Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Why do they hate us? Why do so many people hate Americans?
I mean, really, Americans – most of us, anyway – are pretty nice people. Sure, we have our shortcomings: We tend to be fat, lazy and greedy. OK … and narrow-minded. Oh, and violent too. Let’s not forget about the violence.
But still – and I mean this … wait. Sorry. Ignorant. We’re pretty ignorant when you get right down to it. (Hey, it just took me two tries to spell “ignorant” correctly. If I didn’t have spell-check, I’d be in deep trouble.)
So … OK. We’re all of that. But we’re really not much worse on those counts than most of the rest of the world. Ignorance and violence are widespread. And, speaking of widespreads, the rest of the world is catching up with us pretty quickly when it comes to being fat.
And catching up when it comes to being slobs too.
I’m in Europe right now and, believe me, when you spot someone strolling down the street with rolls of fat jiggling away under his or her T-shirt, it is no longer certain that the slob on display is from the good old U.S. of A. Those Europeans are porking up too.
But I’m focusing on the negative here and that’s not what I meant to do. Honestly. Because what I mean to say is that, despite our faults, we are also generous and helpful and cheerful and surprisingly polite.
Europeans have long loved to call us naïve (which, come to think of it, is one of those snooty French words. Look at that clever little pair of dots over the “i.” Don’t they look exactly like a French waiter’s nostrils when he’s peering down his nose at you as you stumble over the pronunciation of “cuisses de grenouille”? Though why anyone would want to pronounce “cuisses de grenouille,” much less eat the nasty little things, is a mystery to me. Trust me, “cuisses de grenouille” taste exactly the way it sounds.) Um … sorry, where was I? Oh, right: Europeans love to call us naïve, but that’s just their cynical reaction to our sunny, cheerful good nature.
So, back to where we started: Why do they hate us?
Sure, sure, I know the whole “They hate us for our Freedom”® thing. And it sounded pretty good at the time, I must admit. But we’ve jettisoned a lot of those pesky freedoms in recent years and the people who used to hate us still do. Maybe even more. So I guess it wasn’t our freedom that they hated in the first place.
(Not to change the subject – but since it wasn’t our freedom they hated, can we please have some of it back?)
Anyway, all of this was just the long way of getting around to saying I think I’m getting an idea why so many people hate us.
My first flash came yesterday, when I was wandering around an ancient castle in a remote corner of Austria.
I had the pleasure (if “pleasure” is the word … which it isn’t) of sharing that castle visit with a horde of pre-adolescent Austrian school children.
The kids were, of course, noisy, as kids that age always are – even though they were amazingly well-behaved and under control. When their teachers talked, the kids shut up and listened. And obeyed.
But what caught my eye was one young man with a baseball cap. He wasn’t wearing it properly (bill forward to block the sun) and he wasn’t wearing it reversed (bill pointing back, which is possibly fashionable and legitimately a way of keeping the wind from blowing the hat off).
He was wearing it sideways, with the bill pulled down over one ear.
That’s a distinct style, invented by American rap stars, in what I always assume was an attempt to look aggressively ridiculous. I figured they did it either to show they were so cool they could dress any damn way they wanted and still be cool or to show they were so cool they could trick millions of young idiots into copying even their stupidest fashions.
Whatever the reason behind it, it is a style guaranteed to make anyone look like an idiot – like ankle-high black socks with sandals and plaid Bermuda shorts (which I expect rap stars to adopt any day now. Remember: You read it here first).
Anyway, what nation wouldn’t hate us for making their children dress like that?
I think I’m definitely on to something here. But wait! There’s more.
This afternoon, we stopped for lunch in a pleasant little cafe in a small town in a remote rural corner of Hungary. I had a great lunch of chicken with paprika sauce and my wife had a delicious grilled trout. And the whole time we were eating, the cafe was filled with music from the radio.
It was Hungarian rap music.
I repeat: Hungarian rap.
Look, I don’t mean to sound as if I think that the world hates us because of rap music.
In fact, at one point the Hungarian rap was replaced (seriously, this is true) by Del Shannon singing his 1961 No. 1 hit, “Runaway.” And, believe me, even though I grew up to that song and its ilk, it was possibly even more cringe-inducing than the rap.
Again, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I would have hated whatever indigenous Austro-Hungarian yodeling might have been more appropriately playing in that cafe. Hey, I love rock ‘n’ roll. I love sleazy, greasy, cheesy American culture in all its glory. It’s my heritage, my life’s blood.
But it’s also a steamroller that’s flattened a lot of the world.
And no one likes to be flattened.
Even when, like that idiot kid at the castle with his baseball hat pulled down over his right ear, they eagerly throw themselves under the steamroller.
And that, my friends, is why they hate us.
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