“They hate Americans.” Oh, bullshit. I’ve heard that silly line so many times I’ve lost count. It’s just one more sign of how ignorant Americans are, how watching television has destroyed their minds. Having traveled to 97 countries, and interacted with countless people who knew I was American, I’m here to tell you that no one hates Americans. Well, almost no one. I did meet a woman who told me to my face that she hated Americans. It’s a funny story which I’ll tell you about at the end, and if you’re sharing this with children, be forewarned that it contains very crude language not suitable for young ears.
Who hates any American simply for being a U.S. citizen? Give me a break. Now it’s certainly true that a lot of people hate and fear the U.S. government and its military. Can you blame them? We’ve bombed and killed more innocent people around the world than any other nation in history. No other country even comes close. So do you expect foreigners to love everything about America? Can you, fellow American, take off your red, white and blue blinders for a moment and think objectively?
It’s also true that many Europeans, especially older people, have a dim view of Americans – but that’s not the same as hatred. They see Americans, broadly speaking, as shallow, chauvinistic, rude and uncultured. I have to plead guilty on the first two counts myself, at least back in 1978, when I first traveled to Europe. Back then I had an almost mystical belief in the incomparable greatness of America, and I wanted the rest of the world to know it. To that end I sewed a small American flag on my backpack. This, however, brought no compliments, only a few sneers and sour comments. I learned something the hard way: a lot of Europeans, our own kind of people, hold America in low esteem, and if you believe in this “American exceptionalism” or “city on the hill” business, they don’t want to hear it. They may think you’re pretty vain, but that doesn’t mean they hate you.
Some American tourists deserve contempt for their boorish behavior abroad. Most do not act contemptibly, but enough of them do. I’ve seen them in action. A common complaint is that they expect everyone to speak English, and they address people as such without even asking them first if they speak the language. I suppose we, in the English-speaking countries, are spoiled in this regard. English is the world’s lingua franca, taught as a second language in schools almost everywhere, especially in Europe. Many Scandinavians speak it like it’s their mother tongue. But think for a moment how rude this is. Imagine, for example, a German tourist in New York, needing directions, walking up to you and speaking German, expecting you to know it, then making a face when it becomes clear that you didn’t understand a word.
The French have long had a reputation for being snooty to Americans, especially in Paris. There’s some truth to this, as there is to the French, like Americans, having a “superiority complex.” (I once met a French guy living in the States who told me that in France, schoolchildren are taught that the geographical shape of their country is the best in the world!) But Paris, wonderful city that it is to visit – or at least used to be, before Covid communism – naturally swarms with foreign tourists, and with all the hustle and bustle, bemused package-tour American tourists do not command much respect. I remember being rushed and treated impersonally in a few Parisian restaurants myself, but not hated for heaven’s sake. In the countryside, however, with the slower pace of life and fewer tourists, it’s quite different. With one exception, I always had good experiences with people in France. It helped that I had taken French in high school, and retained enough so that I could have simple conversations with people who spoke no English. What a difference that makes.
But of course when Americans say “they hate us,” most of the time they’re talking about the real bad guys, according to television. Would Iran and North Korea fit the bill? I’ve traveled to both countries on an ordinary tourist visa – North Korea in 2013 and Iran in 2016. Nowhere have I felt more welcome as an American. I have written about both countries elsewhere in this section, so I won’t go into it here, other than to say that during the Korean War of 1950-1953, our Air Force literally flattened North Korea, and slaughtered about one-fourth of the civilian population, many burned alive by napalm. So if there ever was a people who were justified in fearing and detesting Americans, it’s the people of North Korea. But they have no animosity whatsoever towards ordinary Americans, only a desire for friendship.
Of course, “They hate Americans” instantly conjures up the Islamic world, the Arab part of it in particular, which I’ve also written about in this section. I hope you’ll read it if you haven’t already. You will meet everyday people, the kind they never show on television. I had some interesting “political” chats with these folks, who have nothing against ordinary Americans. Again, it’s the military and the government they loathe, though this is probably less true in Jordan and Egypt, whose government leaders have been bribed with our tax dollars to maintain a separate, fragile peace with Israel. On the whole, Arabs, more than Europeans, have an affection for Americans, and the more astute ones whom I spoke to look upon them as naive children who have no idea of the geopolitical realities of the region, namely the brutal Israeli oppression of the Palestinians and the ambition of hardcore Zionists to conquer and settle a wide swath of land from the Nile to the Euphrates. Arabs are hardly my favorite people, but I’ve been to eight Arab countries and never heard anyone express a negative opinion, let alone a hatred, about Americans.
So now let me tell you about the one person I ran into who did. It was in Coober Pedy, a small town with a frontier atmosphere in the middle of Australia, where all kinds of characters drift in, hoping to strike it rich by unearthing the perfect opal, a gemstone for which the town is famous. I decided to go for a walk down a dry riverbed. I hadn’t gone far when I saw an Aborigine woman up ahead sitting on a rock with an open bottle of whiskey – not the type of person you want to engage in conversation. As I got closer she said something to me – I forget what. I ignored her and kept walking. She said, “What’s the matter, you too good to talk to black people?” “No, I’m not like that.”
She must’ve detected an unusual accent.
“What are you, Canadian?”
“Ah fuck you, ya cunt. I hate Yanks.”
It’s interesting how at times, when we tell a story, we have to recreate a conversation the best we can, and how at other times we remember words just as they were spoken. Those were her exact words. And she was the only person I ever met who professed to hate Americans. Why? You’ll have to ask her. I kept walking.