Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Guess America Sucks

I was in the library just now and a book caught my eye. It's called "What's Up America: A Foreigner's Guide To Understanding Americans." I figured it could be interesting, to see what "Americans" are like, at least according to this author.

It quickly becomes apparent that the author of this book doesn't like America too much. It's an interesting thing to read. Here's some notes:

Chapter 1: America is an individual-focused society, as opposed to a family-focused one. "Some people call this independence; others call it self-centeredness." No one wants to take care of children or the elderly, and that's okay, because children and the elderly don't really want to be taken care of anyway. "When grandchildren finally come along, some active seniors choose not to take care of them. That responsibility wouldhinder them from pursuing their self-fulfilling activities." "Many adult children are not ready to make sacrifices for their aging parents... they are not willing to change their lifestyle... to do simple errands for them." "Who will take care of us when we are old? Nobody has been the answer so far in our culture."

Between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 is this friendly note: "Have a Nice Day! is one of the most overused expressions in the United States.... Does this goodbye phrase really cheer people up or does it force people to hide how they really feel?" Wow. Is this book published by the Communists?

Chapter 2: Americans are fake. We smile too much and pretend to be happy. We have to look happy or people will ask us why we look sad but they won't care about the answer. "We have happy hours at bars... so you can drink more and be happier." "The deep realities of human existence... are not dicussed." "We sell happiness in a bottle... 20-25 million Americans are taking anti-depressants to feel good." Americans also like to insult each other and put each other down. Our "jokes are mostly told about gender, weakness of character, and we have plenty of lawyer jokes too." And we're geographically illiterate too. Oops.

Our traditional vacations are void of any cultural experiences. We don't speak foreign languages. We use too many numbers in our weather and traffic reports. We make too many lists. There is no international news. Children watch TV forty times more minutes per week than they have meaningful conversations with their parents.

"We tell the most personal details of our lives to strangers in grocery lines." "When Americans have a serious problem in a relationship, we run to a therapist." Hey, maybe Tom Cruise wrote this book! "We trust in [the therapist's] knoledge more than our own family." Wow, what a nice picture this is painting of Americans. Gosh.

More cheer between Chapters 2 and 3: "Americans still give nicknames to various groups in our society based on skin color." Have a nice day!

Chapter 3: We have lots of ethnic diversity, but mostly we just like grouping people in inaccurate racial categories and then staying away from them.

Chapter 4: Families come in lots of varieties. "Some [people] want to travel or dedicate themselves entirely to their careers and don't want the commitment involved with raising children." It's really easy to get a divorce and some people even celebrate divorce as they would marriage. "For entertainment, a woman slapping a man may produce laughs for a sitcom or dramatic tension for a movie. On the screen, the man does not do anything to the woman. But if this happens in real life, a man usually hits back and the woman most often gets hurt." So, you moving to Canada yet?

Chapter 5: "Ketchup -- we put it on just about everything." "We lick our fingers, chew with our mouths open, and mix food on our plate...." We're fat slobs, basically, who gorge ourselves. Yum. We ask waitresses about quantity but never about quality. When we eat less, we feel the need to make excuses like having had a big lunch. Restaurant portions are enormous and people can ask for doggie bags. "Some of us eat the food in the doggie bag as soon as we get home." What? Who? What??? No one cooks, and even our non-food items (shampoos, etc) smell like food because we're such hungry fat slobs. "Many foods have high fructose sweeteners or corn syrup added for no apparent reason." That line made me laugh out loud, I swear. I probably shouldn't be as entertained by this book as I am.

We also never exercise. We just buy clothing with exercise company logos on it instead. Also, we destroy ethnic food to make it more fattening.

Chapter 6: We use confusing euphemisms, and want to force foreigners to speak our stupid bastardized language.

Chapter 7: We're superficial and know nothing about our friends. We go to stores wearing pajamas. "If Americans do not get your name at a party or personal setting, they most likely won't talk to you for any length of time." Favors are kept track of and we turn everything into commercial transactions. We put friends in boxes. We don't care about each other. We move too much.

Chapter 8: We have lots of rules. And lots of lawyers. Everything results in a lawsuit. Lawyers suck. Everyone binge drinks. We kill innocent people with the death penalty.

Chapter 9: We stink at math, our schools suck, and they're more like social centers than academic environments.

Chapter 10: Our houses are big and plain and we prefer artificial air to opening windows. Garage sales let us make money off our belongings and that's more important than the privacy of keeping our personal belongings private. Huh? We worship Martha Stewart even though she's a criminal. We call the police to complain about our neighbors.

Okay, that's only about two-thirds of the book, but you get the point. Honestly, I think the author's probably right about all of this stuff and maybe America does suck and Americans are all superficial and material and terrible awful people... but are foreigners all so much better? And is there NOTHING good about America? This is like the anti-immigration support manual. It gives no reasons why anyone would ever be happy here. I'm all for all these criticisms, and I agree that lots of people are fake and superficial and sometimes it's hard to make close friends, but sometimes it's not, and lots of people are really not like this and are very cool and smart and nice and good at math. :) It's a bizarre book.

Then again, I found it pretty entertaining.