16
   

DAMN THOSE AUSTRIANS ! ! !

 
 
Setanta
 
  3  
Reply Thu 14 Jan, 2010 11:46 pm
Most people in the world, including Americans, don't understand why they are so insular, but it's a product of their history. The civil war, and even more so, the reconstruction period which followed it, deeply scarred the nation. The national fabric was rent, and has never been fully repaired. Race riots and institutional racism have been a part of the badly woven fabric since that time, even before the war ended. (The draft riots in New York in 1863 were race riots, too, and many blacks were hunted down in the streets and killed.)

America has always been able to be sufficient unto itself. It has been able to produce just about everything it needed--if you can do without coffee and bananas, you can get just about everything you want from the territory of the United States. The great depression for Europe actually took place in the late 1870s through the 1890s, and America and Canada both profited from it, while European investors put their money in the United States and Canada, and European immigrants flocked to both countries. It helped to bolster the myth of American exceptionalism.

The Spanish War in 1898 actually met with the approval of a good deal of Europe, which was then the industrial world (Japan hadn't been admitted to the club yet, and China was supine.) Kipling wrote The White Man's Burden as an address to the United States after they took the Philippine Islands from Spain. But imperialism didn't sit well with most Americans, for all that capitalists and Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt thought it was a fine thing. They didn't want to be the world's cop, and they wanted to turn their back on the world. When the Great War began, many Americans harked back to an earlier theme of our republic, that Europe was the land of Kings and corruption, and we wanted no part of it. Woodrow Wilson only won the 1912 election because Roosevelt split the Republican vote by running independently, but Wilson won re-election in 1916 handily on a theme of having kept us out of the European war. He was able to blame the evil Germans for our being "dragged into" the war in 1917. He came home in 1919, and through incredible political hubris and bumbling, alienated the Republicans and failed to secure ratification of the Paris treaties of 1919, and failed to get the United States to enter the League of Nations--once again, Americans turned away from the world, and refused to play the part of world cop.

When another Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt (cousin to Teddy) became President in the depths of our Great Depression, American focus was once again turned inward, because of the genuinely serious problems with which he had to deal. He was re-elected in 1936 on a theme of having a job to finish. In 1940, the opposition, Wendell Wilkie, fought a tough campaign, but most people in the country still blamed the Republicans for the depression, so that FDR took all the cities, and disingenuously repeated the Wilson formula that he would keep American boys out of foreign wars. Of course, the Japanese freed him from that promise on December 7, 1941, and Hitler stupidly declared war on the United States, allowing FDR to go to war in Europe, which is what he longed to do.

The World War Two generation saw themselves as noble fighters in a good fight (some of the survivors to this day will say they fought the good fight), and this reinforced the myth of American exceptionalism. After both world wars, the United States and Canada fed most of the world for quite a few years, and after the Second World War, Americans saw themselves as rebuilding a world shattered by the old evils of kings and corruption. They sincerely believed that they were exporting democracy and culture, and cynical politicians encouraged the idea to their own benefit. Americans once more turned inward, and looked upon the rest of the world as poor relations coming to the door with a hand out, begging.

It doesn't matter (it never matters) that this was both false and oversimplification, it just helped to reinforce the insularity. From the point of view of many (probably most) Americans, we have everything you could want right here. If you live in New England, you can go sun yourself on subtropical beaches without leaving the country. If you live in Florida, you can go skiing in rugged, beautiful alpine settings without leaving the country. Until quite recently in our history, we have been able to manufacture everything we needed and wanted, and we have always, since the very beginning, been able to feed ourselves and export our agricultural surplus. Millions upon millions of Americans can't see any reason to pay attention to the rest of world, on the principle that they need us, but we don't need them.

In none of this do i seek to justify the insularity, and i'm not certain that it's necessarily doing most Americans harm, as long as we can avoid future fiascoes like the Bush administration. But the insularity is understandable in the context of our history, and isn't likely to change any time soon.
dadpad
 
  2  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 12:19 am
@Setanta,
Quote:
Most people in the world, including Americans, don't understand why they are so insular

I wanna change that to read
Americans don't understand that they are so insular.

I have had a bit to do with exchange students and the change we see in kids sometimes is amazing. i have several reprts from US mothers whos kids had A LOT to say as one (mom put it, some pretty harsh things) about American culture when they got home from Australia.
And whilst i was involved with exchange students i was continuously flabbergated at how inward looking the American kids were. of course we forgive them, blaming it on Hollywood and the whole America can do no wrong thing they grow up having drummed into their head.

One of the catylists or a contributing factor for Penny was a similar conversation i had with Soz about some American students being ignorant of the rest of the world.
I feel i'm being harsh on the many who are not so ignorant and do have a world view. so sorry to those people.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 12:24 am
@dadpad,
I know what you mean, in that last line. Sometimes, I hear an offensive generalization about Americans, and feel like retaliating in kind. But, who wants to piss off an entire continent/race/nationality?
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 12:31 am
@roger,
I dont think you could piss me off roger, you're just so little and cute and ... well... mousey.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 01:41 am
@dadpad,
Nevertheless. . . .
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 02:23 am
@dadpad,
dadpad wrote:

I dont think you could piss me off roger, you're just so little and cute and ... well... mousey.


Psssst......he's a Rat.
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 02:33 am
@dlowan,
Psssst i know..... its like the Austrian/Australian thing.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 02:41 am
@dadpad,
dadpad wrote:

Psssst i know..... its like the Austrian/Australian thing.



Super cool!!!!!!!!!
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 03:23 am
@dadpad,
Know what she used to call me?
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 04:05 am
@roger,
Rat?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:39 am
@dadpad,
I don't think there's anything for which you would need to apologize. There's going to be some of that ignorance of others/introverted insularity to some extent in any population, and given the notion of American exceptionalism and the factors conditioning insularity in Americans, it's likely to be worse among them. As someone said, travel broadens, so the young people to whom you refer have been very fortunate.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 05:59 am
I frequently run across people who don't know from insular and couldn't care less.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 06:37 am
@edgarblythe,
So...these are...like... archipelagos?
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 06:50 am
@dlowan,
Southern Baptist, likely.
0 Replies
 
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 07:00 am
@roger,
what? I'm aaaallll ears (and a pouch)
Eorl
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 07:33 am
@dlowan,
Nah, he just didn't pen "insular" the way he meant to. Didn't quite get to the point.
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 07:53 am
@Eorl,
Ho bloody ho.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 08:29 am
@dadpad,
dadpad wrote:

what? I'm aaaallll ears (and a pouch)


So am I.

The pouch not so much.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 09:07 am
@dadpad,
Can you make a silk pouch out of a 'roo's ear?
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Fri 15 Jan, 2010 09:30 am
I think the Austrians frequenting this thread may have gone to bed now.
 

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