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January 23, 2007

Angeline Jolie is afraid of Americans

Angelina Jolie has recently expressed her difficulties as an American on the world stage (via Agent Bedhead).

“When I travel, people feel uncomfortable when I say I’m American. They think it’s suspicious that I want to do something positive for them. I think they wonder why the American people re-elected a President who is making foreign policy choices that are affecting other countries in a way that we should question.”

The thing most Americans I have met do not seem to grasp is that while it is true most people on Earth hold nasty little bigoted views about America and Americans most people on Earth hold nasty little bigoted views about everywhere else as well. True, the British can spare only a rare kind word for the producers of half the television and music they enjoy but try asking them about Japan or Australia or (shudder) France and you will soon discover the Americans do not hold a special place of enmity. In fact, if you can find me someone holding universally positive views of a particular nation or ethnicity I suspect you will it be the erstatz representative of some local fascism.

And before anyone gets defensive at my pointing to an American parochialism remember Canadians love almost nothing better than to point fingers at their uncosmopolitan southern neighbours. The problem being, of course, that Canada has even fewer neighbours than the States. If you are, say, Croatian and live in a crowded neighborhood with ill-tended fences it is impossible to imagine everyone is going to get on all the time. Canada, by contrast, shares borders with Denmark and France only through the remote accidents of colonial possession represented by Greenland and St. Pierre and Miquelon. Consequently, Canadians do not share America's naive optimism about the rest of the world, preferring instead to live under the delusion that everyone loves Canada.*

Note to Canadians: Everyone does not love Canada. Following Belgium, Canada is considered to be the most boring country on Earth** and, if it is thought of at all, it is as the uptight, underachieving and humourless*** version of the United States.**** Is any of this particularly fair? You be the judge. Though I have noticed nothing tends to bring out the scratch-the-surface jingoism of Canadians more than pointing out this sort of thing.

* This despite the fact we have managed to find ourselves in a military confrontation with one third of our contiguous neighbours. And no, it is not with those trigger-happy Americans or those easy-to-get-along-with French.
** Excepting Montreal.
*** Outraged list of famous Canadian comedians arriving in 4... 3... 2... Yes, there are some witty Canadians; they live and work in the United States. The rest of Canada's limited comedic output works on Air Farce, a show so ham-fisted and lame it makes Egyptian soap-opera look like Shakespeare. Rick Mercer is the exception that proves the rule, btw, so don't even go there.
**** Canadians like to point to our largely mythical role as peacekeepers. I have rarely encountered a better example of what Antonio Gramsci described as hegemonic ideology; a myth propagated in the interests of an established elite at complete variance with material fact.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at January 23, 2007 07:03 AM

Comments

** And Vancouver, the ersatz Amsterdam of the North.

*** Don't forget This Hour Has 22 Minutes... another wannabe-funny show now stricken with ham-fistedness (and far too many public-broadcaster in-jokes wherein they mock Radio Two and other CBC services with an even smaller audience).

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 09:53 AM

Indeed and even moreso the intra-national hatred of local minorities or merely different regions. Nothing reminds one that the country should not expect to be loved from abroad so much as the awareness that within ones land that hate of each other is rampant. The clarity on this point that the Manx, Bretons, Kashubes and Kurds provide should be visited upon Kansans if only for educational (if not recreational) purposes.

PS: ***The co-existence of the two facts of Canadians being humourless and also excelling at home at something called "political humour" is not a paradox.

Posted by: Alan McLeod [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 11:39 AM

Excellence being in the eye of the beholder, of course. I count one Canadian as being excellent at political humour, and he is off the mark about 60% of the time.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 12:32 PM

Rex Murphy?

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 12:43 PM

Don Cherry?

Posted by: Alan McLeod [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 12:48 PM

Okay, two. Mercer was the guy I thought of initially. I forgot about Rex. I don't listen to or read Rex often enough to know how frequently his attempts fall flat. Logic says it has to be fairly often, since this is the country that once lionised Allan Fotheringham as the pinnacle of political humour. And Dr. Foth was unfunny about 99.9 (and 44/100ths) percent of the time.

Posted by: Chris Taylor [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 01:07 PM

Remember, "Peacekeeping, NOT POLICING!"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqp_S57eQ_E

Posted by: The_Campblog [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 03:15 PM

And before anyone gets defensive at my pointing to an American parochialism remember Canadians love almost nothing better than to point fingers at their uncosmopolitan southern neighbours.

This is true of Canadians of essentially every political stripe, and in every region of the country (at least the ones I have visited). I have hard-left leaning friends who enjoy saying "Damned Arrogant Americans!" every bit as much as some of my conservative ones, my religious ones, and my atheist ones.

Although I curse and gripe about the Stars and Bars while they are the opposing team on the ice, I have defended them to varying degrees when the discussion turns to international affairs.

As though they needed me defending them, or something.

Posted by: Temujin [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 10:18 PM

Oh, and tell me Trailer Park Boys is boring.

Go ahead. I dare you :-)

Posted by: Temujin [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 23, 2007 10:20 PM

Americans (and I am one) are the only people I can think of that actually admire other countries more than they admire their own. (I know that sentence is grammatically crappy but it's late and after all I'm an American. We can't do math real well.)

To continue... this often embarrassing schoolgirlish crush we have on "exotic other lands" (which shifts with fashion -- in the heyday of the Beatles it was England, sort of; when the "Latin lover" was in vogue it was anywhere south of the border, etc.) is usually dedicated not to the actual countries/peoples, but to an idealized facsimile of same. I speak from experience: for years I was an "Anglophile," and would babble yearningly of moving to Blighty and getting me a dear little flat (translate: smallish castle in a reasonably-sized -- say, about five miles or so in extent -- grounds) and I would sit around drinking tea and mooning over witty yet erudite pallid young men. This persisted through an actual visit to England, which was pleasant yet did not actually engender in me a need to stay there. Yet the minute I landed on Florida soil there came the fantasy again.

The idea that foreign nations are not some sort of complaisant extension of Disney World is a shock to Americans like Angeline Jolie, as is the idea that people would be suspicious of a glad-handing rich female swanning about their community with the intention of "doing good," which in many places means gaining influence and power for the dogooder's personal enrichment at the expense of the natives. Cynicism and mistrust are supposed to be decadent Western attitudes!

Posted by: Andrea Harris [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 24, 2007 10:55 PM

I admit being a witty yet erudite pallid young Englishman was the only card I ever had to play.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 25, 2007 07:01 AM