed. They only think about the bad stuff that they are hearing about now and forget that even just as much as a generation before they were relying on us to keep them safe. Pedro Rodrigues " Unfortunately we Europeans owe America and the Americans a great deal. they have fought and spilled their blood for us, against Nazi oppression, Soviet oppression and now Muslim fundamentalism, because we ourselves were (and are) too weak, too lazy or too cozy to do it ourselves... many felt more comfortable ranting for peace, forgetting history teaches us that peace has to be won, looking the other way at the evidence the peace movement was infiltrated by the KGB for its own purposes.. Were it not for Mr. Reagan's vision and determination, they would have preferred to be blackmailed by the Soviets and the SS-20's" This is true. there are graveyards all over Europe with more American bodies in them then there are the people native to that country because Americans have spilled there blood to save their country, their people. we were NOT doing that for ourselves we were doing it for the better of the world!

With all of this news that we do get and have gotten we have become the worlds scapegoat for almost everything that is bad or wrong in the world. everyone always wants someone to blame for problems and right now in this world people are blaming the USA for there problems, whether its because of our government, because of the war in Iraq, because of the economy, or because we didn't do something that they wanted us to do or didn't help them in exactly the way that they wanted us to help them in. When the whole world is watching you and wants something from you it is impossible to please everyone at the same time!

The rest of the world not only gets our news about serious things such as the government and the economy but about our movies and our pop culture as well. In Italy 95% of the movies are from the USA. they have our movies and our music. they have the news about our stars and think they are like a normal American. they watch our movies and the shows on MTV and think that all of the Americans are like this. Europeans and the rest of the world have so many stereotypes for Americans and about Americans because of what they have seen on TV, heard from a friend of a friend, or had an experience of meeting one American. most if not all of these stereotypes are 100% wrong. people in Europe tend to think that Americans are all dumb, fat, over religious/conservative rude people that don't speak the local language or have respect for the local traditions. here is yet another quote from Pedro Rodrigues " First of all let me say I find it disgusting that anyone can excuse anti-American sentiment on some " fat loud American who misbehaves and cannot speak the local language or has no respect for the local tradition", because for any one of those i have encountered, living in a holiday destination, i have also in countered more of the " fat loud English, German, French, Spaniard who misbehaves and cannot speak the local language or has no respect for local tradition", and believe me even more of the "fat loud Portuguese who misbehaves and CAN speak the local language and still has no respect for local tradition"... In fact, how many of you can speak most of the other languages and would not get by in English when visiting another country? why is it that it is ok for us to do that, but not if the person is English or American?" and another one from him " Yes, many Americans speak only one language, but really living in a continental country, for most people there will never be the need to speak other languages as others have put it. Other big continental countries, like Brazil, China or Russia do not fare better. Yet contrary to popular belief, Europeans do not fare that much better... the Spanish are the worst linguists (I had a company in Spain, and we initially required our staff to speak English, as we did in Portugal... well we soon faced a choice: hire people who could speak English or hire people with technical training, both was impossible!...) and yes most of my foreign customers were always impressed with the fact that we had English speaking technicians in Portugal because in Spain they never could.. as for the French, ditto, almost as bad.. and the English, even worse. the Germans have improved alot in recent years but at governmental level, they do not speak anything other then German... Italians ... let me tell you I learned Italian because i simply could not understand when my Italian friends spoke English; it was that bad!!!" and another " The idea Europeans speak several languages is a myth..other then the Scandinavians and Dutch (and you need to add a generation factor in here.. under 45 maybe) not that many Europeans speak a foreign language. ie English. Those that speak several languages are from countries with several official languages, such as the Swiss... English, French, Spanish, Italians and even Germans above a certain age are really poor linguists...I speak from experience having worked in the field of simultaneous interpretation for several years..." Well i agree alot with him but now i will give you my take on the matter. First I will share a joke i have heard that they have in Switzerland "A person who speaks 3 languages is trilingual, a person who speaks 2 languages is bilingual and a person who only speaks 1 language is American!"


They are all convinced that we think our language is so much better then other people's because we don't bother to learn anyone else's language. while in the USA yes our languages do need to improve in our schools. the average American will probably never encounter a situation when they will need to speak another language. Learning a language in school is completely different from speaking it on the street. Probably 90% of my high school gets a passing grade in school for there foreign language...but none of them actually speak the language. Because honestly how are they going to? once you leave your classroom what are you going to do with that language? In the United States it would be a big waste of time and money for all of our students to learn another language to fluency. in 2006 only 12,333,428 Americans had passports (there are over 300,000,000 Americans) and that's just do to the need for passports to go into Canada and Mexico Why should you teach someone something they are never going to have a need for? America is ALOT different then Europe we don't have 23 official languages like Europe does. in all of north America we have 3 official languages (English, French and Spanish) with a MUCH bigger land mass! There is almost no use for normal Americans to learn other languages when they will more then likely never need it. From where I live in the United States i have to drive more then 30 hours to get to a non-English speaking country (Mexico). Our states are the size (and some even bigger then) a European country. If in the states the languages were something like, Illinoisan, Minnesotan, Ohioan then yes i would probably speak them because i would need to to communicate but they are not. IN the united states we speak English. every state speaks English. I do not need to know how to use another language to exist outside of the United States. Most Americans wont be involved in international affairs (and most of them wont even travel out side of the country during there lives becuase for us it costs so much to travel to a place that speaks another language). When I look around my high school ... how practical would it be that we all learned Chinese? most ordinary people will be nurses or teachers, work in offices or as electricians and mechanics, etc etc. how is it practical that these people become proficient or fluent in a foreign tongue if they'll never step foot outside of the country? even though English isn't the only language in the world, it's the only language in most Americans' worlds. But when we do go over seas and use English just like ALOT of other tourists from all over the world because in case you haven't realized by now it is the most studied (second) language in the world. There is a good chance where every you go people will speak English but Italian? German? not as big of a chance. but yet if an American only speaks English it's because they're ignorant and don't want to learn but if [ insert nationality here] only speaks [insert language here] its becuase they haven't had the opportunity/reason to learn...why is that fair? why is it fair that we get all of the gruff because we are Americans? Even among exchange students I got looked down upon for only being able to speak English (and they are some of the most acccepting people in the world) but the Chinese who could only speak Chinese were ok, the Japanese who could only speak Japanese were ok..how does that work???


(****Disclaimer**** I am in NO way saying that learning a language isn't important because I'm an exchange student i obviously think that it is. but I'm simply stating the fact why the average American does not have the NEED to be fluent in say Swedish. That English is the only language in most average Americans lives)


­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­There also seems to be a HUGE generalizatoin when it comes to Americans. "Americans are all from America and they are all the same with exactly the same culture" We are a country the size of Europe and i know that all Europeans would get mad at me if i said "yes all Europeans live in Europe so they are all the same and all have the same culture" They would be pissed. the Italians would be pissed if i called them the same as the French the French would be mad if i said they were the same as the Germans just like the Germans would be mad if i said they were the same as the Finns. yet they don't seem to get the difference when they say that all the Americans are the same. The East is VERY different from the West. the South is VERY different from the North. you can't group that many people and make generalizations about them and have to be right about everyone. They don't seem to grasp just how big the USA is. That it IS in fact as big as Europe.

One last quote by Pedro Rodriguez "If you look at all these stereotypes and if you were to substitute American for Jew or black or Asian or Muslim, its suddenly no longer acceptable for those same people who promote these stereotypes"


I was really hurt by what my "friend" said to me two days ago but it did help me realize how much i loved my country and how much i would defend it. but over all it hurt to hear these things about my country about the people in my country. the USA is my birth place. it is my home.


I AM AMERICAN AND I AM PROUD TO BE AMERICAN


ps. sorry this was so long and ranty!

10 comments:

wagner_w said...

I am a very proud father to have you as my daughter. Thank you for being who and what you are. Love Dad

Jim Mason said...

I haven't replied to your posts' yet, but I have enjoyed reading them all.

I guess your friend been only exposed to one culture - Italian? It must be difficult to hear comments from someone who only knows a single culture. I hope your friend has a chance to visit the United States, similar to the length of time you spent living in a different country. THen she (or he) may have a different perspective on these issues if she is exposed to "everyday Americans". I can only assume she gets her viewpoints through the words of others, or the news media.

It was a wonderful read!
....Your Dad's co-worker-Jim

Marti Happel said...

Kendra, I am so proud of you!!! I went to Europe and, in France especially, was discriminated against. And during WWII, who saved their fannies! England treated me very well. But I could hear the talk of America this or America that. But I am so very proud of you for sticking up for the USA. Yea, we're not perfect, but if you need our help, we're there for you, no matter what you personally think of us.

Enjoy your trip!

Ciao,
Gramma Marti

alberto venco said...

I love AMERICAN PRIDE! I'm so jelous, why I'm not born in the USA? We don't have this patriotism, we're not as strong as americans, because we don't have trust in our country.
America and Americans are very important for the world, you defended us in the world war! you have made interesting discovers (in science, astronomy, medicine). I, as an Italian person, eat your food, watch your films (simpsons rocks!!!! buffy too!), listen your music, look your television, talk your lenguage (ok, maybe the english is from england, but the american is more cool xD).

don't listen what your friend told, probably she is a comunist (poltics became a mode in italy, licke comunism or fascism.)
young comunists in italy hate american culture, hate capitalism, hate war (but they're the first that can't comunicate with words, they can use only violence.

but i think 90% of italians would go away in the united states!

have a nice italian adventure
alberto.

Federica said...

Hi Kendra. I think you didn't understand what I meant. I never wanna hurt you, I just express what I feel. I don't like politic positions of USA, people is not bad, I' m sorry if you thought so, because I got nothing against you..If I were nice to you is because I wanted to be, and no second ends. When you came here and when we met, I already knew that you'll not agree with me, and I already thought that USA are not my favorite Country, but it's not a good why to discriminate a person...I think people have to be respected, every country he comes from. I don't discriminate you, and you Know it. I just trying to follow my opinion. And I never told you that USA didn't help the world,but I don't agree with their ways. Italy too is with USA because they are the most powerfull country. But my opinion is not like that, for me people have to be help as PEOPLE, and not as a money machine. It's not a good thing what world's doing, they think just because of money...
I'm not so proud of being Italian because Italy is like a flag, it turns with the wind...where money goes, Italy goes, mistaking and not becoming rich, or powerfull..and yes, maybe you're right...I mistake my way, and maybe I express it badly...if you want we can talk about it..I'm really sorry of hurting you! My sentence was not dedicated to you, it was just a politic or economic thing! Me too I'd like to be Italian as you are of being American, and maybe it's right like this...... I like many things of Usa, you know, and I like also come to visit there,I love music, places, and many and many other things, but not their position...it's normal that they try to become more rich, but as they have a big big big big power, they should use that power to help unlucky countries as they done but not with war. I think it's shocking that Israel received more money than all Africa... Don't yu agree? We have differents opinions, but I think we can talk about it and being good friends how we were before...
Sorry for my English :-P bye bye...Fede..

Anonymous said...

Hi Kendra. I think you didn't understand what I meant. I never wanna hurt you, I just express what I feel. I don't like politic positions of USA, people is not bad, I' m sorry if you thought so, because I got nothing against you..If I were nice to you is because I wanted to be, and no second ends. When you came here and when we met, I already knew that you'll not agree with me, and I already thought that USA are not my favorite Country, but it's not a good why to discriminate a person...I think people have to be respected, every country he comes from. I don't discriminate you, and you Know it. I just trying to follow my opinion. And I never told you that USA didn't help the world,but I don't agree with their ways. Italy too is with USA because they are the most powerfull country. But my opinion is not like that, for me people have to be help as PEOPLE, and not as a money machine. It's not a good thing what world's doing, they think just because of money...
I'm not so proud of being Italian because Italy is like a flag, it turns with the wind...where money goes, Italy goes, mistaking and not becoming rich, or powerfull..and yes, maybe you're right...I mistake my way, and maybe I express it badly...if you want we can talk about it..I'm really sorry of hurting you! My sentence was not dedicated to you, it was just a politic or economic thing! Me too I'd like to be Italian as you are of being American, and maybe it's right like this...... I like many things of Usa, you know, and I like also come to visit there,I love music, places, and many and many other things, but not their position...it's normal that they try to become more rich, but as they have a big big big big power, they should use that power to help unlucky countries as they done but not with war. I think it's shocking that Israel received more money than all Africa... Don't yu agree? We have differents opinions, but I think we can talk about it and being good friends how we were before...
Sorry for my English :-P bye bye...Fede.. (I made it anonymous because I dont have an account)

Anonymous said...

I'm american but I don't like everything our country does. I think your friend didn't mean to totally diss our country, she was just voicing her opinion on some of the stuff we've done. I think you should talk to her about it.
I really love reading your blog! hope you keep writing it. How was Valentine's Day in Italy?

Anonymous said...

ahah that's funny.
i'm italian, i was exchange student last year in the us and i thought the same just from my side.
have fun in sardegna

AFSer-LilMax Liu said...

Well, i am really impressed by your courage and your sharp insight. In fact, it's pretty much the truth, the media has control of everything. If it's just an average folk who didn't take any efforts to discover more behind all those daily news and learn a new language, i reckon that he would not think there is need to learn more abt this world other than his familiar surrounding areas. It's not most american's fault to learn only language, but what i think the reason why most people has a negative attitudes towards Americans is that the American govt always conceived as world leaders and try to have influence in different parts of the world,they have a higher expectation for americans. It's not necessarily fair, but it has subtly become an presumption.
So they suppose that since americans spoke english as native tongue, then it's way more easier to know more about the world, not as many barriers as others have. While what i've experienced is that the govt didn't live up to the standard. Spanish, French etc start from High School&only touched a tiny bit of the language, unless it's a girl who eagers to learn more abt the world like you.
Same case in china, english is an basic subject starts way back 3rd grade in elementary school. It is as important as Chinese and Math in major tests. So that's probably why they all expect Americans to do better than just speaking one language.
P.S. No offending by any means, just to share some ideas that i have through the AFS experience. I am a chinese AFSer currently in Ohio, USA. ^^

LilMax said...

btw, let's be friends on facebook, it's really nice to get to know people with broad views of the world and different cultures. :)