Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I am afraid of Americans

I am afraid of Americans
I am afraid of the world
I am afraid I cannot help it
I am afraid I cannot
~ David Bowie

Yes dear readers, I have had a few more profound thoughts while walking. This time however, I was plugged in. I had the iPod blasting, I felt the need for a strut in my stride, I was jonesing for some grooves.

Out the front door I sprang. Sunglasses on, (of course, they are like my cape, they make me all-powerful), hands in pockets, ears connected to iPod, I was ready to roll.

The second song that played on my journey was 'I am afraid of Americans' by David Bowie. I am a huge Bowie fan, and 'I am afraid of Americans' is one of my favorite Bowie tunes. Why? Well aside from the fact that it is just a solid bit of rock 'n' roll, it turns out that I too am afraid of Americans. Not individually, nah, individually Americans are really quite lovely, they are a blast, they are kinda like your crazy, hyper cousins from away. They are boisterous, opinionated, and can't hold their beer. Salt of the Earth, really. It is the American herd that scares me. Moo!

No, no, and no I will not, nor would it be fair for me to do so, tear the American cultural fabric to bits. I am Canadian, hell there are those outside of North America, who think that I am as American as apple pie. In terms of things cultural, especially pop cultural we have very, very, similar experiences. An American's favorite television show is the same as a Canadian's, our favorite burgers are garnished the same way, we drink the same colas, we wear the same t-shirts and jeans. I dare you to pick out the lone American in a line up of Canadians or vice versa. Why the fear then? I am getting to it , WAIT! I have to butter up my friends down South first. I see no need in pissing them off, they are known for their temper, oh, and I am told they come well armed.

So why the fear? Am I not afraid of all crowds? Did I not admit only a couple of days ago that elementary schools freak me out because they are over stuffed with children? Maybe, maybe, I simply suffer from demophobia (Google it!). But what is a country, if not a large crowd of people jammed into invisible boarders? My country, Canada, although a much larger land mass, has a tenth of the amount of people in it, is my fear really only one of numbers? Numerophobia (Google encore)? If so, should I not be even more afraid of India, or China? Should not the idea of Africa scare the living shit out of me? YES, but no. I do get queasy thinking about the masses of humanity, say in Mumbai, Delhi, Shanghai or Beijing. It also pains my guilt ridden whitey Canadian soul to think about the poverty, the conflict, and the global laissez faire towards Africa. But fear, nah, India, China, and Africa are so far removed from my day to day reality that they have become little more than abstraction, not things I tend to think about all that often. The Unites States, however, well those mad buggers make so much noise that it is impossible not to peek from up under the covers to see what all the racket is about. Maybe I am a phonophobe (Google again)? Shhhhhhhh.

Of course my demophobia, numerophobia and phonobobia might play some part in my fear of Americans. No one wants to be trapped in a small room with a huge number of really loud anybodies. But there has to be more than that. I lived in Montreal for 9 years, I kinda dig the clutter and the din. It is more than merely numbers and noise. What is it then? Bombast? That is the word that comes to mind. This polite Canadian, this quiet artist type gets a little edgy when EGO, and RAH, RAH, RAH, and flag waving, and God Bless America are thrown in his face. When the whole we're number 1 shtick is out in full force this humble fella wants to run and hide. Extreme patriotism, and extreme nationalism are ugly my enthusiastic southern friends, get over yourselves.

Love your country, celebrate your culture, cheer for the home team, of course. But goddamn it, the world is bigger and more complex then a hodge podge of a 51st state. Don't make me break out a list as to which areas the USA is not number 1...ahem, ahem, healthcare, need I say more?

Oh and what is all this Us vs Them shit? Does there always have to be a good guy and a bad guy? Right vs left, Commie vs Capitalist, Christian vs Muslim... a little hint my funny southern friends; and here it is, there is no absolute right or wrong. Everything lies in the mucky middle. So quit picking sides, get it? The wild west has been won, the League of Super Heroes does not exist. You, and I mean this with all due respect, are not the planet's moral authority. We are all in this thing together. There are many of us here that would like to help, but you have to let us speak, we want a voice at the table.

So there, I am afraid of Americans. I am afraid of them as a collective. I am afraid at how they religiously follow their churches, their governments, and their Mass Media. I am afraid of how they are so willing to swallow the Kool Aid, of how they are so willing to scream USA, USA, the planet be damned. I am afraid of the wilting super power, like a wounded animal, I am unsure if it is vicious, I am afraid of who or what it might bite next.

As a neighbor, as a close friend, I want you to know that fear does not imply dislike, nor will I be frightened into some sort of quivering respect. Nope, I am Canadian, and a man of the world, and as such, I just thought I should let you all know what the rest of us think. Friends?


  1. I'm afraid of Americans....and I AM an American.

    But seriously, as all things American, the controversial and crazy are put out in the forefront and up on a pedestal and said to represent all of us. As usual, the rest of the world sees THOSE people and assumes we are all that way. Americans run off of stereotypes, not Dunkin Donuts as the commercial claims.

    It's depressing.

    But, the Americans that you are speaking of...are the most depressing of all.

  2. That was why I tried to preface my post with an I like Americans as individuals bit. It's the American herd and the noise that herd makes that frightens me.

  3. BOO! Just kidding. Great post. I think the fear is of the dangerous combination of narcissism and ignorant patriotism. My husband loves the movie Team America, which mocked Americans for this very concept. "God bless America, and no one else." is the quote he remembers the most. People need to begin to question more and speak less. Dare to dream!

  4. Thanks Gale. I thought I was being really easy on you fellas. I could have come guns blazing, attack, attack, and attack the ridiculousness that is American politics. But who am I to judge? I am just some strange bloke from up North. :)

  5. Joeseph... cuz, I think my branch of the family went the wrong way... I'm kinda afraid of Americans myself. And I'm one of them. Strange days down here... Common sense is treated as treason... treason is treated as patriotism... The herd is disturbed...

  6. Hey bro. Know what? I don't think things are any better or worse then they have ever been down South. Yes the election of a left-leaning and black President has stirred up the clinically retarded, but be thankful that that President himself is no longer part of that herd.

    Let the nuts scream. The noisier they get the sillier they appear. Things always proceed, the march of progress can not be stopped by poorly written placards.

  7. Hey Joe,

    All I can say is, I wish I had written this. You have framed my thoughts and fears better than I could ever dream of doing. An awesome piece of writing my son.


  8. Anonymous would be my dad. Thanks dad, just a little something I dreamed up while walking to meet the kids at school. The real hero here is David Bowie.

  9. OK OK...I AM ONE OF THE ONE'S TO BE AFRAID OF. I love my insane country. I love the "hicks" ( i really despise them except for being a breed only offered in AMERICA) that dwell in the southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Kentucky. I AM well armed. In my sight right now is a .45, a large army issue tactical knife, and two butterfly knives...but why not? The whole point of the mess we have down here is "to each is own" and I couldn't think of a better model to live by.
    We ARE outspoken, politically bent, over-populated by mother fucking nationalist assholes. I know that the only reason we are the "world super-power" is the size and seemingly unlimited budget of our military (they rape us all for the money every paycheck...but thats the way the chips fall.) Here in America, even a guy like me with an "ex-hippie" father (went to woodstock and spent 15 years getting fucked with by police for his "free-thinking")are taught from a young age, "If you can think of a better place to live than get the fuck out". I am one of the only guys i know that have been from coast to coast...literally I have been in EVERY state of the nation on the continent with my old band, And besides the difference in average earnings in a particular area or proximity to a large body of's all the same.
    I've never been outside the borders, though...and I've been dying to see what else is out there since i was 15. In the States, we make fun of Canada ( I have never been apart of this in all honesty because I dont have personal experience from which to speak )and you folks up north are considered the "prospective 52nd state no one wants to take the time or money to send the military into".
    We have many shameful and godless views on society. We thrive on vanity and judge success on dollars earned thereby. We are meat-eating, gun toting, loud mouthed capitalist pigs...and are proud of it for some sick reason.
    The analogy to a hyper cousin who visits now and then is PERFECT. But, please remember one thing--
    America was founded with the ideals and principles of a group of run-away Englishmen who were indentured or fleeing from the brutal oppression of a multitude of things, and are thereby almost genetically predisposed to a "bully-ish" or "so what the hell are YOU gonna do about it" type nature. We started off needing to take what we could grab and to live life by a "every man for himself" attitude for those outside our immediate group of friends and family.
    In truth, what remains of the American Dream (everyone having equal opportunity to pursue a happy, totally free family--success--and anything that brings about joy as long as it doesn't get in the way of anyone within the border) has seeming and sadly been washed away. We are, indeed, a scary herd. I really am disgusted by the United States...but i suppose the only reason i haven't given up all hope ISN'T the shitty way we have historically carried ourselves as a nation, but the truly limitless possibility of the potential we DO have ( given our Constitutional right ) to become as great as we imagine we are today. Maybe I'm just a dumb American, but endless POTENTIAL for the PEOPLE of our country to seek personal happiness and effectuate positive global change is enough for me to hold off on packing my bags.
    Superior piece, Mr. Lane. Perhaps one of these days I can get a few days off to come visit with my girl and you can show us what we have been missing out on. I would sincerely appreciate gaining the ability to look outside the box. God bless America--for its potential, not cultural greatness. I'll put together something on this to you can tell, in this sense, I am as American as they come. Thanks again for the perspective.

  10. I’m Canadian but I lived in the United States for many years in the 90’s. I loved it. Well, I was in NYC, one of the most liberal cities in the country so that’s probably why. Their attitudes are very similar to ours here in Toronto.
    I love America and have traveled it A LOT in my teens & twenties. I think it’s an absolutely awesome country in terms of art & culture—they are at the top of the heap. Also, it’s just a great country to travel across because each State is so unique and interesting and don’t even get me started on the weather. You can choose to be in the 90 degree heat of Miami or go skiing in Colorado—all in one country. Pretty cool.
    And the people? Yes, they’re patriotic. Yes, a lot of them are overly patriotic which can blind them. However, it’s something that is inherited and is very hard to tone down. I’ve met some lovely (patriotic) people while traveling the US. I met some real assholes, too but you can meet an asshole in just about every country across the globe.

    It makes me angry that the nasty opinions of the Right, not to mention the disaster that was George Bush, have tarnished the reputation of the entire country. Remember, there are plenty of Americans that are not war mongers. There are plenty of Americans that are well-read, well-traveled and very far from ignorant. You don’t hear about them in the news because the negativity sells foreign papers a whole lot better.

    To be perfectly honest here, I’m afraid, too. Not of America as a whole but of the Neo-Cons currently ruining the country. A lot of them (especially those in politics) are irrational and ignorant and they make it a point to disrespect their President at every turn. They are in it for the money and not for the people—at least that’s what their actions & words demonstrate to me.

    I won’t (and can’t) even start to talk about their lack of healthcare because then I won’t sleep tonight. It get’s me all riled up!!! grrrr

  11. Oh shit...and the healthcare!! A nightmare if i've ever lived one! Wanna hear what happened to my good friend after he got cancer but his family didn't have HEALTH INSURANCE? None of you have enough fucking kleenex tissue to wipe your noses i guess i'll tell the sad tale in my post...coming soon.

  12. To Matt, Wow, hard to respond to your comment, it was perfect Americana, you speak and dream the way I wish all Americans did, you still strive for the American dream, hell you even know what the hell that dream is. Balls out brother, balls out.

    And Uneasy, I couldn't agree more. I hope that my post was not read as an insult to America or Americans, I just wanted to tell my mad cousins what I felt about them as a group. I was just grooving on Bowie :)

  13. i'M LOADING MY GUN AND BUYING A PLANE TICKET AS WE SPEAK....just kidding sir (we're also good at making bad jokes). No offense taken. Loved the article. As far as rocking out to Bowie...that may be pushing your luck :)

  14. Okay initially you pissed me off a bit... it's that Southern redneck thing ya know... I was even contemplating buying Matt's ticket too, just to give him some back up.. or make a distraction while the deed was being done. You do make some valid points, sometimes it does get very loud down here. What I hope for though, is that at some point we will all become closer to one voice (I don't think we'll all ever sing the same song). Hopefully among all the rukus we will find a happy medium. I do wish people will focus on the facts and only the facts instead of all the other orbital bullshit that seems to make the headlines. In the meantime we will try to turn the volume down by midnight so you can get your beauty rest!! In all reality, this country is still in it's infantcy, so be patient with us, because we're still learning.

  15. Touche my brother, touche. It takes a very secure man to admit that the can rock out to Bowie. Ballsy!

  16. Val, I tease because I love. I want you guys to be the best you can be. What pisses me off is when you fail to be your best, yet stroll around on the world stage claiming that you are.

  17. Here's the lyrics to a band called Propaghandi-- they are Canadian--the song is called "Speculative Fiction" about a fictitious war between the US and Canada. Sorry about the length...

    ""A new iron curtain drawn across the 49th parallel. Cut all diplomatic ties as we expel all American dignitaries, and issue a nation-wide travel advisory for any others left inside. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. The burned out shells of south-bound traffic lay strewn across a cold stretch of would-be interstate. Still visible below their charred remains: Pax Americana plates. Your stupid fucking laser-pucks were just the start. And while you may stand six full cubits and a span, we got a shepard's sling and five stones in our hand and the battle of 1812 lives in our heart. We don't care if we're destroyed. We'll never capitulate. We'll take the whole fucking world down, down with us in flames. Just a speculative fiction. No cause for alarm. We got a good 15 years left till the United We Stand murals on West Broadway finally fade and we wave good-bye to such sad, childish refrains. Replaced with other stupid lullabies like "you can have my guns when you pry them from my cold dead hands". Just a speculative fiction. No cause for alarm.""

  18. So, Joseph has laid down the gauntlet huh? (cracks knuckles)

    WHAT a post. This one will break a comment-count record...

  19. Thanks David. But now look what you have done, you have compelled me to cheat and make damn sure records are broken :)

  20. Oh and Matt, Canadian history is filled with sinister warnings of Manifest Destiny. We know you guys are eying us over. We also know that it would appear that the fight would not be fair. The odds would seem stacked. We see no need to provoke, we like things as they are. Cousins can get in the odd piss ups, but families shouldn't feud.

  21. I think it's 30 comments. I could be wrong..

    For the record; Clint Eastwood is a great American!

    "get off my laaa-wn!"

  22. It was 30 on Joe's piece, "On style" if my memory serves....

  23. That it was, I just went back in time and checked. Maybe I have been cheating all along? Muhahahaha!

  24. America used to be different when I was little, less chaotic. When I was born, America was not yet in the middle of Desert Storm. Once Clinton was in office, America almost seemed like Utopia. America is full of history, but it seems like now, the days of not being in a recession and having accessible health care and not being in a war is history.

    In a way, I feel like W. raped us of a bright future. Schools are now downhill. Money can't stay in America anymore and America is no longer "land of the free, home of the brave."

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm afraid of Americans, and so is the majority of other Americans.

  25. I'm not really Val.. I'm someone else.. for real... I can't believe you would write such filth!!! YOU STINKING CANADIAN COMMIE!!! America is going to steal your root beer.

  26. least we have KETCHUP flavored chips!! And Butter Tarts! And ...uh...Celine Dion..

  27. Thanks for those thoughts Tasha. Believe it or not, Canada is going through the same decline in moral fiber and nationalism...oh great! I've gone belt-way! Need soap and water...

  28. DING DING DING! We have reached a new record in terms of comments. Way to go. USA! USA! USA!

    Nat, I agree to a certain extent. Yes Dubya and the mad fuckers that were running Washington in the 8 years before Obama was elected made a horrible mess. They should be arrested, they should be viewed in the history books with the same disdain as Hitler, Stalin and Nixon. But all is not lot. As murky as it looks right now, I think America is about to experience a renaissance. The wheel of progress will roll on.

    As for Canadian politics. Ugh, the situation there is as ugly and as mundane as usual.

  29. If only we loud Americans (which is a term I hate because everyone in both North and South America are technically Americans, but what else could we be called, Statesians?) could get rid of all the too quiet Canadians down here, then we would really be something to fear.

    By the way, there is no American herd. Just try and find five Americans who agree on everything.

  30. Hmmm no Canadians, no herd. Who would be there to listen to all your noise? and goddamn it, quit your arguing, indoor voices, INDOOR voices!

  31. Scream all you fucking one will hear are in the basement of a comments section at the National Affairs Desk, inall its glory!

  32. It doesn't get any lower then this, so blow your vocal cords to shreds!

    Primal Scream Therapy! G'nite Brother Matt, Brother Joe. tomorrow is a new day. To the NAD!

  33. The author of this whole mess is headed to bed. Fight amongst yourselves, but keep it down, I have babies that are sleeping. Good night. PEACE!

  34. TO THE NAD!! Here ye Hereye...Good nite Sir David!

  35. I especially like "we want a voice at the table". Your sunglasses man, they have powers.

  36. 40 COMMENTS!! WHEW, JOE!! Alright good fucking night..this city slicker's gotta hit the sheets.

    Signing out from the Chicago Office...

    and everyone be sure to check out our newswire daily:

  37. Never! Without them I am deemed useless. I swear to only use them for good. Enough, goddamn it, I must sleep. We have descended too deep, we are now way, way off topic. Good night dear friends.

  38. I'm not afraid of Americans, but definitely found them annoying enough to jump ship & flee the country.

    So, here I sit, on another continent, thousands of miles away from my native country of the U.S.

    Do I miss it? Sure, sometimes. But can I ever go home again now? Nope.

    I could put my body there, sure. But the problem now is that I've been able to take a step back & view America from a distance. I've spent the past few years listening to the perspectives of those who have never been there, have briefly been there & who long to go there.

    I've been asked questions - questions from many people, some from here in Western Europe... others from Asia, South America, Eastern Europe & Africa.

    They ask me if we all have guns, if I eat a lot of beef, what American guys are really like... what I think of George Bush... they ask me what it's like to come from a free country.

    The questions that they've asked me run the gamut: hilarious, accusatory, ridiculous & intrigued. I answer them honestly & usually add, "Hey... I don't understand those people, either."

    Even though they are MY people.

    There's a reason why the U.S. is referred to as "Les Enfants". We're still a new country & are very much the brats of the world.

    Of course, there have been bratty empires before ours & will be another one after America gets knocked down a few pegs.

    I particularly like your description of a "wilting super power", because of it's profound & simple accuracy. It's a crumbling empire, imploding in on itself because its inhabitants can't stop bickering & get their shit together.

    So, grab your camera. Get some paper & pen & take some notes. Sit back & watch it unfold, because it's not everyday one gets to witness Rome burning.

  39. And once again Rasmenia sums the whole damned thing up for me. And who better to do that then an American writer in Paris? Henri Miller would be proud.

    I will be sitting at my keyboard typing away as the shit goes down. Fingers crossed, when the dust settles, that we will all be better off. God Bless America, Vive La France, Oh Canada, go team!

  40. You are lucky I love you. Just kiddin Joe, I agree with you...on most points. Sometimes, I am ashamed of this country too...and a little scared.

  41. Great Job Joseph - I knew those walks would shake somethin loose. As an American, I'd like to say I'm kinda sick of the hulabaloo too - yeah, ok, we've done some good stuff - but look around..theres a whole lotta stuff not to brag about. Time to look in the mirror y'all, got some work to do.
    And others should wonder why we think we're 'all that and a bag o' chips's....cause we're NOT.. we have a lot to learn. Need to sit down shut-up and take lessons from others.
    Sorry it took so long to read this post - yesterday was a long trip down red-tape lane... which is just one more example of what we (US govt) don't do well.