New Americans in Ireland reveal more bias there, here

    Four months have passed since my arrival in Cork, Ireland, and this week, much has changed. Most of the American students have left. They have gone home to finish their degrees and tell their peers about the fabled alcohol consumption and feisty Irish women.

    Because their school only allows them to stay for one semester, these students will quickly disappear from the memory of the Irish students, as well as those of us American students staying for the year. Schoolwork will help us forget them while we cram in all our reports and exams. Beer will make those memories fade quickly as long as the breweries of Ireland stay standing. But mostly, we will forget our American friends because a whole new group of Americans have arrived for the spring semester.

    They are extremely easy to spot, since they still have blaring American stereotypes emanating from their every footfall. They walk around in large groups of Americans so as to gain support against the foretold anti-Americanism. Their normal talking voices are louder than an Irishman’s yell, and they cannot understand the Cork accent to save their lives.

    I realize how bad I must have been four months ago, and it’s rather humbling. Fortunately, American students quickly realize that our stereotype is an embarrassing one, so the decibel level of voices drops drastically and the groups of Americans drop to two or three at a time. Thus, these students, given a week or two, will assimilate into the Irish college culture. Regardless, this week, there is a nearly tangible strain on the relationship between the Irish and American students. The fact that the strain comes from so much stereotyping is proof and possible cause of the current dismal diplomatic state between Europe and the United States.

    The circumstances surrounding the arrival of these new Americans have been quite different than those surrounding our own arrival. Their reception into Ireland is tied fast to the current political feelings between America and its European allies. Thus, it’s easy to tell why they are received differently when looking at what has transpired since our arrival in the fall:

    In September, one year after the terrorist attacks on New York, the world gave America a good deal of sympathy. Despite irritation with the Unites States, most in Europe were willing to side with Americans, since the hatred for terrorism is a nearly unanimous one. Furthermore, at the time of our arrival, Britain was bracing for a terrorist attack that Tony Blair had recently said was only a matter of time. Thus, Europeans were strongly empathizing with the Unites States.

    However, as international solidarity subsided, (as it always does) and politics dominated, the usual suspects of anti-Americanism and American unilateralism took over. While President George W. Bush pursued the liberation (or warmongering, depending on your view) of Iraq, students began to take to the streets. Now, with no recent disastrous attacks to bind the Unites States and Europe together, politics have pushed anti-Americanism up and up.

    Thus, the new American students have to deal with much more disgust and discrimination than we were subjected to.

    The reaction from American students is different from ours as well. Most of the students arriving in September, eager to avoid confrontation in new friendships, quietly bowed to the criticism of America, or at least refused to talk about it. Despite my own staunch conservatism, it was often best to refuse a political argument and have another pint, making a friend instead of an enemy. Most would agree that another beer is much more enjoyable than another tired argument about the 2000 election.

    Even if a student did agree with the criticisms, as many did, it only further turned Irish student activists against the Unites States. Besides the cynicism that Irish students already have, these American students would increase the left-leaning knowledge that Irish students were already fed — further justifying Irish stereotypes of Americans. Thus, those Americans, who were so vocally critical of the U.S. government, hurt themselves in the end, as well as those who support the current administration. I watched one American girl completely agree with a ranting Irish student on the evils of the Unites States only to be attacked by that same Irish student for being American.

    This time around, though, with the criticisms harsher and more vocal, many American students have been holding their ground instead of merely cowing under the pressure to disown their nationality. Most students (leftists excluded) have been vocally defending the United States, though not necessarily the Bush administration. Regardless of ideology, therefore, students are growing frustrated at being attacked just for their place of birth. After talking to a large group of newly arrived American students, I noted that most of them were already sick and tired of being held personally responsible for American foreign policy and were growing annoyed and irritated at the judgmental nature of the Irish students. A few extreme cases involved Democratic students switching to a Republican ideology to prove they won’t let the criticisms get to them.

    After being indoctrinated in the view that we should judge each individual based on the quality of their character (heaven forbid), and not the foreign policy of their government, it comes as a great disappointment to American students abroad that they should be attacked for something they have no power to control. Thus, the harsher the criticism, the more American students will become critical of Europe. Sadly, the whole cycle will occur all over again when American students return complaining about the hypocritical, judgmental Europeans, and the Europeans tell their peers about the obnoxious, warmongering Americans.

    On top of it all, this takes place in Ireland, which is mildly anti-American compared to other European cultures.

    Admittedly, Americans abroad can be initially obnoxious, loud and apparently disrespectful of other cultures. However, these students learn quickly and by and large blend with the Irish students better than the European students.

    As has been evident all week, Europeans will be vocal about their disagreement with American foreign policy. However, judging an individual by his or her nationality is arguably racism, or at least just as horrendous a stereotype. To insult a person based solely on politics that that person may or may not be affiliated with is just as bad. It is sad that the majority of college-aged Europe, with its self-proclaimed civilized, enlightened nature, will stoop to the level they feel Americans are responsible for.

    For college students, this is a bad start to future diplomatic ties, wherein the diplomats will be from our class ranks. Sadly, the answer is as simple as refusing to judge based on nationality. For the thousands of international students going to and coming from Europe or America, we need to grow up before we get into positions of power.

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