So, after the golf outing last Friday (played pretty well for me), we went over to the neighbor's for a campfire. My neighbor, Tom, was hosting some out of town guests for the evening. Tall Andy is from Germany, and not quite so tall Andy is from Switzerland.
By keeping my mouth shut, I learned a lot about how regular people from Europe think about the good ol' US of A. I'm here to tell you folks, it ain't pretty. Aside from our Gov't, Europeans appear to get most of their info about American Culture from "News of the Weird". They view us as lawsuit happy assholes, looking to get rich quick. They think that we walk lockstep behind our president. They really do think we are cowboys, and I don't mean that in a good way. I happen to like cowboys, the kind you think positively about.
They were impressed with the utter vastness of our country. All the property that we "regular" folks own. All the wealth we seem to have.
We diplomatically defended our country and culture, as much as it could be defended, anyway. I explained that Americans are generally a hard-working bunch of people, focused on raising our families and making through each week. The knuckleheads who file lawsuits instead of taking responsibility are derided by society, and as much as I supported Mr. Bush instead of Mr. Gore, I don't have a framed portrait of GWB above my fireplace that I salute each night. As a country, regardless of political affiliation, we are all concerned about the mess in Iraq, and wish it could go away without "sending the wrong message" to the bad guys (whatever that means).
I did humorously point out that my knowledge of German culture comes from "Hogan's Heroes", which would never, ever, be produced in this day and age. To their credit, both Andys got the joke.
After a few more beers (they were amazed to see St Pauli Girl beer in an American liquor store) we settled the world's problems and parted as good friends.
And they changed my life in an interesting way. In the past, I don't think I worried too much about what Europeans thought about us (and me, as a member of us). Now I do. This doesn't mean I'm capitulating to the United Nations, it just means I understand how the regular guy in Europe is affected by my government's policies (I wasn't that ignorant before, it just wasn't important to me).
So last night I listened to Mr Kerry's speech and refrained from my usual criticisms. I didn't turn off my critical thinking filter, but I did learn something by keeping my mouth shut.