Think twice, U.S. bashers

Last week, I watched the Cuban ambassador to Canada address a crowd of Queen’s students and other Kingstonians. Although his speech was mostly about Cuban-Canadian relations, he offered
a few choice words about the United States.

While he’s not exactly happy about the relationship, or lack thereof, between Cuba and the U.S., he has nothing against the American people themselves, he said. He knows that many of them don’t agree with their government’s policies in regards to Cuba and he holds nothing against them.

His words about separating the state from the society rang true with me. Despite having lived in the
country for over 10 years, I’ve always steadfastly refused to identify myself as an American.

I was born in Canada, and have always been proud to be Canadian. My only motivation for becoming an American citizen is so that I would be able to cast a vote against the current government.

However, it still annoys me to no end when I hear people speak disparagingly about the U.S. because more often than not, the comments seem to be a generalized collection of uninformed stereotypes.

Don’t get me wrong: If you have an intelligent critique of the current government’s policies, I’m all ears. Directing your dislike of the American government onto the entire population, however, is misinformed and ignorant.

If you’re going to tell me how all Americans are ignorant, superficial, stupid, ugly and/or rude, let me pre-empt your incredibly bigoted statement by saying this: you’re wrong. Not all Americans are flag-waving, gun-toting Republicans. I’ve never seen a restaurant that serves “freedom fries.” Not everyone is an overweight, McDonald’s-eating glutton. Not everyone supports the war in Iraq. Many Americans are well aware that the entire universe doesn’t revolve around them. Being American doesn’t mean you are a consumer-driven capitalist who thinks only of making a profit, regardless of the cost to others or the world at large. Not all Americans are loud, obnoxious and insensitive.

It’s frustrating to listen to someone start saying “all Americans are so stupid because …” only to see the annoyed look on my face and correct themselves.

“Oh, you don’t count. You’re not actually American,” they say, like it’s okay to make such an ignorant statement as long as they aren’t insulting me directly. But it’s still an insulting comment and it still offends me on behalf of all the Americans who don’t fit the stereotype. It’s not acceptable to make overarching stereotypes about races or religions, and it’s rare to hear someone broadly insulting the entire population of other countries. It boggles me, then, when I hear otherwise intelligent and culturally aware individuals making rude, generalizing comments about the U.S., like it’s somehow okay, just because it’s the U.S.

It’s not OK. Say what you will about the government, its institutions and its policies. But please, think twice before commenting on the character of the entire population.

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