Field of Science

A Mirror on American Culture

The Phactor does not like most politicians, but shooting them is not right, and not a solution to any problem. At such times more citizens of the USA need to see ourselves as others see us. One of the unlikeable things about politicians is that very few are brave enough to tell it like it is; most tell people what they want to hear even if it means telling out right lies. Not very many people in the USA have lived overseas; many travel to other countries, but most often in ways that isolate them from the local culture and people. You don’t get a sense of the world by using taxi drivers, baggage handlers, and tour guides as exemplars of another culture. The Phactor has many well-traveled friends who always go on tours so they never have to “deal” with people. Even worse tours are well scripted travel and usually overly scheduled travel; you just can’t poke around enough or take more time if you find something interesting, or if all you want to do is sit in a cafĂ© with a drink and watch the passers-by. As a university professor not only do we have many opportunities for significant overseas travel, we also come into contact with many people of foreign birth, many are students, some become colleagues, but they offer diverse perspectives, and often thoughtful perspectives, real insights, on the peculiarities of our culture, things that too many 'Mercans think of as normal SOP that other people find incomprehensible, like our county's love of soft doughy bread. People in the USA suffer in part from the problem of being a citizen of a large country with a very homogeneous culture, at least on a superficial level, where you can drive 3000 miles and always be able to speak the same language, and if they don’t speak our version of English, well, they damned well ought to because they’re in “our” country after all, and you want to super size those fries? So that’s why different perspectives are so important. Generally when you have in depth discussions about world issues in other countries you end up being down right “un-American” by apologizing for exporting the worst aspects of our culture and the actions of our government. This is important because the rest of the world can be right, and the USA wrong.