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If you’re a user of any social-networking site, you will be as familiar as I am with the ‘Murica’ meme. The prevalence of this trope is such that lately even celebrities, intellectuals and political figures are making use of its lazy appeal. In case you don’t use social networking, or haven’t otherwise had the pleasure of coming across the slur, the KnowYourMeme database explains it thus: “Murica or occasionally ‘Murika’ is a slang term for America which is used to denote extreme patriotism, coupled with aspects of a redneck or southern American stereotype.”
The cartoon above is a famous expression of this vulgar sentiment. It crudely depicts the mythical America of robotic flag-wavers, mountain dew-soaked knowledge haters, and obese gun-nuts. By the presence of the flag, the image also makes comedy of the country itself, together with everything it stands for, such as the notion of liberty and being grateful for the blessings of capitalism.
I’m getting rather sick of the meme myself. It isn’t fair, valid or reflective of anything beyond the ignorance of those who make use of it. Anti-Americanism of any kind can be refuted very easily by recounting basic realities. .
- Americans are stupid? The United States has been the homeland of 357 Nobel Prize winners. This can be compared to the UK (118 winners) and France (67 winners). If the issue of population size is raised, one can compare the figure against that of India (13 winners) and China (12 winners).
- Americans are lazy? In terms of economic productivity, the US dwarfs the rest of the industrialised world. The GDP per capita in the United States is USD$55, 904, while the GDP per capita in the European Union (its closest economic and political rival) is USD$36,392.
- Americans are unsophisticated? In the related fields of science and technology, America has led the world for more than half a century. The achievements of NASA form the standard to which all other space projects are compared. And just a few blocks away from there, the Texas Medical Centre leads the world in healthcare innovation, providing the most advanced cancer treatment and surgical expertise in the developed world.
One could go on. One could mention the awe-inspiring extent of the modern American Military, with its 15,000+ aircraft, 272+ ships, 40,000+ armoured vehicles and 1,000,000+ fighting personnel. One could recount the heroic acts achieved by said military, such as the routing of Hitlerite racialism, Soviet Communism, and Baathist Arabism, etc… The list of American virtues puts the rest of the world firmly in its shadow, making them seem pathetic, retrograde, undeveloped.
Given that this is so, why then does such low and unrefined anti-Americanism persist? Jealousy? Perhaps, but surely not that alone. My inclination is that a very old sentiment still flourishes in the hearts of all who dwell outside the Western Hemisphere: namely, the idea that the US is fundamentally synthetic, an artifice, an incoherent dustbin of old-world apostates; that it isn’t a real country at all, but a jumble of stolen elites from other lands – lands which can more rightly lay claim to the achievement of their despoiled expatriates. That’s what I think.
This misfiring of the imagination is persuasive enough that many great minds, from Nietzsche to Freud, have found truth in it. Even for these it wasn’t enough to note that America is as old and distinguished an experiment as modern France, Bismarckian Germany and post-Imperial Russia. Rather, such minds have insisted on believing that America arrived out of a clear blue sky sometime in the midst of the first world war, before which it was only a dreamy concept of green prairies and hopping Indians.
In modern times this prejudice is implied by the sarcastic emphasis (in anti-US humour) on specific products like spray-on cheese and the Big Mac Hamburger. These products are brought up because they are themselves chemically enhanced and artificial, much like the world conceives America itself to be. To anti-Americans, the USA is not merely the home of the Big Mac, the USA is a Big Mac. Just as the beef patties once belonged to real, natural cows, but are now so processed and altered as to be illegitimate and fake, so did America’s Germans, Frenchmen and Anglo-Saxons once belong to real, natural countries, but are now so processed as to be illegitimate and fake.
The reality, of course, is very different. German-Americans are not synthetic Germans. They are real Americans. German-American achievements are not German achievements. They are American achievements. America is a real country, as old and legitimate and unique as any other, and with a population that is as native and peculiar to its soil as the Chinese are to China.