I've never really considered myself a patriotic person. In the US there are plenty of cable news types who proclaim that America is the BEST country in the whole world and whoever disagrees should be strung up. But I've always felt like saying "America is the greatest country on Earth" is like saying "My mom is the the best mom in the whole world!" We all feel that way about our moms because we love her and she takes care of us, but its not something I would ever argue with someone about, "No, seriously, my mom is the best. Way better than your mom." But people do argue about American superiority and some people even think that the Bible is not really about Israel, but America, which is quite a reach!
Sometimes my non-American friends will slag off on the US. Mostly it was over Bush, but there are other issues in our past as well. And normally I'm fine with that. Pretty much every country has both wonderful and atrocious things in their history.
But this week, I'm not hearing it. I started off the week with a post-church baseball game, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy about America and our unique culture. Then Monday my German teacher (who is actually Polish) was talking about how she didn't like the USA or Russia (believe me our resident Belorussian, Natasha, was not having that!), and I could understand some of her reasons, but it made me feel really sad that she didn't want to see that America has many good things to offer. Europeans are very good at separating citizens from the government (i.e. "I hate George Bush, but I have nothing against Americans") but sometimes I don't want to be separated. Some national and cultural things are just a part of you, and it gets too personal to hear them attacked.
This afternoon I was walking to the library, when I saw some sandwich boards, "Obama: worse than Bush?" at which I rolled my eyes. A young man stopped me
"What do you think of my signs?" he gave me a sleazy smile.
"I disagree. I am American, and I'm proud of Obama."
"Why do you disagree? Don't you know what he's doing about health care in your country?"
"Yes, and I know there are lots of lies being spread about it as well."
"How do you know there are lies?"
"Because I watch American news, I have lived in America and I know how the current system works. The system here isn't perfect, but it covers everybody at a lower cost that what people in the US pay."
We had a long discussion about health care and I won't bore you with all the details. He made one good point about raising taxes during a recession (Obama has NOT said he's going to do that, but I think its unrealistic in the long term), but other than that I was pretty much winning the argument because I know a lot more about the issue than this guy. So he tried to level the score.
"But Obama, he is a FASCIST." This took me completely by surprise. We had veered off the road of normal discussion into crazy land.
"What?" I exclaimed, "but he was democratically elected." Which I shouldn't have said because I opened the door to the outer reaches of argument ludicrousness.
"So was HITLER. Obama, he is like Hitler." And this I really couldn't believe. While Americans bandy that name around like nothing, I have never heard a German person use it flippantly. I was about to lose my cool and I think that's what he wanted, so I told him that if he wanted to discuss the issues, I would do that, but I wasn't going to listen to this nonsense.
He parted with "But what if its true?"
So I replied "And what if the moon is made of cheese? I haven't got time or interest to argue about crazy things. I just wanted to tell you that I think your sign is stupid. Goodbye."
It is both flattering and irritating that many non-Americans know so much about our country. I am impressed because when I first moved abroad I couldn't tell you the difference between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, or who the Prime Minister of Italy was. But its irritating when others think they know your country better than you. So here is a warning for people who want to tell me about their stupid 9/11 conspiracies or about Osama Bin Laden's "real" location. I've tried to politely correct people in the past, but I'm just not having it anymore. Maybe I am a bit patriotic after all.