But to tell you the truth I have a confession to make, I’m the one who is thin-skinned. You may have noticed that I am a little bit sensitive to topics relating to Americans in Spain, how we are perceived, opinions about us in the print and other media, and of course, in “real-life”. My thin skin has developed over the years - basically due to hearing the same stereotypes over and over, ad nauseum, and by having the same tired discussions in bars, living rooms, and …. where ever.
For the first 15 - 20 years of coming to Spain, and/or living in Spain on and off, I would just do what I always did. Patiently try to convince one person at a time that No, we are not all morons, and No, we are not all fat, and Yes, there actually are political liberals in the U.S., and I actually did not vote for Bush or Reagan, but I will try to explain why many people did, and why I do respect our political system - even flawed as it is, etc…. (Example list of current topics here).
But now I’m tired and it's hard to be nice. I keep hearing and seeing the same misconceptions offered up with glee. Spanish people will argue with ME about how life is in America (when they have never been there) or about our history – while conveniently forgetting their own - and I don't even know them! This I can’t take.
There was this one time when I had to get my air conditioning in Madrid fixed and the guy selling me his services came over to my house (with a stuffy nose). He didn’t know me from Adam but, as usual, he asked me where I was from, and then proceeded to tell me that he had a cold due to, “All the bad things that the Americans bring.” He was a big fat guy and seemed to be living pretty well to me – the Americans weren’t hurting him too much it appeared. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the presence of mind to tell him on the spot that his job exists because an American invented air conditioning!
What got me on all this .... John at Iberian Notes was posting some reader’s comments from a favorite newspaper that he loves to hate – La Vanguardia based in Barcelona. Now, comments on the internet can be pretty nasty and very hateful to Americans, etc. They usually blame the U.S. for pretty much everything under the sun – in outrageous ways. These particular ones weren't as bad as some I've seen on 20minutos.com. John was asked if he thought that many Spanish people think like the La Vanguardia readers. So he answered that Yes, he thinks that many people DO think this way in Spain. This set off a round of comments – some very angry, on this topic (the angry ones disagreed – and were shocked that he would come to this conclusion!). I tried to put my meager two cents in (very poorly, I’m afraid).
What I was trying to say in my lousy comment on Iberian Notes, is that if you are not American, you are not going to experience the kind of interactions that we (Americans) experience in Madrid/Spain. If you are British, the air conditioning repair-man is not going to start giving you crap about the rotten Americans. If you are meeting Spanish friends of friends, and there is that guy with the group who wants to give you shit about Bush and anything else he can think of, he would not be doing that if you were from Bangladesh. Also, as Americans, our ears prick up when we hear nonsense about the U.S., and yes, my own personal thin-skin comes into play due to hearing knock after knock about Americans over the last 24 years.
O.K., I really have to work on this. Hey! That’s what the blog is all about.