Sunday Archive VIII: Hyphenated Americans

From August of 2005, this is part of an article continued from notes written on the Metro.  I don’t remember it at all, so I guess it was never published.  God knows where those notes are… I have a closet full of pads and little reporter’s notebooks.

Cont from notes

Let’s assume the thief doesn’t know that.  Easy enough, here’s another thing for you to remember.  Canadians, also, are well off, safe, secure and materialistic.  They are viable targets for thieves.

In the social setting, the Canadian always takes the fall or America and is put on the spot.  Why?  Because people think they’re Americans putting on an elaborate act.

So:  Canadian = American.

There’s another secret you want to know.  The last big point:  You know how you make fun of Canadians all the time?  Yeah?  Well, so does the rest of the world.  Canadians are a laughingstock.  It’s probably worse, overall, to be identified as Canadian.

When is it okay to play this game?  When you’re in a Third World shithole.  When you’re in some rundown, sad place, you don’t want to be as open and carefree about your nationality.  Of course, you don’t want to be open and carefree about anything.  That’s the nature of that sort of travel.  But I’ve found, when asked, to let them figure it out.  For example.

Unwashed Native at Market in Filthy Horrible Ghana:  Are you English?

You:  Sure!

You can go with this to a degree.  Sometimes it’s a test.  You can learn to tell after a while.  The poor and unwashed have difficulty with non-traditional American accents.  They know the southern-fried retards they see on TV, but that clipped northern accent, or the amorphous Mid-Atlantic accent, can confuse the non-English speaking, untraveled foreigner.  I’ve noted that the Mid-Atlantic “accent” is somewhat chameleonic, taking on the tone and pitch of the surrounding accents.  A few weeks overseas and, subconsciously, your voice has shifted to something a little off.  They’ll still rat you out in English-friendly Europe, but you might throw them in Spain, or Italy, or the east.

I Didn’t Vote For Him!

Once The American has been discovered (the instant they walk into a room, in Canadian colors or not), there may be some rough spots.  The most common question since 2001 is a variation of the following: “So…Bush?”

The first reaction of the American traveler (given that 90% of the small number of Americans who leave the country are educated and urban) is: “I didn’t vote for him!”

This fallback is almost like wearing the Canadian flag and, every once in a while, I’ve seen that declaration come quickly on the heels of “Are you from America?”

This is, in the end, an acceptable excuse.  However, it should not be shrilly cried out like you’re a guilty child.  Whether or not you voted for him, he is the boss, and you had two chances to kill him, and the state of American politics is so fucked up it’s not even funny anymore, and everyone you meet knows this.  American politics has been mocked brutally for a generation – or longer.  Years ago, the international papers gave up mocking American politics and, during the Bush era, have entered a sort of Fear & Loathing cycle when discussing the very real problem of No, Really, What The Fuck Is Going On?

Prepare yourself.  The plan should be as follows:  Lightly discuss politics in America, like textbook explanation stuff.  How it works, what happens, and how and why American society is so divided.  Be read to explain things like the Electoral College and why people in the country are inbred motherfuckers but, historically, ha-ha-ha, right?  However, dot dot dot.

Do not get fevered and animated.  Do not speak against Bush, unless pressed into it actively.  Do not go into detail, do not dominate the conversation.  After your brief defensive stance, extricate yourself with a polite and less childlike version of “I didn’t vote for him.”  This can be done simply by saying it’s “too exhausting to talk about” or, my favorite, “I’m here to escape it for a little bit and enjoy a more enlightened culture.”  Oh-ho!  Really?  I love you, too, Americanski, this one’s on me!

For the most part, the common person understands that you, too, are a common person and the fucks in charge are scary sister-rapers.  Universally.  In fact, if you find yourself under attack in a social situation, bone up on the fucking evil shit that their leaders are doing.  Take a second to scan the papers.

Once, I was under serious attack, which escalated, despite my attempts to remove myself based on the above plan, towards something more violent.  What stopped this potential disaster?  Hey, let’s talk about Tony Blair’s being in the Coalition of the Willing.  I Mean, Really, What The Fuck Is Going On There?  Eh?

This led to “Well, I didn’t vote for him,” and, suddenly, a shocked silence.  Later that evening, the bastard was buying me drinks and crying into his beer about the state of political affairs in the UK.

But how rare that is.  One incident of true anti-American anger using me as a potential outlet out of hundreds of polite and, often, friendly “what the fuck?” conversations.

So, Where Are You From?

You’re from “The States.”  “America” has become a bit more acceptable, but you show some class if you say the States.  It gives the appearance of being more traveled as well as being secure in your origin.  I always say where, exactly, I’m from, and it’s a terrible mistake.  Don’t name the State or the city.  I hate that.

You:  I’m from Iowa!

Foreign scum:  *blank stare during difficult recall of the map*

That’s like me telling you what county in Maryland I’m from in response to you asking me what State I’m in.  It’s not important.  But, most of the time, they’ll follow up with a question because they know that America is big and crazy and there are 500 different regions, all of which have very pretty things in them.  If they want to know, it can be a very interesting conversation.

My friend is from New Mexico.  He always gets to talk about the desert, and even gets the old Grand Canyon question, even though it’s 206,700 miles away from his house.  Another friend from New York fields long conversations about NYC and Niagara Falls.  I live outside DC, so I get shot three times in the stomach and robbed.  I mean, not in DC, by the person I’m talking to.  That hasn’t happened to me in DC for a week or so.

I Am Scottish-American

And I am.  But, here’s the thing, my family has been in America for one million and three years.  I’m American.  I don’t have any ties to anywhere else.  I would not be welcome in, would not recognize, nor would enjoy Scotland as der Fatherland.

It took a long time, and lots of travel, for me to reach this conclusion.

Everyone mocks Americans for our desperate need to find cultural identity.  “We’re from Ireland!”  or “I’m 1/16th American Indian.”  I mean, everyone.  More often than not, when people learn that I’m American, they joke about whether or not I’m Whatever-American before they argue about Bush.

You are American.  Just American.  Oh, and, I don’t care if your family came over in the 1930’s.  That was a long motherfucking time ago. If you’re some ratty old man who was there, okay.  If you’re 20, fuck you.  You are an unhyphenated American.  The moment you identify yourself with some Irish émigré who went to California in 1854, the person you are talking to has moved you to the idiot category and wants to get away from you.

This, by the way, is a major social issue in this country when we apply the term “African-American.”  We’ve become so content with the ridiculous hyphenated-American idea, that we think it’s okay to call blacks African-Americans.  In my book, it’s a well disguised way to call them niggers.  It’s the ultimate, inhuman categorization of a people.  Blacks and Indians and Asians get stuffed with that shit.  Those who are “non-white” and traditional opponents.  Niggers, redskins and yellows.    We don’t even do it with the spanish.  We haven’t fought with them, socially or militarily, in over a century. We don’t call them Hispanic-Americans.  Someone whose family is from Guatemala who’s second generation American is just that – American.  Maybe you’d say Latino or Hispanic.  You’d say it in the same way as you’d say white.  See what I mean?  Listen to how people use the terms. Watch their faces as they speak.

Regardless, in terms of labels, even if used with a pure heart and naive innocence, African-American is a crude generalization.  All black Americans are African therefore all black Americans are slave families.  When you categorize a slave class, you promote the continuation of that in modern society.

Black people from this country are, wait for it, Americans.  No hyphen.  Just like you.

5 Comments on “Sunday Archive VIII: Hyphenated Americans

  1. …. foreign scum?

    *is slightly offended*

    I completely agree on the heritage bullshit, it’s stupid.

  2. Not really. You’re not the flag waving type of american idiot I run into occasionally on the internet.

    Not that my country doesn’t have idiots, they’re everywhere.