The Ugly American Just Won’t Go Away
I live in an America that is increasingly diverse. I live in a world of dramatic cultural and economic change. I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh.
I wouldn’t even acknowledge his existence if he did not command a radio audience of millions – more than 15 million certainly, perhaps as many as 30 million, according to wildly varying estimates bandied about in the media.
And when this American media star resorts to mocking the way China’s President Hu Jintao sounds, I can’t ignore it.
I worked with Americans back in Jamaica, and I was frequently irritated when they ridiculed our mannerisms. Every time they mocked the word “man,” pronouncing it as “mon,” I would cringe. And when they scoffed at some local phrase or custom, I wanted to smack them upside the head.
Of course, I did no such thing. I smiled and thought how ugly Americans can sometimes be.
Of course, I know that the tendency to mock the mannerisms of other cultures is not unique to America. It’s universal.
Jamaicans do it. At least, they used to when I was growing up. They labeled Indians as “Coolies” and called Indian men “Babu,” Little children would sing, “Ching-chong Chinaman” to tease the local shopkeeper. That kind of thing.
But that was a long time ago, and the world was a different place. European culture (and its British and American offshoots) was the accepted model for us all to copy. No one challenged the supremacy of French wine and cuisine, Greek sculpture, Italian architecture, “classical” music, Russian ballet… and so on.
And – in former British colonies like Jamaica – to be un-English or un-American was to be uncouth.
But I have news for Rush Limbaugh – and his millions of followers. Things ain’t what they used to be.
China has not yet surpassed America as the world’s number-one superpower, but it’s getting there. And China is in a much stronger economic position than America; the Chinese hold a trillion dollars of American debt, for example.
The video clip of Limbaugh’s embarrassing performance is all over the Chinese Internet by now, and that means hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens are seeing an America that should have disappeared by now, an America of which we should all be thoroughly ashamed.