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Saturday, March 08, 2003
American Arrogance

May I submit that much of what is ascribed to American arrogance is our stubborn refusal to recognize the superiority of our "betters," such as the French. If you treat someone as an equal who considers himself a superior, the alleged superior will have one of two reactions.

Case 1: The alleged superior publicly and overtly asserts his superiority.

Worst outcome: In this case, an assertion of equality will be seen as impertinence or insubordination. The alleged offender will be seen as an uncouth barbarian, unable to appreciate the benefits of civilized society. Maybe even a cowboy.

Best outcome: everyone has a laugh at himself and each other. Examples:

  • Oscar Wilde tours America, including the bustling metropolis of Leadville CO, to enthusiastic audiences.

  • Jim Thorpe, the astonishing Native American Olympian, receives the congratulations of the king of Sweden: King Gustav V told him, "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world!" To which Thorpe reportedly replied, "Thanks, king."

Case 2: The superior does not publicly and overtly assert his superiority, but believes it and wishes it to be tacitly acknowledged. This mismatch of perceptions and expectations of the two parties will result in surprises for both parties, with each reacting to the other in ways that seem inexplicable.

Worst outcome: Giant puppet heads, stilt-walkers, and other confused people clot the streets, and the French threaten a Security Council veto.

Best outcome: There isn't one, really. All we can hope for is that time will pass and memory will go with it.
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