Foreign Superiority Complex

This post is quite delayed, blame it on too much travel during the month of December:

Reading The Week on a Delta flight from Boston to Atlanta, I came across a disturbing summary piece. It was titled: How They See Us: The GOP Makes a Virtue of Ignorance. Here’s a non-subscriber link.

It contained the amalgamated opinions of four foreign correspondents, one from Germany, one from France, and two from Britain.

The article is short, so you should read it. Not because it’s an eye-opener: unless you’ve been living under a stupid rock (or you’re a Tea Party aficionado), you can’t have missed the major media gaffes the Republican potentials have been making. Between Perry’s “Oops” moment, Bachman’s idiotic comment about the current US embassy in Iran (spoiler alert: there hasn’t been a US embassy in Iran since 1980), and Cain’s Libya brain fart, watching CNN and reading the newspaper has become an entertaining exercise in Schadenfreude.

The correspondent that particularly annoyed me was Max Hastings, from the Daily Mail. As quoted in the Week, Hastings claimed that “Say what you want about British politics, no MP of any party would dare to offer themselves as town dogcatcher while knowing as little about the world as the Republican presidential candidates”. There were many other comments to such effect.

Despite the fact that I found the description of the Republicans pretty apt, I felt pretty annoyed. Putting my hardened Anglophilia aside, I bristled at such a condescending tone from a foreign correspondent.

I realized that despite the fact that I agreed with how clownish the US political game has become, and I have my fair share of anxiety at the prospect of a president from a party which delights in ignorance and hindering scientific and intellectual progress of all sorts, I was greatly annoyed by the summary piece. While I think it is the right, indeed the responsibility, of foreign correspondents to not only report but comment on the actions of representatives of other nations, there was something unprofessional about its tone. What disturbed me about the Hastings piece was its unrestrained glee in thumbing its nose at American politics.

Immature opinion pieces aside, I think my ire was rather interesting considering I’m not even an American citizen. But as a permanent resident of the US, having decided to build my life and future in this country, I think I am much more entitled to make fun or express frustration about national politics than some insensitive British snob. It’s an interesting thing (considering all the controversy about immigrants and national identity) when American patriotism isn’t based on the color of your passport, but rather your attachment to where you live.

It looks like government politics are not much different from family politics: I can say WHATEVER I want about how annoying, obnoxious, or inefficacious my family is, but I will punch your teeth out if you do the same because you are not a part of it. This is not about rational international criticism; it’s about misplaced superiority complexes.

It’s a slippery slope. Many people accuse Americans of being arrogant and patriotic to the point of xenophobia. Which is why I hope Mitt Romney doesn’t end up president (all that “exceptional nation” crap). But I also see (as a foreigner myself) that the people who make it their business to make fun of Americans are more close-minded and ignorant than Americans themselves.

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