*U.S. citizen writing from Bolivia
“I’m from America”
While the United States may be in North America, that does not make it America. When you call the U.S. “America,” you’re declining the existence of over a dozen South American countries and about 40 other North American countries/territories. People from those places notice. What gives?
Through grades 5-12, every student at my school took three different classes titled American History. We know both fictional and real characters from the American Revolution, American Independence, and American Civil War (“American” referring to the U.S. of course). Most 16 year old kids in the United States do not know the president of Bolivia, nonetheless where the country is even located. Inversely, most of the world knows the president of the U.S.. How did this happen?
A significant percentage of the people I grew up with have no desire or intention to travel; no plans to leave the town where they were born and raised. While this is not inherently bad, how can we learn to understand and appreciate other cultures when we stay in the comfort of our homes and when we turn on the T.V., see only local news? I never had a teacher in primary school who asked me about the “spiritual leader of the nation [of Argentina],” Eva Perón . I was clueless about the Colombian Armed Conflict. It was not until my senior year of high school that I learned a little bit about the Caribbean through art. That’s the closest I got. The school systems aren’t entirely to blame; my own family was in shock when I told them that Bolivia is in the same time zone as New York.
Only my own curiosity lent me the knowledge of how much “America” I was really missing.
A group of Brazilian expats living here in Bolivia know around 5 English words: spring break, strip tease, and motherf*cker. It’s really no wonder that so many people I’ve met here say that they dream of going to the States. We’ve painted a picture of fun and easy living, where the “american dream” still exists and equality is free to all.
In reality, the U.S. has difficult visa policies, incredible (and mostly unwarranted) distaste for foreigners, and institutionalized discrimination policies that have become so commonplace that our citizens fail to recognize them.
It’s not that the fifty states that make up our piece of North America can’t be wonderful places to live. We have excellent universities and relatively easy access to needs such as affordable housing, (Social Progress Index) among dozens of other things. My life has been full of opportunities that I’m not sure I could have gained elsewhere. However, the U.S. is not the superpower it once was, and it’s time to stop pretending that we are invincible. Our government literally shut down last year. The two major political parties disagree because they believe they were designed to disagree. We’ve faced terrorist attacks and have failed to help when other countries dealt with the same. Projecting arrogance and supremacy is not working for us anymore. Lucky, we’re not the sole America and we’re not here to dominate all of the other countries that fall under the same category.
Acknowledging the potential of the other Americas starts by acknowledging their existence. This superiority complex has long overstayed its welcome.