Death of American Culture
Arriving in Spain this summer as part of a study abroad program, I knew that there would be differences between my familiar American society and the mysterious Spanish culture. Yet, I didn’t realize how flawed some aspects of American culture would seem in comparison to Spain.
I’ll admit it was a little nerve wracking at first. I was alone in a foreign country, and I had heard about pickpockets and robbers. But the whole month I was there, I didn’t have one incident where I felt violated or afraid. In fact, the environment and feeling the Spaniards gave off was comforting.
Even though I knew speaking Spanish would be a great struggle, I was even more worried about how difficult adjusting to a new lifestyle would be. My host mother, Inmaculada, spent a great deal of time and patience trying to understand the differences between our two different worlds, and although some of our views differed, she was one of the most accepting people I’ve met.
Race, age, the language barrier and religion played no part in determining who was worth talking to or helping in Spain. Even if it’s clear you’re different and a tourist, you are accepted. Spain is the perfect example of unity in diversity.
Meanwhile in America, we walk out of our homes in fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When I told my host mother about the 70 people that were shot during Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, she wasn’t even sure how to react. She also couldn’t even recall if there was ever a mass shooting in Spain. The scary thing is, any American can name at least five off the top of our heads.
In the United States, many still struggle to accept other fellow Americans. Hate crimes have been rising in numbers; African Americans fear for their lives when approached by a white cop; innocent Muslims Americans are labeled as terrorists; gays, lesbians, bisexuals, queers and transgenders are shamed for their sexual orientation. I don’t understand how a woman with clearly different values and traditions was so tolerant of someone from a different country when some Americans won’t accept a fellow citizen’s right to be equal, free and supported.
It’s no secret that Americans without their phones feel like they’re stark naked; wherever we are, we’ll always find our eyes and hands glued to our phone. We have all experienced the crisis of leaving our phones at home or having it die before fourth period. In Spain, I noticed an amazing thing: not one person was looking at their phone during dinner. They were genuinely interested in what the other person was saying, even making eye contact with another human being!
American culture is often put on a pedestal, and there is no doubt that this is a successful, prosperous country. However, many pressing issues are growing and America has forgotten the values of humility, hard work, diversity of thought and optimism that it was built on. Greed has dominated our society, race and gender inequality has divided us and the constant emphasis on materialistic gains and ego has set us apart from others. It’s time for us to take a lesson from Spain and return to the being the great country we once were.