Restoring our National Self-Confidence
The “ugly American” has been a part of the international lexicon for nearly as long as the United States has been a global power. Post-World War 2, Americans, dominate and relatively wealthy, began vacationing abroad en masse for the first time, particularly in Europe, and our sophisticated and effete friends across the pond just didn’t know what to do with the young, brash vacationers who were now overrunning their cafes and beaches like some consumer-minded blitzkrieg. Sure, we had come to their aid just ten years earlier and then rebuilt their nations, but why were we still there? And what’s with the attitude? We seemed almost….happy. Protected from the war by two oceans and not falling prey to the pre-war downers of people like Jean-Paul Sartre, we stepped off the boats looking for a good time and if the Europeans weren’t willing to go along for the ride, we made our own parties. It was like the frat house threw a kegger at the Chess Club meeting and the geeks have held a grudge ever since.
So, are we Americans, as the rest of the world seems to believe, an egotistical bunch? This has been said about us for decades, but the idea that we are too proud for our (and the world’s) good has really taken hold since the end of the Cold War, after the fall of the Soviet Union took the world from a bi-polar power structure to a uni-polar one, and the United States was left alone atop the heap as the last remaining superpower. When the USSR dissolved nations, even some of our allies, began too worry that we would become too influential, that we would be able to force our will on others, with no nation strong enough to check our power. It was then that the campaign to bring us down to size began in earnest. Interestingly, the campaign has been more effective at home than it has been abroad.