About America…

I have been reading some interesting and cheap used books.  I finally just got a library card and still can’t seem to find a library close enough to frequent often enough, so I keep going to used book stores.  Thus, I have a whole compilation of interesting quotes that I will be sharing with you over time as I have realized that posts filled entirely with quotes is a bit much.

One of these quotes, from A Spy by Nature by Charles Cumming, a brilliant first novel in my opinion, page 99, is a conversation between a British Intelligence Agent and a potential British Intelligence Agent (italics my own):

“The Americans have a very parochial view of Europe. They see us as a small country…I believe that there is an insularity to the American mind. They are an inward-looking people.’

‘Based on what evidence?’

‘Based on the fact that when you go there, they think that Margaret Thatcher is the Queen, that Scotland is just this county in a bigger place called England. That kind of ignorance is unsettling when you consider that American capitalism is currently the dominant global culture. But to anyone living in Texas, global news is what happens in Alabama. The average American couldn’t care less about the European Union.’

‘Surely you can appreciate that in our line of work we don’t deal with the “average American”?’

“I can see that. Yes…But my point is still valid. Now that America is the sole superpower, there’s a kind of arrogance, a tunnel vision, creeping into their foreign policy. They don’t make allowances for the character and outlook of individual states.”

Now, you may disagree with this quote but I doubt you really will when you contemplate it more.  Remember this… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0R84a7njTd0 

Seriously folks, she’s not that unusual.  Most Americans really can’t find America on a map, let alone Switzerland, or Iraq, or Bangladesh.  And I can’t even count the number of times people back home got confused when I said I was going to South Africa.  They don’t seem to realize it’s a separate nation and not just the region of SOUTHERN AFRICA. 

Or I hear stories of South Africans visiting the US to find Americans are shocked to see white Africans or they still think that Apartheid exists and all white Africans are terrible racists.  Or Americans think all African people are poor, unschooled, unfed warriors.

Similar things happen in American churches.  We pray for poor Africa, if we pray for others at all, and talk high and mighty about giving to missions because we come from a superpower nation.  But it’s as if we have never seen/sang the full lyrics to America the Beautiful : especially this stanza…

America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

Do you know that most of the South Africans I have met know in detail who Obama is, who McCain is, they know our country’s capital city, and the political system.  And do you know the Christians of Africa give money to missions around the world too?  And that they pray for America?  Because they do.  We are not alone, as Americans.  We are not on a pedestal.  We are not the only ones called to pray for the poor and the lonely and the sick.  We have our own poor and lonely and sick.  We need the prayers of others just as much as we need to pray for others.

Today I was humbled by the fervent prayers of a non-inward looking South African church for my home nation. 


2 Responses to “About America…”

  1. I faced similar ignorance when I went to Sri Lanka. Only 1 in 10 people knew it was an island off the coast of India.

    While in Sri Lanka we visited a Christian College, and it was a powerful experience for me to see a room full of about 100 students suddenly turn in formation and start praying, raising hands, crying out, speaking in tongues. On the wall in the back of the room was a flag of their country, and one of Israel. They also prayed for other nations.

    In Russia I was in churches that regularly prayed for America.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I know where all those places are. Hooray! I’m smarter than the average American 🙂 Honestly I know what you mean though. I’m amazed at how many Americans are ignorant about the world outside of our comfortable western bubble. Even coming to Thailand people kept asking me if I was excited to meet Tiwanese people and I was like WHAT?!?!?!?!? Thai people, you mean Thai people. I’m really glad to have a friend like you who is also so world minded.

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