Anyway, one of the regular sections in the week is "Best Columns: Europe." On a good day (or in a good Week), this section will give me a glimpse into the interests and concerns of other countries--you know, the kind of stuff that Americans never hear about because it generally doesn't concern us. However, I've noticed a disturbing trend lately. Every couple of weeks, this section reprints a column in which some European journalist bashes American society.
Let me be really clear here. I'm not talking about bashing King George II, or any of his myriad foreign policy disasters. For that matter, I'm not talking about attacking any of the craven, idiotic crimes that Congress has recently perpetrated. No, I'm talking about attacking mainstream, normal Americans.
I'm not even really against attacking the average american. After all, even a cursory glance through my posts (hey, at this point, there's only enough for a cursory glance!) will demonstrate that I don't have any problem with critiquing some of my fellow citizens. I guess my problem is with Europeans attacking Americans. Maybe I look at Americans the way a boy might look at his retarded dog--it's okay to make fun of him as long as I'm the one making the jokes. Maybe I just feel like the Europeans are kicking us when we're down.
What kind of things have set me off? Well, this week it was "Where a Man Can Strut His Stuff," an article by Milan Obradovic for "Stern" magazine (Okay, am I the only one who finds delicious irony in a German magazine titled "Stern"?). In this article, Obradovic bitches about the fact that American beachwear is too prudish. Apparently, as a German living in Los Angeles, he is annoyed because American beachwear doesn't "show the faintest outline of male genitalia." He feels that our trunks are "neither comfortable nor hygenic, not to mention completely uncool." He also complains about the fact that women aren't allowed to go topless, which he finds ironic, given the fact that "in obesity-plagued America, many men have breasts just as large as women's, yet those ugly saggers are on proud display while the women's must be hidden."
Where to begin? I guess that my first problem with this is his criticism of bathing suits. I LIKE American bathing suits. I like having pockets, not to mention having protection against sand, sharp rocks, and, yes, the roving eyes of some of my fellow bathers. For that matter, while I am inclined to agree that topless, or even nude, beaches beaches are a good idea in concept, my experience with them has run hot and cold. To be honest, some of the things that I've seen on topless beaches have convinced me that sometimes it's better to catch a hint of flesh rather than unrestrained gobs. If you catch my drift.
My next problem is that I have to wonder why Obradovic feels obliged to throw in his little attack on American...avoirdupois. In my travels in Germany, I have seen a fair number of generously-sized people. I mean, it's not as if Obradovic comes from Ethiopia, in which case I think he might have room to criticize. Okay, admittedly, Americans tend to be...beefy, but as someone who's fighting his own personal battle of the bulge, the last thing I need is to get a body critique from some bratwurst-muncher who wants to show off his dick in public. For that matter, his judgmental comments are exactly the reason that many people feel obliged to cover up on the beach. (Admittedly, I'm a little defensive about this, not just because of my own body issues, but also because Americans are my people and...well...I get to make fun of them, not some random German!)
While we're cutting on Obradovic, it's also worth asking why he is living in the United States if he has such problems with our bathing customs. If it's that big a deal, why doesn't he pack up his man-thongs and catch a flight back to the land of shnitzel and sheisse video? The answer is clear: because his accent gets him laid in LA, and he can play cool cultural criticism games. Let's face it, in Germany, he's just another asexual, wiry whiner with mother issues and a confused self-image.
In recent months, I've seen lots of articles like this. One actually criticized American soccer fans because we weren't rowdy enough! Come on! When's the last time you saw someone catch shit because he was too well behaved?!?
I've got a theory about why all this anti-American static has been pouring out of the newspapers of Europe. Well, actually, I've got two theories. The first is that we left ourselves open for it. Electing George Bush to two terms of the Presidency was, to be honest, the kind of idiotic move that one usually associates with long-term alcoholism or blunt head trauma. Come on, admit it, we committed the electoral equivalent of proposing to a two-dollar whore. Better yet, we did it twice.
The second reason for this wave of anti-Americanism is the internal problems that Europe has been facing. After years of criticizing us for our racial policy, Germany, France, and Italy have had to deal with their own immigrant problems. As they negotiate the tricky waters of inclusion, they have stumbled on the traditional method of dealing with internal strife: they've found an external enemy that they can chastise. Still, I'm not sure that laughing at prudish American bathing suits is going to clear up Germany's problem with its Turkish citizens.