What do Americans Think of Us?

I was checking my dashboard and discovered that a few people from Serbia had clicked on my blog.  I’m guessing that this is because of the recent post on Ratko Mladic, who is on trial for crimes against humanity. 

I’ve mentioned Ratko Mladic once before in my blog, during my series of posts defending Novak Djokovic against a blogger named Monika who called him a “dangerous Serbian nationalist.”  When I finished that series, I thought I had said everything that needed to be said about that piece.  But now, I realized I need to say one more thing. 

The blogger seemed to believe that Novak Djokovic was trying to get American’s support for Serbia’s claims to Kosovo.  She believed that Novak Djokovic’s appearances on national television could affect how Americans think of Serbia, and change America’s foreign policy. 

I mentioned this to my brother, and we have a good laugh.  The blogger basically believes that the average American is sitting up and watching The Tonight Show, and after seeing Novak Djokovic on TV, he has the following internal monologue.  “Wow, Novak Djokovic seems like a really cool guy.  You know, before I saw Novak on TV, I supported Kosovo’s bid for independence, because like all Americans, I keep a close eye on Eastern European politics.  But after seeing that tennis player guy, I now support Serbia’s territorial claims to Kosovo, and I will write to my congressman to tell him that.” 

Monika, I know nothing about Eastern Europe, but you my dear, know nothing about America. 

The average American couldn’t find Serbia on a map.  For heaven’s sake, some studies suggest that the average American couldn’t find America on a map!  That’s how bad it is.  Americans may have some vague recollections of the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, but for the life of them, they couldn’t tell you who was fighting whom.  (To be fair, I’d struggle with that myself!)  My mom saw the movie Storm a few months ago, about a Bosnian war crimes trial, and she was surprised to learn that Serbs were on trial for crimes against humanity.  She thought that the Bosnian Muslims were terrorizing the Serbs.  (To be fair, she might have known better at the time, but in the post 9/11 world, it’s easy for the average American to think of Muslims as terrorists.) 

I titled this post “what do Americans think of us?” because last Saturday I heard an interview on Rick Steve’s NPR program.  He was interviewing a woman who moved with her family to Croatia for nine months, her ancestral home.  They had a great time there, but for a few months, they were unable to communicate very well with the locals, since they did not speak the langauge.  Fortunately, her husband spoke the international language of free beer, so they had no shortage of friends.  After a few months though, she and her husband finally found a translator to help her talk to the locals.  The first question they asked her was “What do Americans think of us?”  I laughed when I heard that question, because the answer is “We don’t.” 


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