How many other languages do you speak? Have you been outside your country? Did you just go to the big tourist cities or did you venture off the beaten path? Do you ever read foreign news publications? In general, do you have any idea how the world looks from the viewpoint of people from elsewhere in the world?
This critique could apply to anyone, but I’m specifically targeting Americans here as the worst abusers. I guess that’s what comes from having almost a whole continent to yourself and being the world’s sole superpower, but it’s still not an excuse. This is the cultural melting pot of the world, dammit. Except for a few natives, almost no one has a last name of American origin. You’d think we’d have it together regarding multiculturalism.
And yet, my last name is apparently too much for most people to handle. Why the common, Spanish-origin name Valenzuela is just too out there to pronounce for folks here in Arizona, a state absolutely crawling with Mexicans, is completely beyond me. I am routinely called “Mr. Venezuela,” and even get asked if I’m from that country. Not that everyone can be expected to be fluent in many different cultures, but the simple act of assuming without taking a second look is a problem.
Now, this is more than a rant against annoying tourist types. Actions have consequences, and ignorance can be quite dangerous. Especially when such ignorance informs decisions that affect, and can end, millions of lives. When an ill-informed war machine surges into action, bad decisions are made possible by an ignorant and complacent populace.
So befriend a foreign person. Learn another language. Travel off the beaten path. The world is counting on you.