Look, if I didn’t love being here, I would go home tomorrow. I could do it easily. And when I got there, people would look at me strange. Like, don’t you love America? Yes I do, and, stupidly, on many days here I step outside and am amazed that I’m in America, and get so happy because of that fact. I am not anti-American.
But there’s this American thing, where if you’re an American even slightly educated about the world beyond your borders, you think you know everything there is to know about the world beyond your borders. The place I notice this most frequently is in politics and sports.
I was at my local bar tonight (and the differences between a local bar and a local pub are one of the many things I love about America), and the bartender, obviously wanting to make conversation, asked me is I was excited about the World Cup. (This is while I was watching the Suns-Lakers game and the Mariners-Tigers game, both of which I was mildly interested in.)
Now, this is a question he could not have known I would take offense at, but it’s also a question he would not have asked if I didn’t talk with a certain accent.
See, I not only consider soccer to be a foreign game, I consider it to be an invasively foreign game. This is not a view all Australians share. But, when I hear an argument of equivalence made between Australianness and soccer, I think of the way Aussie soccer fans idolize Manchester United and Liverpool and Chelsea, and other English teams, and I think of colonialism, and I think of the eternal political debate in my country as to whether our head of state should be one of us or should be a foreign monarch, and I get very patriotic.
None of which is something an American should be expected to know. Except for the fact that, in Australia, the most popular non-cricket sports are Australian Rules football, Rugby League and Rugby Union. That is, there is no reason for an American to believe that Australians are interested in soccer unless they deduce “non-American places like soccer,” and “Australia is a non-American place,” therefore, “Australia likes soccer.”
America. I love you. But there is a huge difference between “non-American place” and “X country that is not America.” Countries that are not you do not do sport like England. Countries that are not you do not do politics like England.
And I sympathize. I understand, and enjoy, how immersive American life is. It is difficult to know what happens beyond these borders while you’re here. And even though I once was offended when a friend of mine asked if we celebrated Christmas in Australia (um yes), this seems a far more honest approach than to extrapolate knowledge of other nations from an understanding of Canada or from an understanding of England.
To the bartender’s credit, when I told him I was Australian, he responded, “Oh, so you’re more into rugby.” Which is, hey, thanks for the recognition, but where i’m from rugby means rugby union, which I have to dislike for class reasons, even though I don’t at all like rugby league, which I’m meant to like for class reasons. But how can I explain that to someone who is being generous by even supposing that I might like rugby (a game with local cultural roots) as opposed to a foreign game like soccer?
I might be creating an unfairly high standard. But it does infuriate me that the Americans that are most interested in a world beyond their borders seem to be the ones most comfortable with thinking they understand my culture when they do not.