I was sitting at my gate waiting to board my plane for my flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi, I had just passed Emma off to Scott and he had disappeared in to the wilderness of duty free shops. The distinguished African man sitting next to me leaned over and asked,
“Where are you from?”
“The United States.”
“Oh, I thought that you were from Europe.” I decided to take that as a compliment, Europeans are usually more stylishly dressed than we are, and often skinnier…
“What part of the United States are you from?”
“Colorado,” it’s the last place we lived and get much less flack for Colorado rather than the general mocking I get for California. Or the asinine comment, 'oh, the Governator.' Right, thanks, didn't vote in that election.
“Cah-loh-rah-doh,” he rolled the unfamiliar syllables over his tongue,
“So tell me, do hillbillies really eat people?” I recovered from the multi-level shock of such a question. My mind flipped through several answers like a child playing with a rolodex, one being, ‘some might,’ but decided on,
“No, hillbillies don’t really eat people,” whilst shaking my head gently and assuredly.
“Ah, you have seen the movie Wrong Turn?” He asked.
“Noooo, I don’t watch movies like that,’ I said calmly. A comment that killed the conversation.
I would like to take this moment to point out that this man thought we were from Europe, so if he had been observing us the whole time he was thinking we were not American. So, the moment he discovered that we were American this man pounced on his opportunity to ask this question. Soooo, potentially this question had been bothering him. I would also like to point out that through my own eavesdropping I discovered that he was a Minister of Parliament of some Africa country. Just going to drop that note and walk away, do with it what you will.
I was more than a little bit saddened that this individual, who was obviously an educated and well-to-do individual, would believe that US citizens would be cannibals just based on something he had seen in a movie. It makes one wonder, how many people in other countries take what they have seen in our media and take that at face value. We are what we show? Or do we show what we are?
I know that most of our media displays things that are sensational, things that we don’t do. I don’t know anyone that sleeps around as much as the girls in Sex in the City. Hillbillies don’t eat people, that is why it is shocking, that doesn’t happen. That is why we watch those things, it is fantasy, escape from reality. These things are not real.
Embarrassingly enough there are people who watch our media and believe that is real, even people in our country. How do you explain so many copycat crimes? The fact that no one had ever shot up a public place until Columbine? Now there are shootings almost once a month. Now if people that live in our own culture can’t even navigate our own to know what’s real and what’s not, or what’s a good idea and what’s not, how are those from overseas to do it? They answer: they don’t. The ending thought: no wonder they hate us.