Now I’m going to crush a myth for you: Contrary to what you hear, the rest of the world DOES NOT, repeat DOES NOT, hate American travelers.
What the world hates are obnoxious travelers. If you’re an obnoxious American traveler, the people in the nations you visit will hate you. But that’s because you’re a jerk, not because you’re a “bloody yank” or anything like that.
Seriously, page through this blog. Read about my encounters with people in other countries. The Saprisistas in Costa Rica … did they sound like they hate Americans? And the band of Stjarnan FC fans in Iceland … call me crazy, but people who hate Americans probably wouldn’t give a free ticket to a soccer match to someone from a nation that’s globally reviled. Let’s not forget the Kiwis, who will divulge their life stories within 30 minutes to just about anyone. Not American haters, either. In Belize, they don’t care where you’re from so long as you let them braid your hair (which I did not) or take a few tours (which I did).
Nobody I’ve met abroad has ever made me feel uncomfortable for being American. During the W years, people did ask me about why President Bush got re-elected. And that’s about it. Nothing else. (Of course, many people seem to think I’m Canadian, and I can’t figure that out).
Smart people abroad know that the Ugly American Traveler stereotype is outdated. It’s a relic, right along with the hammer and sickle. It comes from a place of former truth, but to insist that the world hates Americans by default is inaccurate and demeaning to the rest of the world. See, people from many other countries do travel more than Americans.
And you know what they learn? That viewing people through the myopia of national stereotypes is foolish.
Now we just need to do the same for ourselves.
I wonder why America perpetuates this myth on itself. Perhaps it’s just another half-baked rationalization, more outdated nationalistic pap. Maybe it’s The Man trying to keep Americans from checking out other nations and how they do things firsthand – and possibly learning from it. Maybe it’s to dehumanize those who might become our enemies (I’d like to see someone advocate bombing Afghanistan to atoms if they met some everyday people from there who are just trying to get by, not the zealots who drag a formerly progressive country back to the Stone Age).
Whatever causes this, we need to get over it.
My fellow Americans, I promise that everyone in the world doesn’t hate you because you’re American. If they hate you, blame your own actions – not the label on your passport.