April 28, 2002

Patrick crystallizes something that I've been thinking about for awhile now, about the relative level of understanding of the world and how it works among Americans and Europeans. I came of age in the 80s. If you were a college student in the 80s and you were politically aware but not already a Young Republican, you probably didn't think much of Ronald Reagan. He was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he had a fairly simplistic view of the world, he said stupid thing about ketchup and trees, and he was surrounded by scary people like James Watt and Ed Meese. It was easy to base a political philosophy on denigrating Reagan.

The problem was that in this environment you would often find yourself around folks who believed this sort of thing a lot more fervently than you did. They didn't merely dislike Reagan and distrust his worldview, they took it to the next level and condemned American society and politics, both for ever electing Reagan in the first place and for being the kind of place that would ever elect a Reagan. If you hung around these people long enough, you spent a fair amount of time feeling vaguely guilty about being born American, and if you didn't go along with their wholesale condemnations and diatribes, you were somehow as backward and unsophisticated as Ronald Reagan and his supporters.

Not too surprisingly, these folks tended to be Europhiles. Many of them talked about moving to Europe or at least spending a lot of time there. If only America could be as enlightened as Europe, then maybe they'd find a reason to stay. I sometimes wonder what became of people like this. Did they become Jerry Rubin, or did they remain Abbie Hoffman?

I think recent events have shown pretty clearly that though we may have another simplistic boob who surrounds himself with scary people in the White House, we have no reason to feel inferior to Europe. I think Americans understand Europe better than Europeans think we do, and I think we understand Europe better than some of them understand us. In any event, I agree with Patrick. I've got enough things to feel guilty about.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 28, 2002 to Around the world