248. The American Dream and Other Nightmares

Benny Lewis is an ami­able Irish­man whose inter­est­ing blog claims he can learn a lan­guage in three months. He has, he says, learned 8 lan­guages since he was 21 by liv­ing in dif­fer­ent coun­tries for a few months. How­ever this note is about a year he spent in the United States try­ing to under­stand that 4.6% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. After a year he wrote a polite post­ing, “17 Cul­tural rea­sons why this Euro­pean never wants to live in Amer­ica” (http://www.fluentin3months.com/no-usa-for-me/ ). The result was amaz­ing. 2,578 com­ments flooded in, mostly from shocked Amer­i­cans. Why such thin skins? That is the fas­ci­nat­ing ques­tion. This is about Amer­i­cans in the place they call home. It is not about the Amer­i­can Empire, which is an entirely dif­fer­ent movie set, appar­ently devoted to eter­nal wars.  Except for a cou­ple of weeks in Cal­i­for­nia, I’ve never done time in the Amer­i­can heart­land, so my reac­tions are not informed by local expe­ri­ence, only rumour. I’ve met a few Amer­i­cans, mostly in Asia and gen­er­ally nice peo­ple. That’s it. Work­ing from at least that level of igno­rance, Benny’s com­ments make some sense to me (please read them; what do you think?). Aus­tralia, my start­ing point, is not a bad place, but I could eas­ily total up 17 rea­sons not to live there, and joke about it. Aussies are gen­er­ally not over-sen­si­tive about Ground Zero. But our Amer­i­can cousins ??!! Why so frag­ile?

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