El Fomentador

Alive and well in Mexico…

Don’t Hate Me ’cause I’m American (if you must hate me hate me because I am me)

with 3 comments

A few years ago I cut an article out of The News, the Mexico City English language daily newspaper. I like The News, it disappeared for awhile and is now back in a little different style. It must have been a slow news day back then because they published the article under the heading SOUNDOFF, which translates, roughly, to SHOOTYOURMOUTHOFF. The article was written by an American student studying in Canada. It has the headline; “Don’t hate me ’cause I’m American” I added the subtitle because I’m a smart arse. You could tell he was a college student because he actually included the sentence: “Yet I am constantly castigated by your presumptuous and quotidian fulmination.”  Man, dey sure must talk funny up dere in Canada, ay?

After securely saving this article for more than four years, I recently found it folded up and tucked into a pocket in an old notebook. I’d like to share it with you today for several reasons, not the least of which is that I assume the author has finished college by now and has a real job somewhere reading dictionaries. I should add the disclaimer that I don’t have anything against this guy because he is an American. Although technically, Canadians, Mexicans and even Hugo Chavez may be considered Americans, too, since they all live in the Western Hemisphere which is composed of the continents referred to as “the Americas”. But I don’t want to quibble (I have been waiting for the opportunity to use the word “quibble” ever since I started reading the dictionary!) The New York Times style book claims that the terms “American”, “America” and the “United States” refer, in general usage, to the “United States of America”. I know that some ultra-nationalist Mexicans don’t like to hear that because their country is officially called “The United States of Mexico” (but trust me, no one gets the two nations confused) and, surprisingly, at least to me, there was, at one time, an entity called the “United States of Central America”. (But I think that last one only existed for about 30 minutes, before there were several revolutions, probably precipitated by those damn Canadians.)

The author claims to be “a rather identifiable American” although in his picture he kind of looks like a French guy and he has a very French name, let’s just call him “J. P.”. He was attending classes at a University in western Canada, which may explain why Canucks “hated” him so much–the only people Canadians “hate” more than Americans are the French. It’s like a double whammy, a French guy from the U.S! But I digress….

So I am just going to present the original article in its entirety (really, I should say, as it was originally published in The News, as I have to presume it was edited somewhat, at least I hope it was. I doubt that   J. P.  will ever see this but if he does he is welcome to offer any additional material he may feel is pertinent). The text of the article will be in red, since, for all I know, the Canadians may be Communist sympathizers, too.  Of course I reserve the right to add any smart arse comments of my own, (in black), otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

One of my professors at the University, trying to  point out that many Canadians lack a feeling of identity, recently asked her Canadian literature students what made them feel Canadian.

Lacking a definitive answer, the consensus among the students was that they were simply “not American.”

I might have suggested back-bacon, ice-fishing and those big, thick, plaid, woolen coats. Oh and maybe those Elmer Fudd-style hunting caps with the ear flaps that fold down, ice-hockey, of course, and some sort of weird form of the English language . And, you know, really, based on those few criteria it may be difficult to distinguish Canadians from, for example, people from North Dakota.

As I am a rather identifiable American, this aversion is of particular interest to me. Having been subjected to a series of harsh, degrading and occasionally threatening obloquies has made me realize that Canada is no social paragon.

Okay, if you have your dictionary handy take some time to look up “obloquies”, or you can just figure out from the context that it means that although they have a world-wide reputation as “really nice” people, Canadians can be a real bunch of Canucknuckle-heads and are just as bigoted and prejudiced as everyone else on the planet. But on top of it all, the word entered the English language via French–I’m afraid J. P. is just asking for it. Oops, “paragon” comes from French, too, meaning a “model of excellence or perfection”. Maybe this guy is a “frog” that snuck into Canada just pretending to be an American–where in the hell is Homeland Security when you need them?–probably out buying doughnuts. J. P., if that is, in fact, his real name, continues:

Many Canadian texts–ranging from Fred Wah’s Diamond Grill to Lorena Gale’s Je Me Souviens to Thomas King’s Green Grass Running Water–attest to the constant abuses suffered by visible minorities in Canadian society.

Oh, now Canada has texts. Who knew? And he had to throw in a French title! I wonder if J.P. even got out of Canada alive?

Of course, I understand that both sides are flawed. While focusing primarily on their good attributes, many Americans fail to fairly criticize their bad. But in the same manner, many Canadians remain blinded by America’s recurring political blunders, subsequently refraining from giving any due praise.

Okay, people on  both “sides” can be described as being myopic. But J.P. is being, I believe, unnecessarily kind when he refers to Americas “political blunders”‘. It is more like political “plunder”. I guess  the author can be partially excused because the article was written back in 2005–known now as the “good old days”–before the true extent of the damage being done was understood. I’m not sure we will ever know how deeply the much-heralded “War on Terrorism” has cut into the hopes of humanity on our shared planet. I don’t even like to think about it. But I am not waiting around for our “due praise” to come rolling in from around the world. I still think it is unfair to “hate” poor old J.P. for being an American, but the longer I think about it, it honestly becomes more difficult to imagine why more people don’t “hate” America, or maybe, why people don’t “hate” America more. Well, I don’t know what else to add–as I said I don’t even want to think about it. My New Year’s resolution was to make 2009 “my year of positive thinking”.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that you Northerners really aren’t all that great yourselves. I loathe the Bush Administration and detest the occupation of Iraq. I support health care, human rights, free trade and the well-being of our environment.

It’s kind of funny when he calls Canadians “Northerners”, because if you ask a Mexican who he considers to be “North Americans” he will say “anyone that lives further north than I do”. In Mexico they call the U.S. “the Colossus to the North”; in Nicaragua they call Mexico “the Colossus to the North”. Really, most Canadians live in ‘Southern Canada”, along the U.S. border. I guess it is a question of perspective.

Again, from the historical perspective of just the past four years, to “loathe” and “detest” would seem to be a rather mild choice of words. It is pretty difficult to argue with the list of issues he supports–although it would be just as difficult to claim that the U.S. has made any positive contribution to any of them, certainly, during the last eight years.

Now we come back to one of my favorite sentences of all time. All I can say is well done, well done:

Yet I am constantly castigated by your presumptuous and quotidian fulmination.

As Miss Manners always says: I will leave it up to you, Dear Reader, to look up any words in the sentence that you aren’t sure of in your own dictionary. I will add the simple caveat that I would not recommend actually using any of them in another sentence–ever! ( I, for example,  may decide never to use the word caveat again in a sentence!)

J.P. goes on to claim:

Neither I, nor any American I know, would ever chide a Canadian for slaughtering seals. So please leave me alone about Iraq.

It is true that J. P. and I are not acquainted, but I for one, would be happy to “chide” Canadians for the “slaughtering” of seals. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know they still were. (Although I doubt that too many are slaughtered inside the city limits.) I mean, in the twenty-first century is there still a big demand for blubber burgers, and seal skin coats? I say let the Eskimos eat at McDonald’s and wear gortex like everyone else. Besides the seals are so cute when they balance beach balls on their noses. Seriously it is pretty gross when you see the seal hunters bashing them with clubs; and it seems even worse because of the blood spattered all over the pure white ice cover. But as I understand it, if I understand it, there is some sort of cultural history, (as well as survival, at one time), connected with the whole process, even if it does come down to the honor of chewing that first big chunk of raw blubber. What are those Canadians thinking? Have they heard about microwave ovens?

I suppose that seal-hunting could be compared, somehow, with slaughtering tens of thousands of people in the Middle East. After all an argument could be made that there is some sort of Western cultural tradition for invading the “Holy-land” reaching back at least as far as the crusades of the Middle-Ages, (actually I guess it goes back as far as the Roman conquests, before it was even considered the Holy-land) of course that was even before the oil reserves were discovered and the invention of the internal combustion engine.

I actually enjoy chiding people from other countries. I chide Mexicans all of the time and they chide me. Maybe, just maybe, “what the world needs now” is more chiding. Okay, I’m getting carried away here, it’s just that I never get the chance to use the word “chide” otherwise, so I am just getting it out of my system. Now I feel better. Please feel free to chide me if you want.

You can abhor U.S. foreign policy, but seriously, hating the American people is just plain foolish.

Now we are getting somewhere, J. P.–we can all agree to abhor U.S. foreign policy–one of the worst things is that it can be described as a “policy” in the first place. But basically hating anyone is foolish, really it is immoral, and it is just plain bad Karma on top of it. I’m not saying it is easy to avoid the feeling of “hate” or to resist it. The word itself is loaded with bad emotion–it is much too easy to say and very difficult to take back. All of us would be better off if we stopped using it. In fact I am going to cross it out of my dictionary right now. I’ve been giving J.P. a hard time here, but I hope he understands it is partly because over the years, living in a foreign country, I have occasionally felt as though I am “hated” for being an American too. But I have tried to avoid letting it define or influence me as an individual.

Let’s look at his conclusion for a clue to what we are really feeling:

And between you and me, this city  is much too beautiful to foster such nonsensical negativity and resentment.

So, it may not be the strongest conclusion–I have to believe the editors were just ready to wrap this whole thing up; I am too, but by looking at one of the words in the sentence–“resentment”. Lots of writers have said that many people in the world look at the U.S. with a feeling that is a combination of resentment and envy. The well-known quote is “Poor Mexico, so far from God, and so close to the United States.”

Obviously there are plenty of reasons for mixed emotions. For example, in Mexico there is lingering resentment over the Mexican-American War–I know it was more than 150 years ago–but take my word for it there is still plenty of resentment to go around. I always say, “Believe me, Mexico still “remembers the Alamo”. Recent polls show that nearly  two-thirds of Mexicans believe that the south-western U.S. still belongs to Mexico, or at least that it should still belong to Mexico (official geography textbooks have been updated). I don’t listen to it anymore and I think it is time to get over it. I mean my ancestors didn’t even cross the Atlantic until 100 years ago–I am just not going to take responsibility for it.

In my experience, the envy is clearly represented by the millions of people that want to go to the U.S. Visiting the U.S. has become a right-of-passage for young people here. Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, cities across the country, are like magnets for the search for the good life; to see if the streets really are “paved with gold” in the “land of milk and honey”. Polls also show nearly 70% of Mexicans surveyed, believe that they should be able to travel back and forth across the border without restriction. Estimates show that if the borders were opened as many as a quarter of all Mexicans might leave for the U.S. almost immediately. We all know where that issue stands, at least for now (or do we?). And still, if you ask them, a large number of Mexicans will say they “hate” the United States. Maybe that’s how we all have come to express our feelings of identity, in using a word that we really don’t even understand the impact of.

I am not really sure of where to go with any of this from here, but I’ve enjoyed reaching the point where I can finally get rid of this old article. (Getting rid of clutter was another of my resolutions for 2009. I mean, think of the space I’ll be saving!) And I am going to work on getting rid of the word “hate” from my vocabulary and from my life. Just think of the emotional clutter I will be clearing out.

Keep the faith. And J. P., thanks for being a good sport and call me with an update, Paisano.

3 Responses

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  1. […] Healthcare website and Blog created an interesting post today on Don’t Hate Me ’cause I’m American (if you must hate me hate me…Here’s a short outline…their country is officially called “The BUnited/B States … I support Bhealth/B Bcare/B, human rights, free trade and the well-being of our […]

  2. First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!

    Are you tension? panic?


    March 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm

  3. Well, Good Morning Kiley! Thanks for your comment. Since I posted this blog I have been talking to people about the use of the word “Hate”. As I wrote the post, my interest changed from just giving the writer an, I hope, good-natured, hard time about his vocabulary to a closer look at just that one word. Most agree that the word is used too easily today. And people use it to describe anything they don’t like–but it can be a powerful, hurtful word and is much too strong to use to describe how someone feels about, say, for example, a strawberry shake or rainy weather or a crazy commercial on TV or even a mother-in-law.
    So as I had mentioned I am doing my best to keep that word out of my vocabulary. There are still people, places and things I don’t like or may not approve of, but I am really trying to not “hate” anything.
    To quote a line from an old Moody Blues song–“When people know fear or feel hate, it is because they are not understanding.” And to quote Anton Chekov, “real progress comes in acts of love, in fulfilling the moral law…” I know that may all seem kind of simplistic but I think it is a good place to start in exploring why humans take on so much negative emotion. Thanks again.

    El Fomentador

    March 5, 2009 at 9:31 pm

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