The ignorance of the average American
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 13:02
“What do you call a person who only speaks English? An American.”
Very recently I was given the opportunity to travel abroad to London alongside many of my fellow Lumberjack Marching Band peers. While on this trip, I did all the typical tourist things like wearing a camera around my neck nearly every second, always at the ready to take a picture, overdressing for the “cold” weather (which was the same as it is here in Texas), and complaining about the small portions of food that were given to me every time I went out to a restaurant.
While on this trip, I distinctly remember an incident in which we were called “scumbag Americans.” Although I was slightly offended, I was more confused.
After I returned to the States, I began to do my research as to why we were consistently made fun of and/or mocked. Through my research I watched many videos of Americans and those from other countries, and I slowly began to piece things together. Then I received a call one day from my cousin, who is currently studying abroad in Rome. I listened to her as she told me a horror story in which she and her friends had been targets of rotten food in a public square and were openly ridiculed.
Furthermore, when the semester began, I enrolled in two specific classes: African literature and world travel and empire. With the help of these two classes, I was able to piece together even more bits of information.
So what’s my point? Americans are ignorant.
In one of these classes, our first piece talked about tourists and “what not to do” if you don’t wish to be made fun of for being an American. In this piece, there is a line that says, “In London one avoids Westminster Abbey and heads instead for the Earl of Burlington’s eighteenth-century villa at Chiswick.” After I read that line, I could not help but laugh at myself. While on our trip, a few friends and I went to Westminster Abbey and even waited in line for quite a substantial amount of time and then paid the ridiculous prices.
The author continued to mock my actions: “A useful trick is ostentatiously not carrying a camera.” Line after line I was continually appalled, recollecting everything I had done while on my trip.
It also didn’t help when I began reading a book entitled “Things Fall Apart” in my other class. This book, while great, makes the western world look even worse. The book is about African culture and Western expansion. It also discusses the cultural neglecting of Africans. So, after reading this book, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I randomly asked students to tell me the first things they thought of when I said “Africa.” The most common answers I got were poverty, death, disease and hunger. One answer in particular was “the Book of Mormon.” This answer struck me as the not-so-perfect perfect answer.
For those who haven’t read (or seen) “the Book of Mormon,” it’s about two missionaries who travel to Uganda in attempts to help the people understand religion and parts of Western beliefs. These are some of the reasons why we are blamed for our ignorance. It is the belief of many Westerners that our countries are superior to everyone else’s; the way we live is much better and more socially acceptable than those in the Eastern hemisphere. This is morally, politically and economically unacceptable.
So with all of these things said, it is my hope that after reading this column, someone is more socially aware of Western intolerance, learns of these problems, and helps to eliminate the ignorance of the average American. Yes, I know America has its heavy load of problems, and I’m not necessarily saying we should drop what we’re doing and run over the world to eliminate the problems of others. Just open your eyes and remember that no matter how bad things may seem, it’s more than likely a “first world problem.” There’s always someone out there who has it much worse than you. Be tolerant. Who knows, maybe if we become more aware of the things that are happening around the world, this stereotype of Americans could deplete.
Tinesha Mix is an English major and the opinion editor for The Pine Log.