Living in America

Watching the morning TV news the other day, I began to muse upon the American attitude towards foreigners, and foreign Countries. Tricky to define, I concluded. You can’t really call Americans xenophobic – mainly because the majority have never met a foreigner. No, the best word I could come up with is “insular”. For example, the demise of the little-lamented Colonel Gaddafy got a couple of minutes. Likewise, the bail-out of the Greek economy by the ECB, at a cost of gazillions.

It seems strange to use such a word to describe the citizens of such a huge country, but I think it’s true. Mainly because, although we have adjoining countries to both North and South, neither of them really have much impact on the daily lives of most Americans.  Apart from being joined geographically to both Canada and Mexico, the USA is in reality a huge island. I mean, huge; it’s about as far from Los Angeles to New York as it is from New York to London. While it’s true that the porous border with Mexico results in some problems involving the importation of illegal drugs and persons, it tends to be regarded as a local issue for States like Arizona, Texas, California and Florida. So to most Americans,  the rest of the world is a long way away. Despite the “shrinking planet” syndrome brought about by constantly improving communications, there is still an insularity here.  My favourite example is the end of season playoff for the National Professional Baseball Championship. Without so much as a hint of a tongue in cheek, this is entitled ‘The World Series’. Seriously. Now, all but two teams in the Leagues which qualify for this event are in the contiguous United States – the other two being in Canada (Toronto and Montreal). But ‘World Series’ it is.

Having lived on both edges of this Country, in New York and Los Angeles I probably have a rather more cynical outlook than most, simply because these two Cities are the major bases for all American media – with the notable exception of Washington, D.C. , of course. The rest of the Country, to me, is the bit you fly over in order to get from one edge to the other. Except, I did visit Chicago once, and also Minneapolis. It was Winter in both cases, and little enjoyment was had by yours truly in either place.

It’s just the sheer scale of the Country, I think, which makes it the way it is. Come to think of it, the former USSR was not so different. Vast in scale, with few immediate neighbouring borders. Unlike European Countries, pretty much all of which have clearly defined land borders, and where the language can change within a one-minute drive. Hence, I guess, the formation of the European Union. Although I’ve always wondered what Sweden and Spain, for example, have ever had in common, or ever will. Or Ireland and pretty much anybody else. But that’s another story.

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