(This next post was submitted by reader and commenter Dorit, a piece that highlights some of the ways White Americans perceive the Others.)
I am the offspring of a Celt and a Hillbilly. Thus I am a white-American. And when stripped of the accoutrements of my current tribe (make up, hair color from a bottle, costume and the like) I look just like many of the gazillion people who inhabit our great nation. Some of whom (not all of course) get their news from the fear mongers at Fox News (how can a network that gave us Married with Children, the Simpson’s and King of the Hill give us such right wing rubbish?). And being that I am White-American and to some extent look like them or people they are use to being around, these folks will talk to me and will share with me their demented ideas, fueled more by the AM talk radio, cable news and political TV ads than actual interactions with people unfamiliar to them. And after talking to or overhearing a few of them during a family trip to Sea World California, I can testify:
Ugly Americanism is alive and well.
Example number 1:
I was doing a little people watching (a nice way of saying I was eavesdropping) as we were waiting for the Shamu show to start. I witnessed four teenagers sitting in the fifth or so row (a prime spot to watch the show). Two of these teenagers left their seats to go to the front row (a crappy place to sit if you want to see the show). After they moved, two ladies who appeared to be Arab and were wearing Muslim garb took the two vacant seats. The two remaining teenagers said nothing. Well, about 10 minutes later, a middle age lady came down to yell at the two roaming teens, demanding to know why they left where they were, were they stupid, what was wrong with them and the like. The angry lady then went to the two Muslim ladies and asked them to leave the seats, that those seats belonged to the two now crying teenagers. The two ladies did not move. The angry lady then said “you are in OUR country you know, those are OUR seats”. This did not sit well with the other Sea World visitors who were sitting around them. Our fellow Shamu fans verbally jumped on the angry lady, who then left very quickly.
The two ladies and all four teenagers enjoyed the rest of the show.
Example number 2:
We, the daughter and I, were standing in line for some lets-get-all-wet-with-nasty-sea-water-ride. Sea World, understands the short attention span of most people as well as humankind’s need to be reminded repeatedly not to do dumb things and then there’s the corporate world’s complete fear of being sued, so they treated everyone in line to a video reminding us to keep hands and arms in the ride at all time and to secure loose items. This video was in both English and Spanish.
Well, the folks behind us, proud, patriotic Americans I am sure, seemed to take exception with the Spanish part of the video. They grumbled and rumbled among themselves. I sensed ugliness so I instructed the daughter to go wait with my husband (who was sleeping on a nearby bench) until we were at the front of the line. As soon as the little one was gone, the Proud Americans decided to include me in the conversation: “How do you like that, they are making it easier for the ILLEGAL’S to come to Sea World, can you believe it?” “Its bad enough they are taking away our jobs and committing crimes”.
I wanted to stay quite, I mean, why argue? I am not going to change their minds; they are not going to change mine. Any interaction would be pointless.
The only reason I said anything was because of all the visitors from all over the world, Arab, Asia, The Americas, and Europe (including a ton of Germans, most of whom were dressed in 1980’s style clothing. Being that I am a big fan of neon colors, I do approve) who were in line with us, including a lovely Spanish speaking family in front of us, who became very reserved when the Proud Americans decided to speak louder (note: Sea World sells beer and the Proud Americans had enjoyed a drink or two). So I spoke up:
“Do you really think some one here with out papers, who is working for minimum wage or less, who risked their lives to cross the boarder JUST to find work, who is sacrificing SO much JUST to send a few dollars home is going to be able to dish out $60.00 plus per person to go to Sea World? No they would not.”
“The reason the video is in Spanish is for all the tourists who come up from Mexico to SPEND their money at Sea World and in San Diego, they BRING in money, they DON’T take it away.”
The proud Americans were quiet after that.
The vast majority of the residents of this great land (and of the planet) are cool and open minded. But it only takes a few, like the two examples above, to convince the rest of the world that we are all Ugly Americans.