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For a long time the only feedback I got about the site was mostly complimentary, with some pertinent comments, request for help or messages sent to me by some sort of bizarre error. (See the FAQ on the Help page under “Why don’t you ever put online emails which are critical of your site or opinions?”) Well, I’ve finally got a “critical” response; I think that’s a fair way of putting it. I’m not at all sure what on the site has prompted this. Punctuation and spelling, by the way, are exactly as in the original.

FROM: Shemeka Benjamin

SUBJECT: who's really the petty 1?

Dear You,

I am an American. Why we are disliked amongst you people is a mystery to me, and yet When I see some of your excuses I can't help but be amused. Petty? Us? Snobbish? Never! I saw many other things as well. I don't understand why--or how-- "you" can dislike someone based on where they live. And we have those types of people worldwide You point a finger at us and call us snobby? Take another look, love. You're staring down a mirror. And to think I wanted to go there..I don't think so.^-^

Well, Shemeka, I’m sorry to hear you are an American, that must be a real bugger in the world today. I’m not sure who you’re talking about when you refer to “you people”; I make no pretence to be talking on behalf of anyone but myself in this site. It certainly is true that there are parts of the world where Americans are hated, never mind disliked — given the way the USA has conducted foreign policy over the past forty or fifty years that is hardly surprising. I don’t, though, happen to live somewhere like that.

Here, in Scotland, there is no particular tendency to dislike “Americans”, although there is widespread distrust of the policies and motives of the American government. Given that, while preaching democracy, the USA has spent much of the last half-century supporting, shoring up and giving weapons to the most odious, vicious and oppressive tyrants (yes, that does include Saddam Hussein) while actively undermining democratically elected governments that is, again, hardly surprising.

It is true that some American tourists do provoke a degree of hostility simply by being thoroughly obnoxious. I believe that when Kennedy was in the White House Americans travelling abroad received a letter from the President reminding them that as tourists they were emissaries of their country; this advice has been something frequently forgotten by Americans travelling in Europe. We are all aware that not all American tourists, let alone all Americans, are so obnoxious, but it would be astonishing if loud-mouthed Americans complaining that things are not organised precisely as they are in the USA, or that the cuisine is different (and so on) did not provoke some anger. My own impression is that this happens less often than it used to, but I could be wrong; I am certain that younger Americans today are much less prone to this. Anyway, we are all aware of the difference between Americans who are loudmouthed boors and the majority of decent, pleasant Americans.

I assume that you are claiming that “my excuses” — what excuses? — for disliking Americans are that Americans are “petty” and “snobbish” — if that isn’t what you mean, I have no idea what you’re trying to say. Since I don’t dislike Americans as a group I have never said anything to excuse such an attitude (and I’m not likely to do so in the future).

I’ve certainly never accused Americans of being snobbish; in fact, the word “snob” and its derivatives have never been used on this site until now. “Petty” has been used three times, never in any connection with America or Americans; so, frankly, I don’t know what you’re on about.

You say you “saw many other things as well” — on your form so far I wouldn’t like to assume that what you think you saw is what is actually there, but as you aren’t specific I can hardly comment further.

You say, “I don’t understand why — or how — ‘you’ can dislike someone based on where they live.” (Why the quotation marks around the pronoun?) Since I never said I did dislike someone based on where they live, you will wait a long time before I defend such a foolish position. As your next, slightly mangled, sentence puts it, there are “those types of people” (petty and snobbish people, I take it) everywhere. I have never said otherwise — but then, as I have said, I never called anyone petty or snobbish; I certainly never pointed a finger at “you” and called you snobby. I have no idea why you imagine I did. If you choose not to visit Europe on the basis of a completely imaginary slight, that is wholly your loss; don’t imagine there are nations weeping at the thought you won’t be gracing us with your presence.

Oh, and by the way: you can stare down a tunnel, you can stare down a person or even a wild animal, but you can’t stare down a mirror.

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