Recently, a video made its way onto the internet of an American missionary assaulting the desk clerk of a hotel in Uganda. In this video, the man in his late 60’s or early 70’s spryly leaps over a counter and begins to verbally assault the clerk, screaming racist epithets, before physically assaulting the clerk while complaining how offended his religious sensibilities were. For several minutes, this guy was the basic “dirty American“.
While obviously an extreme example, the perception the rest of the world has of Americans is in no small amount informed by exactly these encounters (this isn’t to suggest that there aren’t examples of this kind of nonsense from foreigners). It’s hard to imagine a Christian missionary behaving this way even just a few years ago, but is this a product of the Age of “America First” or is this just the same old “dirty American” of the past?
It’s both. This Age of “America First“, while definitely at fault for this grotesque behavior, is also simply the natural culmination of the morally degeneracy rotting at the center of American cultural identity for going on 50 years now. Not having to face the deprivations of post-War recovery Europe or the top to bottom cultural and economic restructuring of post-War Japan, Americans born between 1945 and the 1965 grew up on a daily diet of American superiority and exceptionalism propaganda.
The “dirty American” stereotype was born in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, as middle class Baby Boomers, now financially established in their 30’s and 40’s, capitalized on their post-War economic advantage and traveled abroad, falling upon post-construction Europe like a horde of carpetbagging locusts. They brought with them unsophisticated cultural blindness and an unearned sense of national superiority, unabashedly lording the sacrifices of preceding generations of Americans over their foreign hosts.
In the intervening years, as the post-Cold War era turned into the information age, that generation, now pushing into their 70’s, hasn’t changed much. Many are every bit as nationalistic, self-righteous, self-obsessed, and self-entitled as they have ever been, chafing at America’s conspicuous decline. And while certainly not representative of the norm, the antics of the US missionary and Vietnam War veteran, Jimmy L. Taylor, fit the worst stereotypes of the Me Generation‘s America.
To be absolutely fair, however, before World War II, America was a far different nation, domestically and internationally, and the Baby Boomers do not bear the blame for the incessant pro-American propaganda that was an ever present part of their childhoods. The two World Wars fundamentally changed America and the world, in ways that we are still trying to understand, and the Boomers grew up in an America at ideological war with much of the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, unless the culture in the United States changes drastically, their blind tenacity is likely to ensure that America ultimately loses that very important war.
Liberty is For The Win!