Sawdust & Planks

America has a secure place in the hearts and minds of the world as a racist, sexist, egotistical, bigoted, selfish, greedy, violent--the list of our offensives seems almost limitless--land of hypocrites.  From my chair on this side of The Pond, this is the assumed, unquestionable truth.  Even Americans believe it.  

But the truth has a habit of outing. 

In college, I spent some time studying in the South of France. A week after arriving, I watched the police roll their eyes and shrug when myself and a few other co-eds tried to report daily instances of men approaching us while masturbating. Apparently, we were the prudish American girls making much ado about nothing. So, left to our own devices, we quickly figured out that laughing or snorting in a we-aren't-impressed way dampened the exhibitionists' enthusiasm.

Not long after the policemen ignored us, a few of us were out with some local kids. The discussion touched on how awful and sexist American men were, on their lack of respect for women.  I recall thinking that sure America had gender issues, but never would our police blow off a series of grown men cornering young women for a captive porn audience.  I started to notice other, unexpected differences, things such as Switzerland not allowing women to vote until the 1970's. Now I know other such things--if you want to adopt a child if you are gay, or rent an apartment if you have dark skin, you will want to be in the US, not the EU.  

I have long since grown weary of America being lectured about the specks in her eye by those with planks lodged in their own. (See Matthew 7:3-4, NIV).  Not all foreign criticism of the US is unwarranted or out of bounds, but Americans shouldn't consent to be used as a whipping boy for others to flog while congratulating themselves on their own superiority.

I do not mention any of this to excuse America from self-inspection. Hardly. We must be honest with ourselves about our shortcomings though, frankly, we are far more introspective than the world gives us credit for.

What worries me is that the illusion of pretty and perfect Europe colors our analysis.  Many of our elites think that Europe is better than us, and many Americans have assumed that the near constant refrain of Europe's superiority is true. It isn't.  Yet we spend inordinate amounts of time beating ourselves up for being such Neanderthals.  This often leads us to look for new solutions when the current solutions are in fine working order, or to copy supposed solutions that will make things worse.

Sawdust and Planks are posts about such hypocrisies.