The other day, I read an article written by two American gay writers. The article’s title was, “Are Americans the stupidest people in the world?” I’ve actually read these writers’ work before: one is an LGBT young adult novelist and the other was an editor of a former gay news and entertainment website. These two men are a longtime gay couple who decided in 2017 to sell their house in Seattle and travel the world as “digital nomads.” They’ve been moving to a new country every few months and supporting themselves by working remotely.
The opinion piece they wrote has some valid points. I agree that the U.S. response to the pandemic has not lived up to what most of the rest of the world is doing, because many Republican leaders in this country have failed to take the crisis seriously. Also, the supporters of those so-called leaders have acted according to what they see as an example. The public’s health and safety have been made into political issues.
However, what I take exception to is when they try to lump all Americans and all politicians into the same category. At one point, they write, “The brutal truth is that a lot of Americans have grown selfish, lazy, and entitled. We want everything now, and we don’t want to pay the real cost of things. And we don’t seem to give a damn about people who don’t look and act exactly like us.” These two men left the United States when Trump was elected. Fine, great, go…but, not all of us can do that; being a traveling nomad is expensive. And by leaving, they are running away from the problem and doing nothing but complaining from a distance. The U.S. isn't perfect, and it never has been, but when someone decides to run from a problem then disparage those trying to make things better, you become part of the problem, not part of the solution.
These guys ran away and say everything is so much better elsewhere. They act like other countries don’t have the same problems with police brutality and racism that the United States does. Bullshit! The United States has one unique character that most other countries don’t have: e pluribus unum. Out of many nationalities, we are one nation. Most countries are more monoethnic than the United States. And the countries these two men say they have been to and seen such a difference happen to be the most monoethnic countries in the world.
I will admit many Americans since colonial times have believed in American exceptionalism. It’s the whole “City upon a Hill” mentality. The British novelist, Frances Trollope, visited the United States in 1830 and wrote, Domestic Manners of the Americans. The book created a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Trollope had a caustic view of Americans, and found America strongly lacking in manners and learning. She was appalled by America's egalitarian middle-class, and by the influence of evangelicalism emerging during the Second Great Awakening. In her book, Trollope said:
A single word indicative of doubt, that anything, or everything, in that country is not the very best in the world, produces an effect which must be seen and felt to be understood. If the citizens of the United States were indeed the devoted patriots they call themselves, they would surely not thus encrust themselves in the hard, dry, stubborn persuasion, that they are the first and best of the human race, that nothing is to be learnt, but what they are able to teach, and that nothing is worth having, which they do not possess.
There is a lot of truth in her writing, but her attitude was influenced by the European view that Americans had no history and were uncouth. There was a prejudice against Americans around the world, and that view went both ways as many Americans felt they were better than the rest of the world.
The trouble with Trollope’s attitude is that this has never been true of all Americans, just as it is not true that all Americans are stupid. It’s only a certain, and very vocal, part of the population who are just plain ignorant. The head ignoramus, sadly, is the President. He has led his followers into nativism, paranoia, anti-intellectualism, conspiracy-mongering, and of course, rank racism. But those same followers already had those issues before Donald Trump. He’s just fueling the fire. These same people are unwilling to sacrifice for the common good, to think of others before themselves, and to endure difficult times.
I don’t like the stay-at-home orders or wearing a facemask when I have to go out. I am not looking forward to going back to work and having to wear a facemask any time I leave my office. However, I know it is for the common good. I am willing to endure the discomfort if it will help slow the pandemic. It’s just something we have to do. So, for people like the two guys who wrote, “Are Americans the stupidest people in the world?” they don’t realize many of us are trying. We are doing our part. We are not selfish, lazy, and entitled.
You know what to do: