Random trans-Atlantic claptrap

Are they right? Does America suck?

Here are some of common negative perceptions about America that you’ll become familiar with if you live abroad:

  • The USA is a nation of morbidly obese fatties who eat only junk food, with processed cheese that comes out of a spray bottle often being cited as a favourite.
  • Racial injustice and prejudice in America are far worse than in the UK, which is by comparison a bastion of tolerance and equality.
  • Americans are proponents of spectacle and appearance, rather than depth of understanding, and this leads us to have vulgar tastes, an unsophisticated sense of humour and a love of low culture. As a result, we have idiotic television programmes, loud, one-dimensional films and we worship talentless celebrities.
  • Americans are royal-obsessed.  Interestingly Britons believe that Yanks are far more obsessed with the royal family than they are, and I’ve heard countless times in the UK the sentiment: “we only keep them around for the tourists.”
  • America is filled with clueless white people who have no understanding of the outside world. When we do travel, you will know us by our loud voices and our unwillingness to adapt to the local culture or to learn how to pronounce things properly.
  • The USA is a nation of aggressive bullies- overeager to invade and bomb any perceived problem into submission, while the British often favour a “softly, softly” approach of cooperation and persuasion.

enhanced-buzz-25999-1404401969-32Of course most of this is xenophobic and ignorant nonsense, and perhaps I will refute some of these clichés in a future blog. But there are some other critiques that hit a little closer to home, and the longer you live abroad, the more you realise that perhaps “the greatest country on earth” might be slightly flawed in some departments. Okay, maybe more than slightly… in fact, there are some issues where we Americans have to face the fact that our country actually kind of, er, sucks… here’s some examples:

  • American police are quasi-fascist overlords who are to be feared.
    Police in the UK, while far from perfect and subject to their fair share of scandals, are overall far more approachable and civil while also being far less militaristic and violent than their American counterparts.  Patrol cars here are more likely to carry teddy bears than shotguns, in case officers need to console a child in the course of their duties. In 2013, British officers only fired their weapons three times. That’s three gun shots for an country of 64 million people for an entire year. That number would be a below-average weekend for police just in Cincinnati. If you live in America, you are far more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist.
  • Our health care system is an international laughingstock. 
    America has the world’s most expensive health care, but also among the least effective, ranked as low as 38th in quality.  Health care costs are the number one cause of bankruptcies in the USA, even among those with insurance. A recent study ranked the UK as having the best healthcare system in the developed world and trust me – they feel mighty superior about this.  I once saw a news programme here in the UK do a story about a temporary, free health care clinic in the USA that was swamped by uninsured patients, desperate for medical help. The piece had exactly the same pitying and slightly patronising tone that you see in news stories about food drops in famine-stricken sub-Saharan Africa: “oh those poor people- but I suppose whatever help they get is just a drop in the bucket as they never seem to do any better for themselves.”
  • Guns and gun massacres as part of everyday life.
    There are nearly as many guns in America as citizens, and a central tenet of life in many parts of the country is that the more guns there are in circulation, the safer people are. This is despite the nation suffering a gun massacre virtually every week or two, events that are very rare everywhere else in the world. The answer to all this gun violence, according to the National Rifle Association (the most powerful political lobby in the country) is that people should have more guns: They even want schoolteachers to have handguns in classrooms. In fact, the NRA points to the UK as an example of the dangers of gun control: they distribute talking points about the high level of violence in the UK, strategically omitting the fact that you are about five times more likely to be a murder victim in the US than in the UK. They wouldn’t want people to realise that murders are easier to commit with guns!
  • Americans work themselves to death for no reason.
    Americans believe themselves to be the hardest-working people on earth. They work more hours, with fewer benefits and days off than nearly anywhere else in the western world. In the UK, most people receive a minimum of five weeks paid holiday each year- compare that to the average two in the USA. In France and Germany, it’s often six or seven weeks. But all those extra hours Americans work don’t pay off in more productivity, only more work. Germany and France score higher worker on most measures of worker productivity than Americans. More work and less play apparently doesn’t make for the best work environment, a fact well-known throughout Europe, but stubbornly ignored in the U.S.
  • Our sports chants really suck.
    Last but not least, for a country as obsessed with sports as the USA, we are really terrible at creating or delivering sports songs or chants.  Click here to get a taste of the inventiveness and diversity of British football chants. I’ve been to about a dozen NBA games in my life and the most interesting chant I ever heard was “Let’s go Knicks!” At international events like the World Cup, Americans have essentially nothing to say except to repeat the letters “U-S-A” over and over again. Come on lads, we can do better !

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10 thoughts on “Are they right? Does America suck?

  1. Dream on America… after living in the USA and UK give me an educated and nation that has learn the uselessness of empire..worlds 5th largest economy and mother country of USA, not fascist “fatherland” of the USA

  2. I don’t even know where to begin. I was born and raised in the USA, and still live here…I wish I did not. There are things I have always either disliked or failed to understand about this country, perhaps first of all our stubborn refusal to provide health care to all. The constant, tiresome claim is that the US is the wealthiest country on earth, yet we can’t provide for this basic right? The worn-out argument against universal health care is waiting lists, but which is worse – having to wait a bit for care, or not getting it at all?

    We claim to venerate our military, yet when you look at the all-too-large population of homeless, many are veterans. What’s up with that?

    We fight like all hell to protect business from government interference in the name of freedom, and as a result of all this “freedom” enjoy absolutely NO mandated vacation time, or even a day off when ill, with or without pay. Any effort to change this is met with stiff resistance, much of it coming from people who would benefit most. How tightly we cling to the chains that bind us, often for no reason than not wanting to be like “those socialists” abroad!

    Many of us are not only ignorant of other cultures, but proud of the fact. Ignorance is forgivable, and fairly easy to correct. Willful ignorance is dangerous, and we have just inaugurated as president a man whose willful ignorance is staggering in its immensity. Trump is bad enough; his effect on people is worse. Those who voted for him, even if he was not their first choice, seem willing to forgive literally ANYTHING he does.

    It may sound, by now, that I hate the US. I don’t. I do hate the idea that we do everything absolutely right, and have nothing to learn from other countries. I hate the workaholic culture that demands you live to work, rather than working to live, and the consumerist culture that is so focused on convenience that there is an actual demand for people other than police, doctors, and other emergency personnel to be on the job 24/7. i hate it when people say they are proud to be American: it’s not an accomplishment, it’s an accident of birth, and it implies no moral superiority. If you feel grateful, fine, say so. But stop bragging about something you didn’t earn.

    Please forgive my rant. I’ve been grieving since Nov.9, and yesterday’s sad event just brought it all out again.

    1. You’re absolutely right about wilful ignorance. It’s the worst intellectual sin of them all. But don’t despair. Things are pretty messed up over here in Europe too. None of it is irretrievably bad. Vote, get involved, protest, and er, start a blog! You clearly have a lot to say, and in my opinion, you have hit the nails right on their heads in your rant/analysis.

      1. Honestly, at this point, I’m trying to learn all I can about how to leave. Trump is a disgrace, but he is also just the most obvious symptom of an illness that seems to only get worse. I’m sure moving abroad would make me feel like an outsider in many ways, but that’s got to be a hell of a lot better than feeling like one in the land of one’s birth. I’m sick to death of people I see on a regular basis talking about how misguided, stupid, and just plain evil liberals are. I’m tired of being lectured by people defending the EC by saying how dreadfully unfair it would be to let “the coasts” pick our presidents, as if a system that allows has the potential to completely ignore the wishes of a majority of voters is somehow better, and then, with a straight face, having voted for Trump – TRUMP! – tell me how Hitler was elected by a majority in Germany, and only the EC saves our precious butts from a similar fate. I’m tired of being called a Socialist by people who not only consider it the ultimate, debate-ending put-down when they’ve run out of facts to defend the indefensible, but mistakenly apply the term to people who, in most civilized countries, would be considered only moderately liberal.

        I do still love Mom (or her memory, anyway), baseball, and apple pie.

        1. Try focusing on the job/axccomplishments Trump has done, and not your irrational hate of him. While Trump was making middle east peace deals, Biden was in his basement.
          No man is perfect. Trump can’t be bought, unlike other politicians, that is a plus. Get ready for that half-wit, China compromised Biden. in govmt for 50 years with nothing to show. Good job voters! We’re headed in the right direction!

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