In Defense of American Heritage

Georgians are perhaps overly fond of mocking the United States of America for being a “young” nation. Georgians attribute a whole host of negative traits to this deficiency – our lack of respect for tradition, our liberal values, our loose morals, our unwholesome food, and our inability to speak proper English, among other things. Georgians clearly respect the United States for its strength and world influence, but I’m not clear on what else, if anything, Georgians might respect us for.

If I’m being totally honest, this irritates me to no end. My first impulse is always retaliatory, although I have so far managed to refrain from telling any Georgians that their nation is younger than I am, and that the maps I studied in Geography class didn’t have a country called “Georgia” – just a giant USSR. And if I were being cruel/brutally honest, I might even go so far as to point out that the political entity currently known as Georgia has never actually transferred power from one ruling regime to the next as a result of elections, and has not demonstrated an ability to maintain its own borders, and thus calling modern Georgia a sovereign democratic state is highly optimistic, at best – more a reflection of Georgian aspirations than of reality.

But of course two wrongs don’t make a right, and I don’t want to devolve into name calling, and anyway judging Georgia by the length of time it has been a sovereign polity in its most recent incarnation is completely unfair. But by the same logic, so is judging the United States that way.

Georgians are proud that their culture stretches back thousands of years. They point to regional dance, to Georgian foods, to Christianity, to the great Georgian writers and artists, to winemaking, and they make the very valid point that modern Georgia is enriched by Georgia’s past – by thousands of years of Georgia’s past, in some cases. Georgians are proud of being one of the first Christian nations, and of possibly occupying the land that was the birthplace of wine.

America, on the other hand, is a country that was colonized 400 years ago and founded just over 200 years ago. Georgians like to ask Americans what American culture is, or what things are uniquely American, and I for one am sometimes hard-pressed to answer, because so much of what I like about America is the fact that it is a melting pot, which is another way of saying that we just take what we want from other cultures and assimilate it and make it ours.

And that in itself is, I think, really cool and valuable. I think it’s cool that we reinvented pizza, and that New York pizza is significantly different from Italian pizza, and even that Chicago pizza is somewhat different from New York pizza. And you can come along and say, “well pizza is Italian,” but the thing that Italians call pizza and the thing that New Yorkers call pizza are different enough that you could make a strong argument that they are actually different foods.

Also, tomatoes are a new world plant. All of the tomato-based things that you think of as Italian food – all the marinara sauces and lasagnes and so on – those are all relatively modern recipes created after America began to be colonized. Think about that.

But I realized something else, while thinking about this, and arguing on facebook about whether US or UK culture is better – I realized that American heritage is, in a large sense, British heritage, which, in turn, is Western heritage.

I mean, when the colonists left England, they still thought of themselves as British. They named the colonies after British nobles. New York – and this is a little known fact – is named after York, which is an actual place in England as well as one of the names that the Duke of York was known by in the literary parlance. Virginia was named after Queen Elizabeth (the connection isn’t obvious, but she was supposedly a virgin), Georgia after King George, New Jersey after Prince Jersey (just kidding).

More importantly, Americans grow up reading English literature. We study Shakespeare in school. We learn British history as part of American history. This makes sense because our Constitution would not exist without the Magna Carta. Our legal system is based on the British legal system, and our common law is based on British common law. We study Blackstone’s commentaries in classes that focus on the development of American law.

Basically the USA didn’t just spring up by itself four hundred years ago and start kicking ass and taking names and mangling the English language. It would be more accurate to say that the UK (late edit – actually this would be Great Britain; the UK wasn’t known as the UK until well after the US gained independence) split off into two branches – the US and the UK – and each branch went in a different direction. An Irish friend asked me why Americans call autumn “fall” – well it turns out that “fall” is the older term that was used in the whole English-speaking world before the US split off, and that the British and Irish picked up “autumn” in the meantime whereas the US stuck with “fall.” One could surmise that there are a lot of little cultural things like that – that US culture isn’t just a random set of recent inventions, but is actually a legitimate descendant of UK culture and that UK culture has changed just as much in the last 235 years as US culture has.

But I would go even further than that – America is not just an offshoot, even a coequal one, of British culture. You see, Americans see ourselves as the pinnacle of Western culture. This is arrogant, but not necessarily unjustified – when people nowadays talk about Western Imperialism, they’re mostly talking about American Imperialism, unless they’re talking about the historical impact of British or French imperialism. But the British, French, Dutch, and Spanish empires are over; the American empire, in the minds of many, is only just getting started. America, for better at the worst, is definitely at the top of the heap. For the time being.

Even further than that: Americans view ourselves as the vanguard of modern democracy, as the people destined to carry the ideals of the Republic of Rome to all corners of the earth. In a sense that’s why we harbor fondness for the UK, and let them ride our coattails in world politics and speak of a “special relationship” – we know that our democracy owes a lot to theirs, but we also feel that we got there first (especially since they still have a monarch – what’s with that?). In a sense that’s why the French are our natural foils – they’re allies in that they’re democratic, but the French model is different from the American model in a number of interesting ways that are too intricate to get into here but lead to a sort of mutual disdain. But more importantly, that’s why Americans see ourselves as the inheritors of ancient wisdom – as the natural and ordained heirs to classical thought, to Greek and Roman understanding of science and art and culture. When we study world history in school, we study a very Eurocentric version of world history – it tends to begin with a brief mention of ancient Egypt, then go straight to Greece and Rome, gloss over the Dark Ages, and then pick up again with the Crusades. We rarely mention that the Crusades sort of woke Europe up because we invaded people who were way smarter than us – which is to say, the Muslim world.

And I say “we” because even though I wasn’t there, it’s so ingrained in the American psyche that these events in Europe are part of *our* history that it’s very difficult for me to think of the Crusaders as others. Americans learn a Eurocentric version of history that ends with Europe’s greatest achievement of all: giving birth to the United States of America.

So the American version of American history – American heritage – is this: We came out of Africa, dicked around in the Old World for a few thousand years, and then finally decided that that was bull shit and sailed across the ocean to found the greatest fucking country ever to grace the face of the Earth. And here we are today, a shining beacon of democracy, the end.

And this is something that we never really think about or question – and in fact, most people in America completely ignore their history lessons anyway and have no fucking idea that any of what I just said happened, but for those of us who actually listened in class, we basically just had to accept the narrative arc of American heritage. And it’s found in philosophy, in politics, law, history, geography, math, science – Americans have a way of very blithely assuming that any achievement made anywhere in the Western world was done for our benefit and carried to our country by our ancestors because the countries they came from were inferior.

In the Cold War we used to talk of “Brain Drain” – the idea that all of the USSR’s best scientists would always want to come to America because we were so clearly a better place to live and work, and that Communism would fall because America was so awesome that we literally leached other countries of their talent until they collapsed. It turns out that this term was coined to describe European flight to America after WWII. So you see, we even have a narrative explaining why we actually deserve all of the ideas that we appropriate from other countries – we won them fair and square, just by being better.

So if you’ve ever wondered about where American arrogance comes from, this is it. Everything we learn in school is sort of geared towards it. I don’t even think it’s intentional, in most cases – I just think that everyone wants to paint their country in the best light possible, and when you’re the most militarily and culturally dominant nation in the world, that light is blindingly bright. Blinding – a word I pick because it’s a double-edged sword. Pride goeth before the fall.

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Still, I don’t think that Americans have less of a sense of history than Georgians or other people who happen to have occupied the same physical location longer than Americans have. I think Americans, if you really press them, would say that America builds on the achievements of successive societies, from ancient Greece to modern Europe, and that we really are the heirs to the Republic of Rome, the Magna Carta, and every other Western achievement that culminated in our founding.

But to me, what makes America really great is that we are a nation of immigrants. I don’t look at the history of Germany, Slovenia, Italy, or Puerto Rico – the places where my grandparents or great-grandparents were born – as more mine than that of America. In fact, by immigrating to America, they chose to adopt American heritage as their own. They brought their languages, their foods, their religions, and other traditions with them, but they decided that they and their children would be a part of a new kind of nation – an elective nation – a nation that they belonged to not because of where they were born but because of what they chose to do with their lives. They took their destiny, and their history, into their own hands.

So to me, if Americans are iconoclasts, if our values are liberal and our view of tradition is dim, it’s just because we happen to be a self-selected group of people descended from those who chose what traditions to follow, who chose to uproot their lives in search of something better. The history of America and its people, to me, is a constant inspiration to try to make something – anything – better.

And really, these are views of American culture that tend to be deeply ingrained, but that you might not ever think about until you leave the country for a significant period of time and see where other cultures get their pride from. America’s comes from our view of ourselves as the heir to, and pinnacle of, all European achievement, ever. Georgia’s comes from occupying a piece of land for a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really long time.

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I also want to take a moment to just point out that the idea that traditions can be ancient is illusory. If you’ve ever played a game of Telephone, this should be abundantly clear. I like to talk about how things like pizza and marinara sauce – things that are considered quintessentially Italian by most people – antedate Columbus’ voyage to the New World. I make the same observation about ghomi, a Mingrelian staple food made from cornmeal. Now, sure, ghomi might have been made from something other than maize flour before maize made its way to the Caucasus, but the point remains: we have no way of knowing how things tasted before we were born; we can only guess. We have no way of knowing what language sounded like before voice recorders, or what dancing looked like before photographs; we can only rely on descriptions. Interpretations of our religious, legal, moral, and philosophical texts change from generation to generation, in turn yielding interpretations of those interpretations, until the modern version is so far away from the text that the original people who produced the text would not recognize the modern interpretation at all.

Traditions are reborn with every instantiation. Traditions are a game of telephone that can never come back around to the first person to whisper in someone’s ear. So that’s why I find it hard to view Georgia’s traditions as somehow more legitimate, valid, worthwhile, or even ancient than American traditions, which is in turn why I find it preposterous that Georgia is somehow more rooted in history than America.

Well, this post ran long. A few things I want to mention: one, Georgians don’t tend to know where words in their language come from; two, the first semi-historical event to happen in Georgia is the visit of the Argonauts. Medea came from Colchis, or prehistoric Georgia, and ended up poisoning a princess and murdering her two children before summoning her dark goddess and escaping in a heavenly chariot. Georgians don’t make a tradition of any of this stuff, and with good reason, but it just goes to show: having a connection to the history of a piece of land has ups and downs. Third and last, Christianity came to Georgia less than two thousand years ago, so does that mean that Georgians inherently have less history than Jews, whose religious heritage goes back over five thousand years?

Things to consider.

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25 Responses to In Defense of American Heritage

  1. George from Georgia says:

    Brilliant post! Brilliant not because I agree to what you are saying, but brilliant because you are learning, and learning fast, and we, your readers are learning from you. Truly – Teach and Learn with Georgia!

  2. choppa481 says:

    Neal you just dropped some knowledge bombs. Well done.

  3. mike says:

    Whenever any Georgian says that their nation is two thousand years old, say the educated thing and call them on it. Georgian statehood is, with frequent interruptions, indeed over a thousand years old. Georgia can legitimately be called a country even during it’s time in the USSR.

    But the Georgian nation, that is, Georgian nationalism uniting the majority of the populace, is considerably younger than two centuries. Georgia is an ancient culture, people, tribe, language, what-have-you, but as a nation, it is younger than the U.S.

    And although the nation of Georgia in now way derives from Russia or the Slavic world in the way that America derives from Britain or the Western World, Georgia would likely not exist without Russian and Soviet rule.

    The first generation of Georgian nationalist intellectuals were all fluent in Russian because they were educated there. Under Tsarist rule, the Georgian upper class acquired modern skills and perspectives and began to formulate ancient traditions and cultural attributes into the idea of a nation. And their capacity to transmit those nationalist beliefs to the greater population required the modernity that Russia brought. Nationalism found most purchase in cities that had been mostly Armenian before and among workers who would not have existed without Russian industrialization. Russian rule incubated the development of the Georgian nation, such that Georgia was ready to declare independence from Russia and set up a functioning (democratic, socialist state) after 1917.

    The Soviets squashed it, of course, but nevertheless their policies completed the process of creating a Georgian state. Although nationalism as related to separatism and particularism was suppressed, all other kinds of national pride and identification were outright encouraged under the USSR. It is because of Soviet censuses that Mingrelians, Adjarians, Imeretians and Svans are considered Georgians. Had Soviet policy been different, they could have started to consider themselves a separate nationality.

  4. So I know this is tangental, but I’m a tangent kind of guy. I have a friend whose new campaign is that Anglo Saxon religions are the indigenous religions of people of Germanic and Celtic descent, and they deserve the same protections as Americans give First Nation’s indigenous traditions. I dunno how much I glom onto this, even though my spiritual practice is based on those Anglo Saxon traditions, but I think this hives nicely with the concept of America as an extention of Britian. This friend sees the forced conversion vai the Crusades and governmental Christianity to be similar to the eradication of Native culture; the argument is not wholly without merit. Just thought I would share the tangent with you.

  5. pasumonok says:

    what i have always loved about america, is how a young nation took all of these interesting european ideas and put it into practice.no bloody revolutions, no monarchs died and resurrected, just bunch of people gathering to write a constitution. truly, rare nations has been blessed with so many great leaders at the same time, leaders, who took european philosophy and actually applied it.
    of cors, all of this is fairy-taled now– my government professor in college kept telling us that the Constitution was not this nicely scripted agreement but a haphazard consensus of stuff people remembered to argue about–but it happened long time ago, so i can romanticize it, right?
    as for the georgian traditions, i am tired of demystifying bunch of soviet practices mascarading as georgian, since no one wants to believe me. this has happened to many post-soviet countries; every country had sets of identifiable national stereotypes, so did we, and we loved to act them and they loved to watch. take wine for example. the most famous georgian wine, is teh wine pushed by the ussr, not necessarily the best one, but we still keep on claiming that say Kvanchkara is the unforgettable.
    on the other hand, few people know about gay traditions in the 19th century caucasus, and try to ignore official papers describing it.
    traditions and history; oh so selective and biased.

  6. Benjamin says:

    So great to read how fine and deep you Americans here think you and your culture are… even that you are the natural and leading continuation of the western civilization… however it seems you forget to mention the great American philosophers we all read and so greatly respect. Like Scooby Doo, Fred Flintstone, Donald Duck and the others.

    American Pizza, and American beer, American coffee, American cheese… please give me a break. Don’t you worry, I’m not a Georgian but I have got a brain and some truly European education and real European experiences and knowledge. Why don’t you spit it out… post modern queer theory in the American college form is the essence and culmination of the western civilization and the democratic party leaders are after Jesus and Wittgenstein saving and serving the humanity the best.

    “Where they pour Coca Cola just like vintage wine
    Now I try hard not to become hysterical
    But I’m not sure if I am laughing or crying”

    To me it seems that all to many Americans have some intellectual inferiority complex that you try to handle by bragging and behaving arrogant. One Russian said to an American who where living in Moscow for some time. “How strange that we both are so different and so alike. We are both so arrogant and brazen. We come both from big countries with big armies and have limited personal experience from other countries. We don’t respect others but glorify ourselves.” That American did not liked this bonding totally but I think the Russian man really had a point. Mr Obama himself once wrote that his mother taught him “to disdain the blend of ignorance and arrogance that too often characterized Americans abroad”. It can be added that Obamas mother Stanley Ann Dunham herself was an anthropologist. She had obviously some knowledge and experience. Not all Americans are self-serving retards.

    To call your blog “Georgia on my mind” and still believe that you have interesting and original ideas about Georgia you must live a life in blissful state of combined ignorance and delusion.

    This melting pot you are so fond of. It is based on the eradication of civilizations that existed before you pot melters arrived and killed them off. It seems you forgot to mention this detail. They had lived there a quite long time, some thousand years before you came there, it seems. But this is just a illusion and old saying in your eyes I guess. The disrespect for history and native populations like the Georgian seems inheritable amercian.

    And no, I’m not supporting the other party where you put the few who disagree with your genial philosophical conclusions about Georgia and Georgians if they are not ordinary primitive sexist Neanderthal Georgians in your opinion. And yes, I have a far higher and broader education than you from theory of science, to political and philosophical disciplines including both classical and modern philosophers including the continental traditions. And yes, also Butler and Irigary but also Merlau-Ponty, Derrida and Foucault. And yes social sciences as well, I know my Bourdieu, from the original. And no, I don’t just know American but speak five other languages including English that is obviously not my mother tongue.

    Your uneducated arrogant ranting about Georgia and Georgians I could endure but when you start to bless America in general and American pizza specifically I could not take it anymore. Pardon me.

    /Sacré Bleu

    PS

    Pasumonok, you start to sound like Edika when he told that his sun rises in the north while your sun more seems to rise in the west.

    • Native perspective here... says:

      Everyone’s proud of their country/culture- this is not unique to Americans and neither is arrogance (unfortunately). I’m Georgian and I don’t feel like he is being arrogant toward us – neither does Pasumonok (who is also Georgian).

      I live in America, and I like this country and the people. Everyone blesses their country and food- Georgians even have toasts dedicated to it! It’s perfectly normal, and besides if you ever had New York style and Chicago style pizza, you would be blessing it too.

    • pasumonok says:

      oh i agree with many things that u say…especially about russia and usa, i’ve made the same observation many times. however, we can, simultaneously dislike and like the country, right? we are not necessarily one-sided, simple-minded creatures… at least sometimes…
      and we can argue endlessly about the merit of european philosophy and cultural imperialism too, if it comes down 2 “let’s talk trash about cultures”.
      why become so upset over american pizza? i know why neal is frustrated; people keep telling him that usa has no good food, without ever being in there and tasting it. and this is why he is defensive.
      i’m am sorry if i sound like someone who believes in a perfect democracy exemplified by usa. all of my education was geared towards destroying that myth. i just miss that country, that’s all.
      and yes, i do believe that adapting the constitution was a big step forward for the states; as i have mentioned above, i tend to romanticize it a bit.
      when in states, i spent 3 years critically appraising usa…i am a georgian in georgia now, and i do the same here. we hold on to dying myths and sell them as truths. i oppose try 2 oppose that. very subjectively of cors.
      i actually appreciate ur points, but do u need 2 be so angry?

    • panoptical says:

      “We don’t respect others but glorify ourselves.”

      “you must live a life in blissful state of combined ignorance and delusion”

      “I have a far higher and broader education than you from theory of science, to political and philosophical disciplines including both classical and modern philosophers including the continental traditions. And yes, also Butler and Irigary but also Merlau-Ponty, Derrida and Foucault. And yes social sciences as well, I know my Bourdieu, from the original. And no, I don’t just know American but speak five other languages including English that is obviously not my mother tongue.”

      I just wanted to draw attention to those quotes in case anyone reading this comment has a sense of irony.

  7. Left Eye Looking says:

    I can’t stand ignorance. I hate ignorant Americans, ignorant Georgians, ignorant people from everywhere. I really hate ignorant people that are arrogant about being ignorant. Ignorance about another culture and commenting or criticizing the culture bothers me.

    I don’t have a problem with people hating on/bashing/criticizing the U.S. as long as they know U.S. history, politics, social issues. I feel the same about foreigners hating on/bashing/criticizing Georgia…it’s fine if you know Georgia’s history, politics, and social issues. I become annoyed when someone tells me they hate X country and it’s based on something they saw in a film or on a tv show. That’s ignorance. If you’ve never studied about a country or visited it, you should keep your mouth shut.

    It’s an especially difficult position with “dual consciousness” in American society. Native-Americans and African-Americans don’t feel the same kind of patriotism and dare I say, nationalism that White-Americans (of all ethnicities) appear to have about the U.S.

    When I was in Turkey some of my White-American expat friends visited me and they are what people would consider, “the good ones”. The type of Americans that a person would want to travel abroad and represent their country overseas. They are culturally aware/conscious, knowledgeable about global politics, well traveled, multilingual but still I could detect in them this idea, this supreme pride in America, the false idea of the infallible America. As a woman of color I don’t feel that way. I never have, I never will. Whenever I run into expats from the U.S. who aren’t white, I get a very different perspective about the U.S. from them than the one I get from my White expat friends. Subcultures in America have created a defining line about how we look at the country we hail from. For example; I’m sure an ethnic Turk, a Kurd from Turkey, and an Armenian from Turkey would have different perspectives from each other in their views of Turkey. Dual consciousness would have a lot to do with it.

    It’s really interesting for me because I have yet to meet a White-American expat that doesn’t exude some sort of Disneyland belief about the U.S. especially when they’re abroad. It almost comes across as a sort of luxury to have that type of naivete. I rarely run into African-Americans when I’m abroad unless they’re in the military, state department, or working for some NGO. However whenever I run into them I always ask them if they have observed this special brand of patriotism that White-Americans seem to have about the U.S. They always tell me they notice it and avoid conflict by not saying anything to their White expat friends and coworkers. The reason why they keep their mouths shut is because the expat community is “supposed” to be cohesive since we’re dealing with culture shock and the experience of living abroad.

    On another note:
    I think what offends me the most is that people in other countries don’t realize how truly divided America is. They falsely assume that all Americans think/feel the same way about everything. We are not a monolithic nation at all. Once, I had an Anglo-Kiwi roommate who made many sweeping assumptions about me based on my U.S. passport. I had to correct him and tell him that what he sees in the media is in fact bullshit and it is the stereotype of the wasp, blonde, girl-next-door and is a false and inaccurate picture of the United. States. How could I expect him to know this? He had never been to the U.S, however since he’d never been there he probably should have checked himself before he began spewing out venom I was offended that after I “took him to school” he kept insisting that he was right and I was wrong. That’s arrogant about being ignorant. I tried to explain to him that I grew up in a predominately Mexican and Portuguese-Azores agricultural town and I didn’t really understand or grasp WASP culture until I got to college. Did this explanation help my Anglo-Kiwi roommate? No, he still insisted that what he saw in the media was correct that America was made up of blonde girls like Britney Spears and Frat boys, cheerleaders, football players, apple pie, nationalism, the KKK, Baptists, and Sunday dinners. I told him over and over and over again that there were large pockets of the U.S. where you would NEVER find the WASP stereotype that he relied upon, as his shining example ,of what the rest of the world hates about the staes. Other than abysmal U.S. foreign policy he told me that the world hates American culture. He’s wrong the world doesn’t hate U.S. culture, the world hates WASP culture. It’s too bad that he doesn’t know that the “other” America, the brown, black, and (insert color) isn’t fond of WASP culture either. We don’t like “Girls gone Wild” “Gossip Girls” “Sex and the City” or Justin Beiber, Britney Spears, and other shit like that either. That’s what people think America is along with breast implants, cheerleaders, Playboy, ribeye, Dallas Cowboys, Quilting Bees, Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, Sunday morning preachers, choir practice, Nascar, golf, country clubs, house in the hamptons, yachting clubs, IVY league schools, keeping up with the Joneses, the American dream, etc. (vomit, gag, vomit again)

    He refused to accept the truth that there are Samoans, Tongans, Hawaiians, Chippewas, Seminole, Cherokees, Sioux, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipinos, Cubans, Mexicans, Colombians, Brazilians, Inuit, African-Americans (who don’t live in the ghetto and are rich), Jamaicans, etc. The Kiwi roommate hated the WASP stereotype, but inspite of that, he still refused to accept that any other reality existed. That is ignorance.

    Send any American-hating European, Aussie, Kiwi, African to a small town in the state of Hawaii and they will be in shock at the lack of WASP culture and the lack of nationalism and imperalism. Many Hawaiians don’t even want Hawaii to be a part of the U.S.

    I’ve run into this problem with British expats, Kiwis, Georgians, Turks, Ukrainians, Italians, Kenyans….and the list goes on. When is this idea that the U.S. is a country composed of White football moms, who go to church on Sunday and bake apple pie, going to die? I would like to take some of the people I meet when I travel abroad, that insist on telling me how it is, and plunk them into the middle of a city like Oakland where all they would hear all day long would be Spanglish and Span-ebonics. Nothing Britney Spears or football about that! The problem is that they think that those cities and towns are the exception rather than the rule….then you have retarded tv shows like “Madmen” which are supposedly realistic in its portrayal of the 1960’s but continues to reinforce the false stereotype of the WASP U.S. to other countries. By the year 2040, what will be left of WASP culture if most of the U.S. is Latino?

    Will the rest of the world be able to handle a Latino United States? Or will they still hang onto the WASP/Madmen idea even after it’s died?

    Rachida Jones, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Vin Diesel have made comment than in 50 years most Americans will look like them…not like Maddonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and eating apple pie, ribeye, and NY pizza. They’ll probably be eating fish tacos and tarrow root while listening to Tejano music.

    I told some Georgian friends of mine that my home state, California is over 60% Latino but they kept asking me where the Britney Spears and Sarah Pahlins of the U.S. were at? I’ve even tried showing people movies about Native-Americans like the sundance comedy, “Smoke Signals.” But they still want to know where the Blonde high school cheerleaders and frat boys are at. I totally understand the Afro-lit book, “The Invisible Man” I totally get it now but I apply to an expatriate context. The world has been so indoctrinated with a false view of the U.S.and it’s so insidious that even White-Americans citizens believe it too.

    • Preach it! White people suck!

      You sound almost as bad as the Georgians who are stereotyping you by thinking you’re like whitey. Get a grip lady, not even all white people are the same.

      • Left Eye Looking says:

        @saintfacetious

        Clearly you missed my point with my long tirade which is type above. I never said white people suck at all, and I know you were being sarcastic to try to make your point.

        What I stated was that I’m tired (rather i’m exhausted) from this pervasive idea that seems to have become global that U.S. society and culture are something from Leave it to Beaver and Happy Days. I’ve lived in NZ, Aus, Georgia, Turkey, France, Switzerland, Italy, Mexico and visited 15 other countries and it seems to be a never-ending stereotype. Even when I was in Western Samoa, they had been indoctrinated with this idea from the media.

        The other point I was trying to make is that even the well intentioned expatriates that I’ve met thus far in my travels seem to help fulfill this stereotype, some less than others.

      • Left Eye Looking says:

        @saintfacetious

        To add to the response I typed earlier to your sarcasm…
        You used the term, “whitey” which is actually a derogatory term. I wonder what the response would have been if I had typed/said something like that?

        In my original lengthy statement, I specified the term, wasp culture, which is a particular culture, I wasn’t generalizing because even sociologists and anthropologists have agreed that there is a main wasp culture in the States and there are minor subcultures. As for the culture of this “whitey” that you used to make your point….I’m not sure what that culture is.

  8. Benjamin says:

    The problem is that the blogger sounds quite as intelligent, objective, sensitive and self reflexive as a Jehovah witnesses missionary in Kongo when describing all the godless mean cannibals he meet during his teachings and expeditions among the heathens when writing home to his mother church. He looks in to some strange hut with naked aboriginals and write in his diary, ‘dirty and living like animals, no real limonadi, milkshakes, KFC or hamburgers, just mango juice and horrible godless behaviour.’

    However, reality has shown that there are other religions and beliefs that are possible and acceptable. There are other ideas about the bible and Christianity but the self absorbed mindless missionary has in history often forgotten this. This also seem to be the trouble with many American political commissars enlightened by some half-misunderstood teenage version of post-structuralism combined with McCarthy like political correctness. The so loud mouthed fight for tolerance for everything ends when other people really choose to have a different opinion or living that contradicts the activists own ideas or even if someone dare to smoke. Normally that is how we test the real respect for tolerance. The difficulty starts when other people seriously disagree or chooses other ways of life. American teenage trends can not be understood as the new universal standard. Honestly, these are really difficult things. Universalism or relativism, when and where? The haphazard jumping from strenuous ‘progressive’ American college ideas as universals to hocus-pocus relativism and social constructivism are not that impressive or even logical. This is done be someone that praises his education and enlightened soul and condemns the darkness and un-education surrounding him in here. Some might be blended be the shiny repeatedly underlined new yorky light and not iowian sad upbringing of the blogger but Russians have earlier already tried with their ideology and new true version of reality, but failed. Georgians knows better than this. So I’m not worried but more feel like writing to a Jehovah missionary with some few proselytes who get money, food or work in NGOs where the new kind of prayers are the basis for their new or only blessings. Some might also truly believe in the Jehovah evangelism, such is life. Georgians have survived the empires while the Indians in North America did not.

    To read a person barley knowing Georgia and with no experience of life outside the US telling it “like it is” many times look not superficial but totally wrong when not insulting. Grown up persons realises and accept that there are great differences between American college ethos and life outside this habitat. Grown up people also knows that hipsters and born again democrats many times are no better or less tiring than born again rednecks and republicans. They are all a bunch of irritating Americans. But what is great, there also exist great mature and balanced Americans with some insight and humour, Ben & Jerrys ice-cream and The Wire.

    • panoptical says:

      Wow, dude, you sure know how to bloviate. Two comments and I could fill out your online dating profile:

      Education: High and broad education from Theory of Science to Continental philosophy
      Languages: French, English, Georgian, Russian, Esperanto
      Turn-ons: Bourdieu, Ben & Jerry’s, The Wire, Barack Obama
      Turn-offs: American pizza, Coca Cola, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Eduard Shevardnadze
      Smokes: Sometimes
      Drinks: Social drinker
      Pets: None

    • You talk like we invented colonialism. Check out your own history on that department.

  9. Benjamin says:

    Since your little trick is to either call people of different opinion ‘un-educated (evil) republicans’ if they are not just ‘barbarian un-educated (evil) georgians’ I thought it would be good to tell you that this easy way of brushing away criticism was not relevant in my case but to no avail. To no ones surprise you tried to find another way of not reflect and question yourself and your self-righteousness. Congratulations, you found another way, not all that hard though. You could have complained about spelling errors but now you pretend that my way hindering you from write me off as un-educated is in fact bragging from my side. Damn if I do tell you that I have an education and damned if I don’t. In your opinion I guess telling that I’m not Georgian falls in the same category, bragging and snobbism. Life and argumentation get’s easier this way. It is not ironic but a dishonest and shameful other slimy way of not seriously challenge your way of thinking and your behaviour. When you grow up and get some knowledge and real Georgian friends (not a big chance I agree) you will hopefully understand how wrong you have been. If not you will end up like the other hopeless Americans telling the world that khachapuri is just a cheeseburger without hamburger but with strange bad bread (that sucks) and strange bad cheese (cheesy) in some pathetic phony teenage jargon of American English. How hip and how non-pompous… if you are twelve. Trying to pretend to be a smug and cool teenager at the age of twenty and over is not cool but just smug. Why not go all the way and try to be five and talk children’s language instead? That would give that ‘down with the kids’ expression a real meaning.

    Because the facts are still there, you are teaching, preaching and civilizing those savage Georgian brutes from your supposed vantage top of the victorian (obamian) human heap in most of your texts. You also seem to be some attention seeking coward writing ‘scandalous and appalling’ text or headings about ‘Sex in Georgia’ and the like. Yes I understand it tickle your statistics and multiply your visitors but it is as cheap as seeing some ugly lady showing her breasts in the bar to get attention because she knows that her lack of charm and beauty otherwise would leave her unattended and unloved.

    On average I think Americans from the southern states have a better chance to understand what the true grit of Georgians is or people from Latino cultures. The people from the other places in the US become all to often some prudish Mademoiselles trying to avoid the horrible filthy and unmoral smell and habits surrounding them in Georgia. The same attitude they had and many times still have to the southern states in the US. When not being prudish Mademoiselles the college Yankee ‘intellectuals’ try to avoid the horror of meeting ‘un-educated redneck (evil) republicans’ in another way then to fulfil their preconceptions. People from the south might have their sides but they are not touring the northern states asking them to show some spine or balls. They are unlike the northern missionaries mostly non-proselytic. I guess it might also have some historical reasons since the Yankees conquered and told the southerners how to live properly. So that you now have found a new south in Georgia to wine about come as no surprise.

    What many times makes it worse is that the few Americans living in Georgia having learned a second language have ‘learned’ to speak Russian a little and ‘lived’ with their expat friends a little in Moscow. With this comes not only an understanding but a hidden acceptance of the russian and kremlin perspective and a tendency to never learn Georgian since their russian abilities serves them so well. Well it don’t and some Americans should remember that speaking russian in some ways is like speaking German in Poland after the second world war. To hear Americans whining about disappearing soviet monuments and missing ‘ krasnaya zvezda ‘ at the top of ‘dom kino’ is like asking polish people to not remove the German insignias and ‘Hakenkreuz’ from the ‘Kino Haus’. Even asking to keep the ‘tsiteli varskvlavi’ from the ‘filmis sakhli’ in Georgian would be a little bit nicer but not much. Hearing ‘informed’ stories how the Hakenkreuz in fact is just a swastika that made Hindis speaking peoples and others happy for thousands of years does not help much. The star might also be included in the American flag and other nice places but it does not change any meaning of the red star on the top of a strikingly Stalinist building in the middle of Tbilisi.

    In the Yankee and college minded liberal ivory tower tradition they believe themselves to be shiny moral superior knights while the people from the south of the US are the villains and slave rapiers except those who are the victims that the northerners treat like weak simple minded fools when not joining the culture themselves starting hip-hop acts in Greenwich Village and at Upper East Side. Many times with one token victim-friend to feel themselves authentic and to show that they really care. Non ignorant Americans from the southern states knows that they are as bad or good as any other human being and can treat Latinos, Blacks, Italians, Chinese and Georgians as normal human beings without teaching or pitying them. It helps a lot. They may as a result also be understood as human beings and not people of higher moral standards teaching the newspeak of political correctness. Of course there is an ignorant shadowy side walking around like the teaching northerner but in white sheets and with some more aggressive old fashioned pedagogical way of teaching. They are few and should of course be locked up partly as a warning to the other modern pedagogical teachers from the north.

    Speaking about teaching. I think a person educated in queer science and drama at an American university is as popular in Georgia as a person educated in marxist-leninist science at a Russian university in the old days. Not at all. In those days peasants were horrible slave tormentors and now it’s the Georgian men that are to be persecuted. But most Georgians knew a peasant and most Georgians knows a man today so you will be speaking to someone with first hand knowledge and that makes your situation more problematic. I guess you also want that every new university student to start their university studies with queer theory since it’s like marxist-leninism a meta philosophical base needed for every kind of student especially in mathematics that otherwise risk having a male biased sexist education. Many young Georgians are looking forward to this I can tell you.

    That your tone many times are rough and direct can be acceptable since frustration is the mother of writing be it blogs, lyrics or novels including my hastily written comments. Since I hope you are not a pussy (cat) I hope you appreciate the same kind of writing from me.

    I now see that you view your blogging is some kind of dating advertisement, I’m sure it will pay off since you actually can speak and write American English with some authentic teenage jargon. You will soon be dating a metro-sexual hermaphrodite from Boston or a submissive masochistic Georgian who pretends look up and pretends to agree with you and genial ideas and teachings about crime-think and crime-living. You naughty little boy. By the way you were right about the Ben & Jerrys there, it’s scary… it’s like you’re psychic medium. Now I also better understand how you make your research before posting that: ‘Georgian men think all western women are whores, including your sister and your mother and maybe your uncle.’

    I would like to add that I really totally support the TLG program as well as the Jehovah witness missionaries that are around in Georgia. They make it able for Georgians with their own eyes see and hear of other kind of crazy people than Russians. It brings, I hope, a greater tolerance for nutty people of every kind. It gives a broader spectrum of the modern English speaking world. What would be even better and I think it has already started is to bring in people from, other countries and regions like Italy, France, Greece and Germany. It adds to the flavour since they also have their interesting preferences and ways of thinking. Many times very pleasurable, interesting and truly great. I’m sure that Americans also always will be welcome in Georgia if you are a little more careful with your behaviour than in Vietnam and Iraq. Because Georgia is a truly tolerant society with a great sense of humour and consists of great parts that many times do not understand each other at all.

    In your second reply you changed strategy to avoid questioning yourself. To bloviate in the eyes of an auuthentic narcissistic American windbag I take as an honour. To use a word originating from Ohio really seems like the best way for a American pizza glorifier to merit himself but is no surprise since it was first used to derogatorily describe a republican. You managed again to call people who don’t agree with you ‘un-educated (evil) republican.’ Not only this but the word was originally said to be a language suitable for the yokels. This is a derogatory term referring to the stereotype of unsophisticated country people. So you made it all again you weak little wanker. Calling someone who disagree with you both republican and redneck. How good for your limited self-esteem.

    Or I can look at it this way. A term reserved for your average fellow Americans is honoured to me. Thanks for the invitation and inclusiveness but I rather stay European. As bloviate my text may seem to someone lacking ordinary knowledge but don’t worry, I can translate it to teenage American English for mentally impaired. In short: ‘Maan (I’m sorry, I mean Duude) yaw like uncool rascialist. Yaw like a kind of babylonian empairalist’.

    This blogger is a person who the Georgians so correctly calls an ‘pretenziuli goimi’ of American origin. Fantastic or fabulous, or however the saying goes over there now. Real fat I think the expression was some twenty years ago before you in front of the mirrors understood that fat were not the same as very good.

    Who came out worst in Georgia among Americans are those persons who over were not very appreciated or respected in their homeland but here in Georgia hoped to climb some notches in the hierarchy among the brutes the way colonizers normally do. This does not work out here because Georgians have pride, very good social competence and a solid knowledge of status. I think it’s here somewhere we find the bloggers problems with Georgia and Georgians.

    Authentic dialogue and characteristic tractate from an American documentary about a dog that can talk, and a man that can talk to dogs, and horses, I think:

    Scooby Doo: It’s plastic.
    Shaggy: What do you care? You drink out of the toilet.
    Scooby Doo: So do you.

    At last a few words of admiration and sympathy. I want to thank you for my self and on the behalf of the Georgians that you educate how to use non-rubber condoms. I print these blog-posts and distribute them among villagers who have no access to internet in the mountains and they are all very enthusiastic. However I have a concern that relates to mother earth. Since you argue using non natural material we are many who feel that this is wrong. We have split into two fractions. One that I’m closer to like the knitted condom in wool we make by ourselves. It is and feels more organic. The other fraction is more die hard activists and wants to use all the plastic bags that are blowing around in Georgia. Since they many times are quite thin we have found that the average of four is adequate for a safe and respectful intercourse if no strange or unmoral sexual behaviour occur. In principle I agree that it is correct to take care of waste material but I so like wool. What is your opinion here? We miss your voice. In Kakhetia they say they need no contraceptives, have you any idea why?

    • panoptical says:

      There’s a reason that I didn’t post a serious reply to your previous two comments. That reason is this: I did not take you seriously.

      There are several reasons that I did not take you seriously. Principal among them is the fact that you bragged about how many languages you know and how many great philosophers you have read. This behavior, in my social circles, is considered pretentious and uncouth. To be perfectly blunt, it makes you sound like an idiot. Like a little kid with little kid toys trying to hang with the adults.

      I don’t give a shit how many languages you speak or how many great philosophers you have read. All I care about is what you bring to the table.

      What you brought to the table when you commented on my blog was an incoherent rant full of pointless insults.

      Your education is irrelevant. Your words speak for themselves. They say: “I’m an asshole.”

      As far as this comment goes, you have actually made assertions that can be discussed seriously, so I will discuss some of them seriously:

      First, you accuse me of adopting an attitude that Republicans are evil and uneducated. That is not my attitude. I have been a registered Republican since I reached legal voting age, and have voted for my city’s Republican mayor in every election. I voted for Bush in 2000 but to say that I was dissatisfied with his performance would be a colossal understatement so I have abstained from subsequent Presidential elections. I would prefer a Paul presidency but Obama would be my second choice since he is slightly less bloodthirsty and a great deal more socially progressive than the other Republican candidates.

      Second, you suggest that I am single. I am not; I have been in a serious relationship for the past six months.

      Third, you seem to imply that I have some opinion on the Dom Kino (or should I say კინოს სახლი?) star situation. In, truth I couldn’t care less about that, Gudiashvili square, Aghmeshenebeli, or any of the other cosmetic changes happening around Tbilisi and Georgia in general. Clearly many people have strong opinions about these things. I am not one of those people.

      Fourth, a “rapier” is a kind of sword.

      Fifth, polyisoprene is rubber. It is biodegradable and not environmentally toxic. If you’re concerned about the environment, dispose of condoms in normal trash receptacles and do not litter them all over Georgia’s parks and stadiums. I saw a ton of used condoms at an old football stadium in Telavi, so I would suggest that your info about Kakheti may not be one hundred percent accurate.

      Sixth, I would say that your use of wool condoms could account, in part, for the fact that Georgia has one of the highest rates of abortions in the world, but I don’t want to come off as a missionary. Not to say that I’m intolerant of abortions – I know that having a shockingly high abortion rate is a tradition in Georgia, and that the Georgian Orthodox Church supports abortions, and that the Georgian people are proud of their many abortions, and I certainly wouldn’t want to question that pride or imply that having a populace who knew the first thing about basic anatomy or biology or reproductive health might stem the overwhelming tide of aborted fetuses issuing forth from the Caucasus. It’s totally offensive for me to even suggest that Georgians should be educated about some nutty “queer science” theory like how to prevent unwanted pregnancy (or STDs), and I apologize.

      Finally, I agree with one thing you said – if I was from the south I would probably be much more likely to understand why it is better to live in ignorance than to have an open exchange of knowledge across cultures. I would sympathize with your anti-foreign sentiments and call people from other countries insignificant losers or pretentious losers. There are plenty of states in the US that relentlessly persecute immigrants – Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina – because the majority of citizens in those states have no desire to interact with people from different backgrounds. But, you know, I’m just a stupid northerner so I guess I can’t understand how to treat people like humans by racially profiling them or denying them jobs, health care, and education like they do in the southern states.

      • pasumonok says:

        i think arguing is pointless; i find some of ur (benjamin’s) arguments sound, but then u switch 2 offensive personal insult and naturally, we start 2 attack u.
        when u make personal assumptions, there is a big chance that u can be wrong. “You will soon be dating a metro-sexual hermaphrodite from Boston or a submissive masochistic Georgian who pretends look up and pretends to agree with you and genial ideas and teachings about crime-think and crime-living” is insulting not only 2 the author, but also 2 his gf.
        i don’t think any online argument with strangers is worth hurting others’ feelings and potentially, relationship. have u thought how would statements like that make her feel?

        • Man in a high castle says:

          Benjamin, where can we meet and when can we go out for some khinkhali and beer? You are the only sane foreigner that actually knows something about Georgia. Yo, Neal; you got roasted like a pig before christmas supra, suck it up – Benjamin already dropped the mic and left the scene

      • choppa481 says:

        As an Alabamian, I think that the view that many Alabamians have is that they don’t want illegal immigrants. Alabama actually has a very healthy Filipino population as well as Indian, Midde Eastern, and German, many of which are legal immigrants that pay taxes, provide needed jobs from farming to manufacturing all the way up to engineering and health care, all of which help to support our economy. As far as denying education to them, a public university, Auburn, saves many of its scholarships for international students, and only gives out full scholarships to in-state students that are National Merit Finalists. I know this for a fact because I was denied a scholarship for this very reason. Am I biased? Yes. Was Alabama once the center of racially derived hate? Yes. Does the Good Ol’ Boy network still exist? Yes, but Alabama has also made leaps and bounds in progress in its diversity and inclusiveness. Maybe I’m on the oustide looking in, I am not a WASP, but I could pass for one. I have Native American heritage and grew up Catholic, which potentially put me in a place for far much more diversity than most in my state, but I can tell you from experience that generally we have a much more tolerant culture than we get credit for. There are still pockets of old Alabama, but they are often not on the beaten path, but if you are a minority don’t be in Cullman, AL after dark.

        As for Benjamin, being one of your southern exemplars, you are correct in that I don’t fear meeting the “uneducated redneck,” but I do fear meeting the ignorant. While it would appear you are not uneducated, it would appear that you are ignorant. I think Confucius says it best, “He with whom neither slander that gradually soaks into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh, are successful may be called intelligent indeed.”

  10. richard1983a says:

    I think you just touched upon a topic that is perhaps even more controversial than sex and gender in Georgia, namely nation and nationalism!

    If you haven’t already dvelved heavily into this topic, but wish to increase your knowledge, I can recommend some literature for you.

    I would especially recommend Rogers Brubaker’s “Nationhood and the National Question in the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Eurasia: An Institutionalist Account” which explains how present day national idenity in post-Soviet countries was actually in large part formed by Soviet nationality policy:

    http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/soc/faculty/brubaker/Publications/10_Nationhood_and_the_National_Question.pdf

    Also, Grigor Suny, an American scholar of Armenian extraction, has written extensively on nationalism and national identity in the Caucasus, much of which you might find interesting.

    I suggest you check out this piece of his; it makes for an interesting and fun read, at least as far as academic literature goes:

    “Constructing Primordialism: Old Histories for New Nations”
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~crn/crn_papers/Suny3.pdf

  11. Georgische Legion says:

    > Proto Kartvelians settle the Caucasus around 5 million years ago
    > First Georgian Tribe enters the scene around 13 century BC
    > considers Georgia as younger then him or herself.
    > claims to know history
    > this isn’t 4chan
    > i know

    • panoptical says:

      Wow, I’ve heard that Georgia is ancient but you’re the first to tell me that Georgians are older than humanity itself.

      Proto-Kartvelian is a hypothetical common ancestor language of the extant Kartvelian languages. There is no group of people called “Proto Kartvelians” and there never has been.

      The oldest evidence of human-like creatures living in the Caucasus region is no more than 1.8 million years old, and of course I say human-like because anatomically modern humans evolved only about 0.2 million years ago. Also, it is likely that the Homo erectus fossils found in Georgia belong to species that died out and have no modern descendents, and were replaced by humans in later waves of migration out of Africa. This information is not exactly hard to find… so I have to assume that your intentions are nationalistic rather than intellectual. What utter nonsense.

      • Georgische Legion says:

        Welp. I apologize for the 5 million nonsense I spewed on your precious blog. I got carried away and forgot the historical facts.

        And there was a group called “Proto Kartvelians”. The people that settled the Kartvelian land before Diaokhi’s came to the tribal scene.

        And give me a fucking break, that 5 million thing was a major slip – I apologize.

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