Between the ancient Roman ruins and the Vatican, we’ve had the opportunity to be toured around by a truly remarkable woman. Olga, a Croatian refugee who moved to Italy during the Yugoslavian crisis, is probably the best tour guide one could have for Rome. She’s brilliant, knowledgeable, funny, and is not afraid to give you the politically incorrect answer to your questions (although she does qualify it as such). She knows her stuff, and she presents it in the most animated and engaging way a tour guide could.
While on our way to the Pantheon from the Forum, Davis asked Olga something along the lines of, “Are Americans generally liked or disliked by the rest of the world?” Her answer, at first, was understandable but good, but upon qualifying it, I found myself feeling very troubled.
At the risk of paraphrasing, she said something to the effect that American political action is generally disliked, while the American people are generally liked. Politically, I can understand why people could dislike us, as we have often taken an “America First” approach to foreign policy and tend to meddle in the affairs of other nations. The fact that Americans were generally liked, however, was exciting! As she went on to explain why, however, I quickly became less excited.
Again, at the risk of paraphrasing, she essentially said that Americans are liked because we are happy, generally happier than the rest of the world. In explaining why we were happy, she mentioned that part of the reason is due to our lack of knowledge on all of the bad things in the world. That we are more or less naïve, and that naïveté is why we are all so happy.
Now of course this isn’t the only reason she cited, and this is only one person’s analysis, but it was very concerning to me because she was not speaking of her own opinion, but of the opinion she’s witnessed in her experience outside of the US. Do people see us as naïve? Is this just Europe, or the rest of the world? Are we actually ignorant? All of these questions ran through my head when I heard this, and I began to reflect. Unfortunately, Olga wasn’t too far off.
This is not me trying to bash American people, because I am one and I also really love us and our culture. But what I will say is that we really are not too informed on what is happening and has happened in the world around us. To some extent, this is not our own fault. We are a relatively young country, and pretty geographically isolated from the rest of the world, so we don’t experience the action up close. However, this does not mean we should not be interested and invested in the world in which we live. We are the world leaders, and therefore it is our duty to know what is happening in the world and to have informed, thoughtful opinions. I hope that, some day soon, we can make the world like us because we’re good, knowledgeable people, changing from the current opinion the people of Europe seem to have.