Why is America so weird and why don’t Americans know it?

I left the United States in 1985. I left because I had an Australian wife and a two year old son. We couldn’t afford to buy a house in San Francisco or any other area we wanted to live in. We found a house in a beautiful beach suburb outside of Sydney and lived there for 20 years.

I didn’t think America was weird when I left. It was normal to me. Thirty-odd years later, I finally understand that it may be one of the weirdest countries on earth. That may be by design.

Here are some of the things that make America weird:

  1. They changed the English language. Instead of writing “labour” they write “labor.” They changed words with “s”in them to “z.”
  2. They use the imperial measuring system. Inches, quarts and gallons are a lot more confusing that metric measurements.
  3. They measure temperature in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius
  4. They have their own sports. What they call football doesn’t resemble football in other countries. How can you have a World Series when yours is the only country that participates?
  5. They drive on the right side of the road. Some other countries do this as well, but not the British. You’d think they would have copied the British.

These are a few examples of the way America has divorced itself from the rest of the world. At the same time, it thinks it’s an “exceptional” country. It is exceptionally powerful, but that’s about it. It’s not the only country that has a democracy, but even that is questionable. A Princeton study points out that America is really an oligarchy.

The weirdest thing about America to those who live outside of the country is its ignorance of other cultures. It’s understandable because most Americans don’t venture outside of the United States until they’re fully indoctrinated with the belief they are somehow superior to other cultures. They’re not. Here in Cambodia, we have a huge range of cultures coming to visit. Chinese tourists outnumber Western tourists now. Guess what? They may live in an “authoritarian” regime, but they have money to spend and as much freedom as we have. In our capitalistic world, freedom and money go hand in hand. It doesn’t matter who you vote for or even if you have the opportunity to vote.

When I moved to Australia, I experienced racism for the first time. Some country Australians called me a “seppo,” which is short for septic tank. I asked a few people about this and they said it’s because many Australians resent America’s power. Some think their favorite (favourite) Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, only lasted three years because the CIA disapproved of the way he was running the country.

We can criticize (criticise) Cambodia for a lot of things, but are often surprised when Cambodia criticizes us. Cambodians often call foreigners “skoot barang” (crazy foreigners) because we are so weird in their eyes. We talk too loudly; think our countries are better; think we know better ways of doing things; and are basically hedonistic. We don’t recognize (recognise) the value of family and village life and we depend on our governments as if they are our parents.

I didn’t realize (realise) until long after I left the United States what a lie the line, “land of the free” is. America has laws for everything and enforces them. Australia has fewer laws and the police look the other way at minor infractions. Cambodia can’t afford enough police to enforce their laws, so the police only act when someone flagrantly violates the law.

It’s well known that the United States has the largest prison population per capita in the world. Many of those who are in prison are there for minor offenses (offences). Unfortunately, the country has also re-introduced slavery in the form of private prisons, where inmates work for a pittance making things for businesses. There is something deeply wrong about that.

I’m not even going to comment on the Presidential election. Everybody knows how weird that is.

I’m not writing this to put Americans down. It might sound like that, but I’m pointing these things out in hopes a few of them will stop thinking there is something “exceptional” about their country. It’s just one of hundreds of countries in the world. Like other countries, it has its faults and its virtues. If it got off its high horse, it might have a chance to rejoin the human family.