Throughout Germany, you’ll find a chain of clothing store called “New Yorker.” It vaguely reminds me of Abercrombie without the sex and expensive merchandise.
On second, thought, maybe it’s not so similar to Abercrombie…
Once upon a time, someone over there concluded that “New Yorker” would work as a store name, at least from a marketing perspective. We have brands with “New York” in the name here in the U.S. so it’s not unique to Germany. However, New York seems to imply coolness over there when you’re talking about superficial things like clothes.
And New York is cool. Unless you’re a Boston fan…
And then there are the images of New York that foreign countries see and they assume that all Americans live in New York… except for Barack Obama who obviously lives in Washington and a little girl named Dorothy who hails from the mythical land of Kansas. New York isn’t particularly associated with anything cultural in this view, so you get a blending of stereotypes:
We all live in New York and wear cowboy hats and carry guns and lassos. Okay, maybe we’re not portrayed with lassos. The German media doesn’t inform its people THAT poorly.
So let’s have ourselves an information party.
Images emerge from individual parts of our very large country and they usually don’t represent much beyond a segment of that location’s population. (Hint: most Texans don’t wear cowboy hats. Most New Yorkers don’t work on Wall street. Most Americans don’t eat at McDonald’s unless a need arises, or uprises in the case of obnoxious children.)
But I’m tired of griping about stereotypes.
Instead, I’d like to talk about one small-scale case that does reflect on the U.S. as a whole. Recently in Virginia, one of our country’s most highly ranking congressmen was defeated in an election that was only open to a small geographic area; he even lost to an underfunded member of his own party.
Some call it a problem with the system. I call it useful, even though I’m not fond of the political movement that ousted him. Right now we have a large-ish and staunchly anti-government group called the Tea Party. (To my non-U.S. readers: the Tea Party is not a political party. They are among the most conservative people in the Republican Party and their name is a reference to the 1774 Boston Tea Party.)
I’m not going to debate whether the Tea Party has screwed things up on various issues because I prefer to remain nonpartisan around here. However, its ability to influence events points to something positive. In most countries, such a sizable anti-government movement could threaten political stability. Instead, our dissenters run for Congress and they can win whether the national party likes it or not.
The reasonable expectation of being able to wield influence and enact change outweighs any disagreements one might have with one’s current political leaders. And, despite claims to the contrary, we are still free to openly disagree.
Blogger’s note: This post was inspired by KleesButterfly’s excellent take on how Germans are misrepresented. I decided to do an American version today because of the upcoming festivities. (Plus, I usually do European travel photos on Fridays.) To my U.S. readers: have a most excellent 4th of July. Don’t forget that the day is about more than flags and fireworks. Since it’s an election year, take the opportunity to refresh your memory on how the system works around here… and do it before you start guzzling all that beer.