Entry 38: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not
As an American abroad, I’ve run into all types. Many interesting conversations, on many different continents with people of varied cultures and languages. Some dialogues, of course, were more interesting than others. One pervasive element in all of these jaw sessions has been the foreigner’s love-hate relationship with me and the United States. The table-top script usually moves from origins, to food and wine, to service and customs, to politics, then to who knows what, then back to politics and, ultimately, to the questions shot at me like bolts from a crossbow. “Why do Americans think they are the best? Why does the United States think they can get involved in every other country’s business?” There’s a few more but I’ll stop with these. Of course, I have my own political views and opinions on international relations but is it appropriate for a stranger to suddenly ordain me the attaché of political-economic-sociological-café-relations for the United States? I suddenly become the United States’ spokesperson for the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the devaluation of the Yen, the Oklahoma City bombing, the amount of calories in a Big Mac, and any other terrorist activity or accidental train derailment that happens to color CNN’s pallet that week. In subsequent breaths, even before we’ve ordered another round, the same foreigner will tell me how they’re working hard to procure their visa so they can go and study at an American university. Or how they need to get to the nearby bank before 3:00 PM to exchange their local currency for U.S. dollars. Or how much they enjoy watching MTV. They’ll ask, “How do my new Levi’s jeans look with my New York Yankees baseball cap?” In a single sitting I can witness someone berate the United States and then try to emulate it, and many of its most popular attributes. The United States is a diverse place with an interesting history. Political views within our own borders vary and fluctuate. Our constitution protects such variety and individuality. One citizen with a backpack stopping off at a café for a beverage can not necessarily be held accountable for the breadth of activities, past and present, of the American nation. Do you love me today? Will you love me tomorrow?