I was in a pub the other night and was ordering a pint of the good stuff at the bar when eek! - I saw one of Them. ‘Them’ are a thankfully small classification of Americans who still refer fondly to WWII when explaining to Europeans why they should treat him/her with more courtesy, respect, free beer, whatever because of the US’ role in ending the Second World War. Mr. Them was wearing his sportiest polo, khaki shorts, cashmere socks, and tasseled loafers and was tossing back a pint of Guinness with his equally fussy wife. He was in his mid-fifties and was probably about 2 years old when WWII ended. Nonetheless, when he didn’t get waited on in the time frame he had apparently set for a refill, he began to talk loudly, calling the overworked bartender, “Son’ and telling him to – and I quote - ‘get that glass filled chop-chop. You know if it weren’t for us, you’d all be speaking German.’ Several young guys who didn’t understand the reference snorted at this and one even threw a bar peanut at him. Uh-oh. Two young German tourists shouted, ‘Leck mich du arschloch’ which prompted the fellow pub patrons to shout an encouraging hurrah for our new German friends despite not knowing what the heck they said, but having an otherwise – pretty good idea. Mr. Them was clueless about the reaction that he caused but it didn’t take him long to sense that his fellow barmates were none too pleased with his arrogance in relation to the rest of the world. His smug smile fell from his face, he slid his empty glass down rather forcefully on the bar, told his wife quite loudly that they were leaving, and they stormed out. As they were making their dramatic exit, the pub goers were yelling various ‘good-byes’ – none of which encouraged Mr. and Mrs. Them to return anytime soon. Pity.
As I then placed my order with my newly found Canadian accent, I began to wonder at how the average American actually saw their place in the world and if they actually believed that it was a positive place. I wondered at how insulated and isolated the US is physically as well as mentally. The evening news in my hometown of Chicago featured muggings, car accidents, government scandals, weather, sports, and MAYBE a minute or so on international affairs. The evening news in most countries I have visited feature much more international coverage and well – everyone else seems to be just that much more aware that there are other countries in the world. Mr. Them made me very aware that if Americans are so proud of their Number 1 status and wish to continue being the world’s ‘protectors’, then they need to recognize that with that status comes tremendous responsibility. We have not yet lived up to that responsibility. Everytime an American worries about global warming, they need to recognize their contribution to the problem. Everytime an American complains about ‘those terrorists’, they need to consider ways to mediate peace and make their elected officials hear the voice of reason and peacemaking, rather than figure out new countries to bomb and invade which furthers exacerbates the problem. Everytime an American shakes their head as they watch heart-wrenching commercials about the thousands of children dying needlessly everyday, they need to get their government to respect the pledge that they made to the United Nations 36 years ago to give a set percentage of their budget to development aid. So thank you, Mr. Them for leaving the pub when you realized your comments were not welcome. I had a much better night without you there. Thank you to those no-holds-barred German girls for putting Mr. Them in his place. And thank you to Dalbir whose constant tirades against America has caused me to want to study Canada at a much deeper level. Uh-oh – I’m becoming one of Them…….