What’s Wrong With America?

As the descendant of a multicultural family (Irish, Russian, English, and Cherokee), I’m like a lot of immigrant-based Americans throughout the country.

Having lived for extended periods of time offshore in four cities on four different continents, provided me with a viewpoint that many don’t get to experience. It doesn’t make me smarter, or wiser, it only provides me with more information to draw upon. I had learned early on that to be able to have an unbiased view of a place and people, one has to leave their predeterminations, phobias, fears, and political views — as absolutes — at the door. I try to do that

New York City born and raised. I’m proud to be an American, and a fierce defender of her when abroad. When foreigners have negative views of our people, I prefer reasonable discussion to confrontation. While generalization is always flawed, I have experienced a certain misperception of the world by my fellow Americans, at times, simply due to ignorance. And no, I’m not calling Americans stupid, that is not what ignorance means: look it up.

The is a reality that America is different from most countries around the world. We have a very large land mass, separating us from the world at large by water on three sides, with only one country each on the northern and southern borders.

As such, we are for all intent purposes self-sufficient as a country: we generate most all our needs internally. This is in contrast to Asian, European, Mediterranean, or South American countries that relied on one another for particular resources: one may be strong in energy, while another strong in energy, or natural resources, such as water.

Thus, many of those nations very quickly, and commonly, adopted each other's languages, because they were interdependent on one another. This may be a foreign concept to many in the United States, just as internally self-sufficient may be foreign to them, and thus, by default, why we may be ignorant of them, and they ignorant of us on “some” issues.

In 2004 however, while living in Buenos Aires, I was confronted by something new. I had befriended some people from Australia and Germany. While having coffee, one of them asked me, “Are Americans as stupid as they appear to be?” This came on the heels of me explaining that G.W. Bush would, in fact, absolutely, I was quite sure he’d win another term as president. My response was that they (Americans) weren’t, in fact stupid, but, afraid in the aftermath of 911.

Fast-forward five months. And I was back in New York for a few months, when I encountered someone offering opinion served up as fact.

was having a drink with a friend in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC, when someone I had known from France stopped in and said hello. Upon leaving, my NYC friend, Jamie, offered a negative quip about the French. This was during that moment when tensions between the U.S. and France began to alter perceptions — G.W. Bush was President and had just announced that French Fries would now be called Liberty Fries as many countries resisted invading Iraq.

When I asked why she was going off on the French, she insisted that they were all pretentious, and all disliked Americans, anyway. “That was never my experience,” I offered. During my time in France, living in Cannes during the winter of 2000 and the fall of 2002, I found the French to be very friendly, in fact. So I was curious, “Where were you that you had such an opinion?” I asked.

I was shocked when she responded, “Oh, I’ve never been there.” I found that confusing. “How can you so forcefully make the statement you did, if you’ve never been there?” She matter of factly responded, “That’s just my impression of them.”

Somehow her perception, devoid of facts or experience, became her reality.

We’ve seen it again during the run-up to the 2016 election, and post two years of President Trump: perception has supplanted facts; opinions supplanting reason. People today seem to have opinions first, and then seek out anything they can find, fact-based or not, to support that preconceived notion, rather than investigating facts first, then forming an opinion.

On the one hand his followers say they are patriots and love their country, but have no interest in investigating Russia’s interference in America’s election — much as they have done throughout Europe — solely because it “may” implicate Donald Trump as a witting or unwitting asset — , a man they “believe” is forthright with their best interest at heart.

I’m not making the case that Trump has done anything wrong or not, nly that we know Russia has, and why as a patriot wouldn’t you want to know how, why, and to what extent a hostile adversary has infiltrated us? According to many that I interact with in chat rooms, they’d have me believe that:

  • Trump is innocent — before the facts are presented (and maybe he is)
  • The media, FBI, CIA, the DOJ, judiciary, and people he appointed, are involved in a conspiracy against him.
  • Russia is a scapegoat because Donald Trump says so.

What we do know is that his campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, National Security Advisor, son, son-in-law, senior advisors, and personal lawyer have all pled guilty to lying to the FBI. That Trump himself and his team have lied about Russian contacts — over 100 of them — for two years, relentlessly. Facts. And that Trump is pushing to lift sanctions on a Russian oligarch, begging the question, why?

More confusing, is that big corps have been siphoning off the wealth of Americans for many decades, and with each expansion or contraction of our economy, like Pythons wrapped around our lives, squeeze just a little more out of us with each exhale we make. Yet Donald Trump says we need to support big corps, giving them trillions more in his tax cut (when they already had record earnings), and the very same people railing against big business suddenly support those moves. Stupid? That’s subjective in opinion, but it certainly is odd. The same people who railed against the “swamp” of special interests, suddenly support lobbyists taking up positions in the government to regulate (or deregulate) the very industries they previously represented. Odd.

And once again, foreigners I meet on a regular basis ask me, “Are Americans really that stupid?” Yet this time, I don’t have a reasonable answer for them, except to say, “No, they’re not stupid, they are busy, misinformed, and uninterested in getting to the truth for whatever their own personal reasons may be.”

Everyone likes to believe that their homeland, alone, is the greatest. And America, for many reasons, is, in fact, a great nation. But that doesn’t make everything we do best. There are some fabulous cities in the world, and many, eclipse us in various ways: many though, rank far ahead of the U.S. in education, happiness, science, math, retirement plans, and have less work week hours, and so on.

America on an unprecedented scale has more school shootings, mass shootings, and gun violence than the next top 5 counties combined.

It’s time for Americans to take an honest look at who we are and what we stand for; to identify what we do well and support that, and what we don’t, and fix that.

A career entrepreneur & traveler, he comments on society, travel, and business. https://www.linkedin.com/in/btdugansr