Monday, September 12, 2005

Do You Know America?

I often see RVs as I drive around the island. You see retirees with those US maps stuck to the side of thier rigs, states visited have colored stickers affixed to show their progress. My trivial and pendantic mind always wants to know how they drove to Hawaii. I mean obviously they didn't drive, but did they really go to the expense of shipping their rig there?

Someone I read, (Lileks?) pointed out that Americans often don't travel out of country because there are so many places in country to visit. The United States is large, huge: each state could be it's own contained little country, it is resource rich and Americans take it for granted. Bill Bryson says that Americans don't blink at driving a hundred miles for a taco. That may be hyperbole but not far from the truth. Americans are used to the vastness of the country.

Megan McArdle of Asymmetrical Information swats at an Irish native who doesn't understand the vastness of the US or the reality of her nature. From Crooked Timber:
Growing up comfortably middle class in Ireland in the early 1980s, I found it almost unbelievable that T.V. Americans seemed to drink orange joice every day when we had it just for Christmas, went shopping just for fun and could afford to keep their enormous fridges constantly full.

Ms. McArdle responds:
Nor did we ever really have orange juice every day because we have cheap oil; orange juice was a daily treat for at least middle-class Americans before WWII. We have orange juice every day because we have orange trees in our country, a transportation network that can deliver it without crossing an ocean, and a population rich enough to buy it. The Irish population, on the other hand, didn't have those thinks, so they had milk instead.

She then characterizes this as quibbling and goes on to debunk the rest of the more substantive points including the laughable parallel drawn between the South's hurricane victims and the genocide in Darfur. It was the throwaway orange juice line that caught my eye. You see, it never occured to me that a person wouldn't have orange juice unless they belonged to a closed communist country under sanctions or the truly poor who cannot afford food in third world nations.

How alien indeed does this make the citizens and subjects of Ireland. Americans seem to think that Europeans understand the scope of our country, they do not. Americans seem to think that other nations have the same resources, the same room, the same cheerfulness, the same gumption that characterizes Americans across our country. Ireland is Idaho with more beer and sexier accents, except it isn't. They both might have alot of potato recipes but world perceptions are vastly different and it isn't just the big things but the little things too.

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