Anti-American narratives

Would you read a blog where stereotypical statements about Jews went unchallenged?  What about those blogs that declare “Islam sucks”? Pretty much a no-brainer, at least for me.  I want to judge someone by what they say and what they do, not by what someone with a need for seamless explanations claims they are thinking secretly.

But what about blogs where blanket assumptions about Americans go unchallenged?

When I lived in Jordan I heard plenty of anti-American assumptions.  The basic ones were:

  • Americans are all alike.

While some stereotypes might be met with the question, “Are all the fingers of the hand alike?”, stereotypes of Americans were not challenged.

  • Americans eat their babies.

This meme takes some news item and uses it to “prove” Americans are not really human.  One I remember was about a shooting at a school. The interpretation was not that the shooter was arrested and put in jail, or that the community was in deep shock over the deaths–those facts were glossed over.    The given interpretation was that shooting children is “what Americans do”. Also glossed over was why this was “news” if it was supposed to be so commonplace. But these things aren’t meant for analysis; they’re meant to be thrown out into conversation as “everybody knows” snippets.

  • Americans control everything that happens in the world.

The corollary statements are “America controls Israel” and “The Jews” (yahood) control America.  Therefore ….9/11 was done by the Americans. Or maybe “the Jews”. *headdesk*

I heard plenty of this stuff in the Middle East, but I pretty much ignored it. For one thing, fact-checking is hard in that environment.  For another thing, like my friends, I had become pretty much a Bedouin housewife, and didn’t care.

I’m lucky enough to have been born in a country where I can publicly criticize the government, but many, maybe even most, countries are not like that. Too often, in countries where political stability is fragile, criticizing the government is illegal.  Criticizing the American government then becomes an acceptable replacement pastime.  It’s amazing how hatred for a common enemy, real or imagined, can bring people together. Some American officials have recognized this and even encouraged it at times.   (If you don’t understand the stability issue, google “Jordan bread riots”.)

Let me point out that none of these anti-American memes is a criticism of a particular administration or policy.  They are just stereotypes, and from where I sit, very goofy ones.  Lately I have seen a few of these memes on European blog threads, one referencing the Russian child adoption case as an example of “what Americans do”, another talking about how bombs explode in the Middle East “when the Americans tell them to”.  A bit puzzling, that, but I do recognize the “Americans eat their babies” theme and the “Americans control everything in the world” theme.  No one joined in, but no one put a stop to it either.  So can you be just a spectator to that kind of stereotyping or are you always a participant if you keep silent?

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