Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America

Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America

Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America

Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America

Synopsis

No survey can capture the breadth and depth of the anti-Americanism that has swept Europe in recent years. From ultraconservative Bavarian grandmothers to thirty-year-old socialist activists in Greece, from globalization opponents to corporate executives--Europeans are joining in an ever louder chorus of disdain for America. For the first time, anti-Americanism has become a European lingua franca.


In this sweeping and provocative look at the history of European aversion to America, Andrei Markovits argues that understanding the ubiquity of anti-Americanism since September 11, 2001, requires an appreciation of such sentiments among European elites going back at least to July 4, 1776.


While George W. Bush's policies have catapulted anti-Americanism into overdrive, particularly in Western Europe, Markovits argues that this loathing has long been driven not by what America does, but by what it is. Focusing on seven Western European countries big and small, he shows how antipathies toward things American embrace aspects of everyday life--such as sports, language, work, education, media, health, and law--that remain far from the purview of the Bush administration's policies. Aggravating Europeans' antipathies toward America is their alleged helplessness in the face of an Americanization that they view as inexorably befalling them.


More troubling, Markovits argues, is that this anti-Americanism has cultivated a new strain of anti-Semitism. Above all, he shows that while Europeans are far apart in terms of their everyday lives and shared experiences, their not being American provides them with a powerful common identity--one that elites have already begun to harness in their quest to construct a unified Europe to rival America.

Excerpt

When my father and I arrived in the United States as immigrants from Romania—by way of Vienna—in the summer of 1960, we spent a number of weeks living with American families in the greater New York area. Some were Jews, like us; most were not. But all spoke some German because our English was virtually nonexistent at the time. What impressed me no end and will always remain with me was how all these people adored my Viennese-accented German, how they reveled in it, found it elegant, charming, and above all ohso-cultured. For business and family reasons, my father had to return to Vienna where I attended the Theresianische Akademie, one of Austria's leading gymnasia. The welcome accorded to me in this environment was much colder and more distant than it had been in the United States, but not by dint of my being a “Tschusch” and a “Zuagraster,” an interloper from the disdained eastern areas of Europe, but by virtue of having become a quasi American. From the get-go until my graduation from this school many years later, I was always admonished by my English teachers in their heavily accented, Viennese-inflected English not to speak this abomination of an “American dialect” or “American slang” and never to use “American spelling” with its simplifications that testified prima facie to the uncultured and simpleton nature of Americans. Of course, any of my transgressions, be it chatting in class or playing soccer in the hallways, was met with an admonition of “Markovits, we are not in the Wild West, we are not in Texas. Behave yourself.” Vienneseaccented German—wonderful; American-accented English—awful. The pattern still pertains nearly fifty years later just like it pertained fifty years before.

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