If you’re a long-time reader of my blogs, you know that I spent about two decades living the life of an expatriated American.
I am proud of that time in my life. I first went abroad as a Peace Corps Volunteer, to Poland, not long after the collapse of the Soviet system, and then lived in the UAE, Turkey, and Egypt.
Prior to my leaving America to serve the good people of Rzeczpospolita Polska as an educator and educational consultant, I was a typical ethnocentric American.
I can share an interesting example of this. The Peace Corps folks in Washington, DC, prepped me for my service overseas by sending me a bunch of educational materials so I could start learning about Poland, a country I knew little about, prior to my departure. Those materials included the responses to a questionnaire given to Poles. One of the questions asked was the open-ended “What do you think of Americans?” A good number of Poles responded by saying that they had a favorable view of those hailing from the United States but also found many Americans naïve.
I remember feeling a little upset while reading that. How dare the Poles think Americans are naïve! After all, as everyone knows, America is the greatest country in the world. It is a shining city upon the hill, a beacon to all, so how could those hailing from such a perfect place be naïve? Furthermore, Americans had sent other Americans to the moon where they had actually walked upon the lunar surface (as well as planting an American flag). And that was only one notable example of how exceptional Americans are. So, Americans naïve? No effing way!
Of course, my knee-jerk response was proof positive that the Poles had hit the nail on the head.
I currently live in the United States with my Egyptian wife. I miss those jet-setting days of my former life, and I often worry that I will slip back into old ways of thinking, including becoming too American-centric in my outlook. To guard against the occurrence of such a regression, I make sure that I am careful about the sort of news I consume. After all, it can be argued that humans are little more than a physical body plus the thoughts they think and the values they live by. If this is true, then we must all be careful about the information we take in and how we process it.
I get most of my news by reading, especially foreign sources. For example, for the very best reporting on Russia and Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, I read Meduza. (More Americans need to be aware of what’s happening in that part of the world because Ukrainians are at the front in the global war against the forces of totalitarianism.) And when I want to get my news via television, I favor Al Jazeera in English. (If my Arabic were better, I’d watch the Arabic-language version.) Just for the heck of it, click on the link I’ve provided and note, by either reading the site or watching the live telecast, how different Al Jazeera’s coverage is from any other American news source. If you are an American and watch only American news, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking that the world ended at the borders of the United States.
With this being the case, is there any wonder that Americans are as naïve as the Poles told me they are?
Thanks for reading!