Donald Trump an American on Steroids?
Sun “Small World” Column, Monday, January 29 / 18
When Donald Trump recently used his “s**thole
countries” term to put down “other” countries, many of whom have
been supported by US aid programs and have contributed to US
immigration, there was a firestorm of outrage. Many
African, Middle Eastern and Latin American nations – as well as
many Americans – spoke out
against his apparent racism. His doctors were even brought
in to say that he is in perfect cognitive health!
My wife once told me that as people enter their elder years,
they may lose their inhibitions and say exactly what they are
thinking or feeling, without using filters to avoid insulting
those around them. Maybe she was referring to me.
When I turned 50, apparently I began to show my grumpy
side! But definitely “the Donald” tells it like it is – at
least as it seems to be in his own mind.
I wonder if he is just “an American on steroids.” After
all, our neighbours to the south tend to speak out, and act out,
without considering others’ feelings. And many of these
neighbours hold themselves in high regard and consider the rest
of us second class in comparison. In my own experience
dealing with American friends and relatives, I’ve heard Canada
called a backwater and been personally criticized for our roads,
Medicare, mosquitoes and cold weather.
Canadians think of themselves as self-effacing and polite.
This might explain why Americans often attach Canadian flags to
their luggage or jackets so they will be welcomed in foreign
lands. However, we have all encountered loud and
aggressive US citizens in tourist locations. This is not
always the case, but we certainly notice the exceptions.
On a recent trip, an American relative of mine was not happy
with Italians – when he visited Italy. Foreigners!
To alleviate some of the tense situations that might arise
between Americans and other cultures, an internet web site
recently listed a couple of dozen US customs that are considered
offensive in other countries. These included using the
iconic “thumbs-up” gesture, which in some countries is actually
considered to be giving the middle finger!
Laughing with your mouth open is another one and eating noisily
with open mouth, too (yuck!). If you are going to a
private event like a party or dinner, says the web site to its
American audience, check on the custom of when to arrive – some
cultures expect you to be on time, but in others, on-time is
much too early! Using your left hand is a no-no in
countries where it is considered your “toilet-hand.”
Tradition has it, even in the modern age, to set that hand aside
for one important task.
Wearing certain clothes in public can also insult your
hosts. For example sweatpants, flip flops, baseball caps,
or going shirtless – these are not for public show. I
would add pajamas to that, as I often see people shopping in
their PJs at Walmart and 7-Eleven.
Publicly blowing your nose may put some cultures off.
Touching can be a touchy subject. Americans like to give a
big, bone-crushing handshake, slap a person’s back or offer a
warm hug – but some cultures value personal privacy and space.
Food can be an issue. To refuse food you’ve been offered
can insult your host who is proud of their local diet.
Americans may want to shy away from anything but basic “meat and
potatoes” fare but may be missing out and harming
Finally, Americans’ opinion of themselves and their country can
get them into trouble – as the richest, strongest country in the
world, the home of liberty, the melting pot where everyone is
(was) welcome, the leader of the Free World.
To some extent, Mr. Trump is expressing Americans’ feelings of
superiority. He is definitely not subtle. One
wonders how many Americans truly appreciate that some of the
best music, literature, recipes and more actually don’t
originate in the U.S. Going beyond culture, do they (and
do we) appreciate that other countries’ political institutions,
educational systems and spiritual underpinnings may be superior
to – or at least the equal of – our own?
“Make America Great Again” and “America First” are just
slogans. It would take volumes to sort out what these
words really mean. Interestingly, even calling the U.S.
“America” insults some people! Latin Americans don’t think
that the U.S. should monopolize the word “America.” After
all, Latin Americans are Americans, too!
Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s The Marquis
Project and now
co-ordinates outreach for Fair