I just read Gerhard's "Show European Balls" post and well, I'll take the bait.
First, I live here in Europe. I'll tell you right now there's no "Europe". Each country here is very isolated and has it's own laws for the most part and it's own culture. What is common in Austria is completely unthinkable in Spain. Besides traffic signs and paperwork, a common Europe doesn't exist and won't for many, many years.
Secondly, the U.S. is made of separate states. They are "States" and they are "United". Two words. This means that whereas in California smoking is a horrible crime (Thank Goodness. The rest of the world should be as forward thinking as California) in other states, smoking is as common as in Spain. Where do you think Marlboros come from? Talking about the U.S. as a whole is as ridiculous as talking about Europe as a whole. There are some generalities but basically there will always be exceptions. I'm not from Alabama, for instance, I'm from California. That says a lot. The cultures aren't as different as say Finland and Greece, but the way of life and thinking is extremely varied.
That said, the main perception of the U.S. as a whole in Europe as a whole is made by two things: Hollywood and President Bush. If I only knew about the U.S. from these two sources, I'd probably be a little annoyed with the U.S. too. When someone starts ranting, ask them if they're reading the New York Times, or watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whether they're reading American weblogs or listening to our psychotic President on TV. There is so much ignorance and misperceptions of the U.S. outside its borders, it's just sad. Most people in the U.S. know NOTHING about other countries, many times not even stereotypes. Every Tomas, Ricardo and Enrique in Europe (Tom, Dick and Harry) thinks they know all about the U.S. because they've seen BayWatch. I really don't know which is worse. Notice how the guy in Gerhard's story who actually lived in the U.S. defended it? This isn't surprising.
After that, I'll just defend the U.S. myself. If you want to be in self denial, you can find many small things about the U.S. to pick on, but basically the United States of America is the most incredible country on this planet. Play with the facts if you want, but the U.S. is superlative in every category without exception. It is the world's oldest democracy. Its inventions and innovations power the globe. Its universites are the best. Its hospitals are the best. We are the melting pot of the world with 30% of the population in the U.S. were themselves or their parents born outside its borders (isolationist European countries should be ashamed). Our people work harder and longer than any country on Earth. The United States is, when it is at its best, everything the world should hope to be. The American Way of Life represents that hope: Freedom. Diversity. Tolerance. Innovation. Openess. Opportunity. How can anyone possibly bash this?
Yeah, yeah. I know. We're hardly at our best right now. The U.S. has many problems, the principle of which in my opinion is the gap between the rich and the poor and the divisiveness of our politics. Where some towns have great schools, other poorer towns are in crisis. Where some people have access to the best health care on earth, others sleep in the streets. This isn't the best, I admit, and our politicians aren't fixing it. Remember, Democrats basically think like many in Europe and 50% of the country is Democratic. The problem is the other half are inbred warmongering protectionist religious nutcases. What can I say, no country is perfect. These are problems that will have to be solved. But do even these HUGE problems take away from the grandeur of the country as a whole? No. You cannot compare the U.S. with any country in Europe or even as Europe as a whole. There is no comparision - the U.S. is better in every way.
Eurpe wants to be a better America? Well, when Europe is truly united, maybe. When it's borders are truly open, maybe. When it's people truly live side by side (not just its countries), maybe. When Europe can prove it can go a century or two without any major wars, maybe. Then Europe and Europeans will be ready to take on the U.S. as leaders in the world, but no sooner. Until then, they'll just have to accept that those in the New World have the reigns of power and are going to hang onto them for a while longer.
Basically, it comes down to this. Someone has to be the most powerful. Someone has to lead. Choose. Who do you want it to be? China? Russia? Germany? Austria? Australia? Iran? Iraq? The European Union? Who?
Yep, that's what I thought. Thank goodness it's the U.S.