Today I went to lunch with the French guy and the two German guys from class. Good times. Three of us are in the same age group. They are all very surprised by my being here etc. as if Americans don’t come to other countries etc. They are all here for their jobs. When I explained to them that I had a little Italian in my blood, it made more sense. But there was this feeling in the air about us. they told me that I was not like an American. That America is all puppets and circuses with nothing of substance. That Americans don’t speak other languages, either English or Spanish if they are from South America. That most of them don’t even know that other countries exist. Etc, etc. I told them they were stereotyping. Walking home one of the Germans Stephano asked me if it is hard for me in the states being an intellectual and being surrounded by dumb people. and If I planned on moving here to Europe so I could be around smarter people. I’m serious. He just came out and asked me this. My first reaction was how does he know if I am intellectual or not. Cause I don’t think I am. I think there are plenty of intellectuals in the states and I’m not one of them. I explained to them that I’m a creator. We know a little bit about a lot of things, just enough to keep us constantly stimulated and inspired, but we certainly aren’t intellectuals. I have some friends who are intellectuals and they bore the hell out of me. Give me the big picture baby! But I did know what he meant. I told them that in fact yes by the time I had left America I was so bored with the lack of intellectual stimulation I was getting and so disgusted by the constant barrage of crass commercialism in our arts and entertainment—its as if it is a sin to have a brain now in America, one gets the impression that you are better off if you hide the fact that you are smart. Just try to act cool instead.
Yes I knew what he meant. But I explained to them that I didn’t necessarily find it anymore intellectual or intelligent here and I had been to the four largest cities in the country. It is true that most Europeans do speak 2 or 3 foreign languages. And this is impressive. And most Americans only speak English. This is a fact. And it is also a fact that most Americans don’t know where or even what Belgium is for example. They kept explaining to me how dumb we were because people like eminem and Britney spears and J lo are like cultural heroes in America, and everything is about being cool and sexy, but that we offer the world nothing of substance. And in America no one cares about being smart. They were really nailing into me with some serious prejudice against Americans. They resent the fact that now their countries are being polluted with crappy American R&B music about sex all the time, and cheesy American movies about sex all the time. they said they are afraid it is going to bring their countries down. I’m not kidding. They nailed into about this for hours. I felt totally discriminated against by these other three guys…
Of course they mentioned GW Bush, and asked me what I thought about him etc, which I get asked by everyone. I told them that on behalf of most Americans we are really sorry for Bush and that although he is a typical American, his administration and his questionable policies are not necessarily representative of most American people. I told them that all of this may be true about a lot of the stupid stuff that is in the mainstream in America. But there is something about the new world that is very special, very stimulating in a different way. it is as if in Europe there is this “we can’t” or “lets wait” mentality. And in the states we have this “we can” or “lets do it” attitude. So yea we’re pretty dumb sometimes, but if I were sick I wouldn’t want to go to a hospital anywhere other than in America. In fact I told them I think really we are the best at everything. I was as shocked to hear this come out of my mouth as they were, but I told them that yes I drive a German car, but that’s America, were smart enough to know to drive a German car if we want performance or an Italian or English car if we want luxury and style, or a Japanese car if we want a good deal and a reliable car that will last forever. that’s us. maybe we aren’t so intellectual, but I just think we are the smartest people. maybe as a whole we aren’t, I mean our lowest common denominator is lower than most of the rest of civilization, as evidenced by the inane music in our top forty (for example in America we get our Sting and our Peter Gabriel from the UK (we just think they’re ours)) and of course our very low test scores show the same thing.
But still I think that the best of us are the best anywhere. And I think our achievements over the last 200 years have shown this. cars, flight, electricity, space program, medicine, government, the list goes on and on, and of course what is an American but someone who came from somewhere else. why are we the best at everything? (I laughed at myself here). it is the fact that all of us came from somewhere else so there is this wide variety of minds and spirits in the states. We have the best of the entire world in our country. Also the innovative spirit that dominates our thinking. Innovation and entrepreneurism are our most prized possessions in our free enterprise system. And the spirit of freedom and liberty that we enjoy is like no where else. I also think that there is a sense of safety in America that other countries don’t experience as much. All of these things have lead to and continue to lead to America being a world leader in innovation and achievement in any field we want to undertake. Lets hope we keep it that way. I think by the time we all separated after lunch they were convinced that I was just another egotistical flag waving American like anyone else over there. but I don’t care. I have been away long enough now to appreciate more than I ever could before how wonderful America is. and wonderful the American people are. I think we are the smartest coolest most friendly open-minded and spirited polite helpful innovative and motivated people in the world. Every time I meet another American on the street here I am amazed at how sweet and nice AND how knowledgeable they are in this funny kind of American way. like they may not know anything about Rome, but they are pulling in 75 thou a year at home at their job and they are the top at whatever they do. so there is something to be said about that.