Hating Americans and Cats

Most of the time I think of myself as living in a fairly progressive and enlightened world. I'm fotunate that I work with a set of wonderful people, I can travel all over the world and I'm a member of an excellent theatre company. As a result, hatred of things, or at least expressions of hatred are generally just not tolerated in any of the circles in which I run. (With the exception, of course, of things that FAIL, like a particularly bad piece of code - but even then it's less about hatred and more about not liking something that didn't work)

There are two social acceptable exceptions to that rule, though: Americans, and cats.

I was reading a blog post earlier this morning (which I won't link to because that's not the point here) which was a fun post about older people finding new music. As a person who is not getting any younger myself, the blog post was quite enjoyable. Smack in the middle of it though, there was a fairly senseless off-hand dig at stupid Americans. It was so off-hand though, that I think that's why it jumped out at me - hate, scorn or derision of folks from the US is so normal as to not even elicit emotion. 

In most of the circles I travel in, if you said the same sentence but replaced Americans with just about any other arbitrary grouping of people (and were not being ironic) you would meet with quite a good amount of resistance. Just imagine me making a comment about "stupid Asians" and see how long I get to remain at the dinner party. 

I notice a similar thing with cats. In any group of people, there will be someone in the group who, if cats come up, will freely talk about how they hate cats, or how they used to torture cats. I have heard people talk about throwing cats across rooms with the same level of concern as they would tell me what sandwich they had for lunch. I suppose, given that a cat is just an animal, that one could just assume people don't care as much about animals... but substitute dog for cat in any of those stories and you will find yourself with a riot on your hands. And the times I've tried to point out the dichotomy to dog-loving friends who avow hatred of cats, the response usually comes back "I guess... but I hate cats"

Why is it socially ok to tell stories about torturing cats when torturing dogs is societally completely unforgivable. Why is it ok to single out a group of people based on geographical origin for scorn, when  it is not ok to do so in general?

The really sad part is that when I ask those questions... I get justifications. "Cats suck" or "The US brings it on itself." But I've got to say - abusing animals is not ok, no matter what the animal is, and bigotry is wrong no matter who the target is. Regardless of how cool you may think such expressions make you, I believe they do nothing but show ignorance... and they make me sad.

17 Comments

  1. [1]   A Portuguese
    December 27, 2010 at 08:35 AM

    Good read. Nice to know someone has noticed.
  2. [2]   Meneer R
    December 27, 2010 at 09:46 AM

    I understand your point about making fun of americans being wrong. But to fear your country makes a lot of sense. We read & see on the internet all these republican talk show hosts and politicians calling out for the murder of Assange. They are literally saying 'he is not an american, so our constitution doesn't apply, so we should just kill him'. To hear that many americans, at once, say that it's ok to torture/kill any non-american. Because only americans have rights. It isn't anything to joke about. But I can imagine that creating some hate.
  3. [3]   Monty Taylor
    December 27, 2010 at 09:51 AM

    Totally. I have no problems with criticism (I criticize my own country all the time) ... but there is a difference between "wow, I really disagree with the policies of the US government" and "Americans are stupid" ... one can have productive outcome, the other is merely bigotry.
  4. [4]   Nick
    December 27, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    I have to disagree with you about the comment "stupid americans". i also read the blog post and it didn't really shock me. First of all, because it was said in a precise context, but also because it was clearly not intended as an anti-american comment. Comparing this to saying "stupid Asians" isn't quite accurate. "American" is not a "race", "Asian" is. It would be comparable to saying "stupid french", for example, which is also not really shocking in my opinion (and I'm french). We need to stop taking these little comments so seriously.
  5. [5]   Monty Taylor
    December 27, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    It's not that it was shocking ... it's precisely that it wasn't shocking. It's so common place as to be a normal blanket statement. But I specifically didn't link the article because I didn't think the usage in the article was particularly bad or even mean-spirited. I agree with you - it was certainly intended as a dig at the RIAA - it just jogged a thought that's been lurking in my head. Also - Asian is actually not a race. Asia is a continent which contains such diverse places as China, Russia and India. I hear "stupid french" a good deal as well, which I consider just as annoying, since all it does it perpetuate stereotypes which are almost always false. (I'm not saying we can't have a sense of humor of course - just that bigotry can still be bigotry even if it's aimed at non-disadvantaged people)
  6. [6]   erin
    December 27, 2010 at 10:44 AM

    Serial killers like to torture cats. Cats represent the feminine so it's ok to hate cats but dogs represent the masculine so it's not ok.... It points to the hatred of women in the western world .... And well, it's hard not to slag off Americans at this pt in time with our (I'm American) gov't that seems to be heading towards the ignorant. Why is ignorance so glam?
  7. [7]   Peter Laursen
    December 27, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    The problem is that a vast fraction of US people are ignorant about world outside US and the cultures and values of people outside US. This is the reason. I realize that most US people are not able to see it but for most of the rest of us outside US it is obvious. Most US people have US as their reference of what is 'normal' - most Europeans have the world as their reference and understand that what is 'normal' in one place need not be in another. "The US brings it on itself." is a true statement simply (and unfortunately - because the world would be better off if it was not the case).
  8. [8]   Jonathan Carter
    December 27, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    Hey Monty. Nice post. I wrote the blog entry in question. It's great that you brought this up because I actually have a blog entry draft called "Stupid Americans" that predates the music one by about 3 weeks. The contents of the "Stupid Americans" post is ironically very close to what you are saying, except that I expanded more on why I sometimes can't help but not like them. The RIAA is one of the reasons why Americans sometimes anger me, which is why they got the "Stupid Americans" sticker in that particular post. I'm tempted to your post in another blog entry, but I like what you've said already and I don't want to distract from your positive message too much. I do believe that American citizens can and should do a lot more to fix up a lot of broken stuff in their country. Not necessarily because I have an overwhelmingly sense of care of what happens there, but the problem is that a lot of very bad things they do tend to spill over into other parts of the world. I guess that's all I'll say for now :)
  9. [9]   Aoirthoir An Broc
    December 27, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    "We read & see on the internet all these republican talk show hosts and politicians calling out for the murder of Assange.... But I can imagine that creating some hate [of Americans]. " Hmm let's try an experiment from what the OP posted.... "We read & see on the internet all these [Korean] politicians calling out for the murder of [so and so].... But I can imagine that creating some hate [of Koreans]. " OR "We read & see on the internet all these [Muslim] politicians calling out for the murder of [so and so].... But I can imagine that creating some hate [of Muslims]. " None of these sit well with me. It is problematic that right away we see EXCUSES for promoting hate. Hate is OK as long as the target of the hate is an American. So within a post or two his point is proven. 'Comparing this to saying "stupid Asians" isn't quite accurate. "American" is not a "race"' Whether or not American is a race or not is a matter of definition. From: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/race we find among other defintions one that fairly well applies to Americans: '2 a : a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock b : a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics' 'It would be comparable to saying "stupid french", for example, which is also not really shocking in my opinion (and I'm french).' Well perhaps you should. It might be worth considering that it's not French people or Americans that are being insulted when we use ableist language like "Stupid so and so" but those who are non-neurotypically defined. Assuming one person is possessing less intelligence or IQ than another, is this something that should be fodder for insulting others? In so doing we marginalize the differently abled. 'We need to stop taking these little comments so seriously.' Don't you mean "you need to stop...." because it does not seem that you are taking it so seriously. Perhaps what we could do is understand that what's being pointed out here is not particularly an insult, but the HYPOCRISY of those doing the insulting. "Cats represent the feminine so it's ok to hate cats but dogs represent the masculine so it's not ok..." Really? To believe this statement one would have to believe that there is a particular kind of behavior similar in cats that is manifest in females. I know this is a common believe. I've even accepted this claim myself int the past. However, upon deeper reflection and after much thinking I've come to a different conclusion. Dogs are lifted up in our society because they are OBEDIENT. They do as they are told, exactly when they are told. This is decidedly [purportedly] non-masculine. Indeed the concept of hypermasculinity that is forstered upon us demonstrates that men are to be anything but doglike. Cats on the other hand are independent to an extreme. This too is exactly the opposite of what a monoculturalist society would have us believe about the feminine. I have suggested before that cats are the victims of violence because they represent masculine forces, not feminine, which we purportedly protect. In truth we protect neither masculine, feminine, nor anything in between or outside of the gender binary. The cat's similarity to the male is thus reason violence against cats is so well accepted, just as males are the victims of most violence in western culture. " just that bigotry can still be bigotry even if it's aimed at non-disadvantaged people" This of course assumes that Americans are non-disadvantaged. While this might be true of some persons, the "American Dream" of any sort, is denied to a greater portion of our population. "The problem is that a vast fraction of US people are ignorant about world outside US and the cultures and values of people outside US. " Ignorance is not stupidity. Equating the two is highly insulting to those of us that do not fit your neuroptypical requirements. It is ableist, insulting, margenlizing hate speech and should be purged from our tongues. Yet, let us replace everything commenters keep saying about Americans, and why they "bring hate upon themselves" with ANY OTHER GROUP ON THE PLANET and see how the tongues wag in chastisement.
  10. [10]   jimcooncat
    December 27, 2010 at 12:45 PM

    There is a lot to America. Those of us who stick with government teachings and the mass media -- well, stupid is as stupid does. But there is a large population here that think for themselves. We know not to call attention to ourselves as Americans when we travel abroad. And we are in the minority, so we get trounced in the elections.
  11. [11]   dmitrij.ledkov
    December 27, 2010 at 01:48 PM

    I once saw this somewhere and can't find a source now. So semi-quote:"If one day we all wake up as same race, religion, size, hair colour, sexual orientation and social status by lunch time we'll come up with new ways to discriminate."
  12. [12]   S Page
    December 27, 2010 at 09:05 PM

    For all the many faults of America (the country, the political system, the alleged majority of its people) one of the best things about it is anyone can criticize all three parts with little repercussion. Many countries and nationalities are very insecure (most Muslim ones pathetically so), but the USA and much of Europe aren't bothered by criticism and stereotyping, it's water off a duck's back. You should watch Tom Hanks' incredible routine in the movie "Punch Line", culminating in: "I don't hate anybody. I'm not a hate monger. I'm a 'hate stylist.'"
  13. [13]   Mark Grennan
    December 28, 2010 at 08:29 AM

    As an American I'm sure I resemble these remarks. I know I'm ignorant of the rest of the world only because the news I hear and read doesn't match the news a hear and read on bogs and short wave from other countries. In my country we have freedom of the press witch means we have freedom to tell all the lies we want. America is not run by big government but by big business and banks. My only issue with this post is, How all American's get hated at a personal level for things things beyond our control. Hate Hallibuton Oil or Microsoft. Oh, And whats wrong with cats?
  14. [14]   Michael M
    December 28, 2010 at 09:37 AM

    What struck me as amusing about the original post wasn't the swipe at Americans but that the swipe was so misdirected. For many, many years -- since well before the emergence of Napster -- the so-called "American" entertainment industry has been owned & controlled by multinational conglomerates based mostly in Europe. I think some Europeans find it so easy to display condescension to Americans because it absolves them of taking responsibility for the actions of their own corporations. It's much easier to riff on "RIAA" than the IFPI, easier to denounce "Hollywood" than Bertelsmann or EMI or Vivendi. "South Park: Bigger Longer Uncut" featured the song "Blame Canada" as a satire of how we often tend to deflect and demonize instead of accepting responsibility. In Europe, the refrain seems to be "Blame America."
  15. [15]   Meneer R
    December 28, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    >In my country we have freedom of the press witch means we have freedom to tell all the lies we want. Yes. But as soon as non-american tells the _truth_, you guys all stand up and suggest you should just murder the guy. So much for freedom of speech. So much for due proccess. So much for freedom. There is a lot of room between the ideals and the reality. The guy that exposed your war crimes, is locked up. Has he seen a judge yet? What is the difference between China, Russia and US, except for the fact that you guys lie so much better about the supposed freedoms you give.
  16. [16]   Tony
    December 30, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Lots of people like to sit around at their dinner parties and espouse their deep thoughts because they are just SO intellectual. A bunch of fakes and phonies most of them are. If you don't think like them and agree with whatever drivel comes out of their mouths, and chime in like a good little clone, you are somehow evil. Or dare they throw out the classic liberal "racist" label onto you? Oh well, eff em all.
  17. [17]   Johnny Z.
    December 31, 2010 at 12:49 AM

    Of course, your enlightened party guests could read somethings like this, but it wouldn't jive with their ultra-hip world view: http://www.amerika.org/texts/archeofuturism-by-guillaume-faye-michael-walker/