Reinforcing the ‘ugly American’ stereotype abroad


There have been so many reports recently of people going on racist rants that, sadly, it has ceased to be a novelty worth mentioning and is becoming a routine fact of life. But then I came across this one about a United Airlines flight from Sydney to San Francisco that had to be diverted to Auckland because a passenger objected to being seated between two people of apparently South Asian ethnicity.

He seemed to feel that since they both had the same last name, he should not have been seated between them. I am not sure why he had that expectation. The center seat is the least desirable and even if two people are traveling together, it is not unusual for one to choose the aisle and the other the window, if they can get them.

One passenger seated three to four rows in front of him said the situation escalated from there with the man, a Caucasian, turning on the attendants who tried to intervene.

“The rant progressed from cursing Indians to Asians to Muslims to non-whites in general and calling flight crew f****** and fat asses,” he said. “He was subdued after the pilot announced the diversion to Auckland.

“When the flight landed in Auckland he was told to co-operate when police removed him or he would face additional charges.

“Passengers took cellphone video of his removal and he called them f****** as he passed them.”

Another passenger said the man “exploded into a fit of rage” 40 minutes into the flight.

He said the man then proceeded to launch into “offensive language, racial and sexist slurs” and began to grab soda off the cart and demanded beer.

Perhaps he thought that they would not divert the plane merely to get rid of him and that once he landed in the US, maybe Donald Trump would protect him from any repercussions. But they did divert and he is now in police custody in New Zealand until he can be put on another plane back to the US.

I wonder how long it will take before being called gay will cease to be seen as a general purpose insult.

Comments

  1. Lofty says

    It seems to be that no matter what country to hail from, when you notice fellow citizens abroad it’s because of their outrageous behaviour. The truth is that there are ugly racists in all cultures.

  2. flex says

    It is a shame that the novel The Ugly American has been used as a generic slur for American behavior abroad.

    The “Ugly American” in the novel is, in fact, a most helpful person and very appreciative of the culture of his host country. He just considered himself ugly from the years spent doing manual labor in the states.

    Now, the foils in the novel, the American Ambassador and other members of the American state department, are good-looking people. But they treat the natives of the country they are living in as inferior and act ostentatiously.

    Possibly that was the point the authors were trying to make, although I have my doubts.
    And we all know that the phrase now refers to idiots who travel simply to denigrate the country’s they visit and the people therein. So I doubt there is any possibility of redemption for the phrase; it describes the louts who act that way far too well.

    Not that the behavior of American’s travelling abroad hasn’t often caused comment. I’ll remind you of one of my favorite passages from chapter XI of Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad:

    We were troubled a little at dinner today by the conduct of an American, who talked very loudly and coarsely and laughed boisterously where all others were so quiet and well behaved.

    He ordered wine with a royal flourish and said: “I never dine without wine, sir” (which was a pitiful falsehood), and
    looked around upon the company to bask in the admiration he expected to find in their faces. All these airs in a land where they would as soon expect to leave the soup out of the bill of fare as the wine!–in a land where wine is nearly as common among all ranks as water! This fellow said: “I am a free-born sovereign, sir, an American, sir, and I want
    everybody to know it!” He did not mention that he was a lineal descendant of Balaam’s ass, but everybody knew that without his telling it.

    Pratchett once alluded to the out-dated habit of wealthy Englishmen who made a tour of the continent to complete their educations as The Grand Sneer.

  3. says

    “The rant progressed from cursing Indians to Asians to Muslims to non-whites in general and calling flight crew f****** and fat asses,” he said. “He was subdued after the pilot announced the diversion to Auckland

    If he was such a superior specimen, why wasn’t he up in first class?

    What boggles my mind is that these “superior” assholes never seem to manifest the attributes of a superior person, yet they come up with some axis on which they’re able to think they’re superior.

  4. says

    flex (#3) –

    It is a shame that the novel The Ugly American has been used as a generic slur for American behavior abroad.

    The “Ugly American” in the novel is, in fact, a most helpful person and very appreciative of the culture of his host country. He just considered himself ugly from the years spent doing manual labor in the states.

    Your statement reminds me of this quote from 2000:

    “John Rocker is being called rotten ’cause he’s ignorant and I’ve been called rotten for being informed. I am deeply hurt to be compared to your mouth-breathing national numbskull.”
    – John Lydon, a/k/a Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols

  5. says

    It’s not that there aren’t racist and arrogant people in all other countries. You can find them in any tourist contingent of the western nations. It just seems there are more of them among the Americans. Since they usually can get by in their mother tongue they expect to get by in it and become quickly offended if somebody doesn’t speak it.
    Many of them also never consider the possibility that there could be other ways to do something and then proceed to blame all resulting problems on the host country.
    About two years ago I drove to Cologne and stopped at one of the service stations for a cup of coffee. While I was waiting for my coffee a guy came in and told the cashier “two-twenty”. The woman didn’t speak English, and while I do, it took me a moment to figure out that he wanted to pay his fuel in advance. I explained to him that this isn’t how it works in Germany, you pump first and pay then.
    He thanked me nicely, but I could also hear him complain to himself about that stupid German system on his way out.
    And believe me, if I wrote down all these incidences, I’d be sitting here until tomorrow.

  6. Dunc says

    Personally, I’m quite pleased that the US has eclipsed Britain as the world’s leading exporter of over-entitled arseholes… We probably haven’t actually got any better, but at least you’re making us look better by comparison.

  7. Mano Singham says

    I wrote about visiting Sri Lanka last year and at a hotel one American guest was loudly berating the reception clerk over a trivial issue and even threw a pencil at him. Another guest (also American) who observed this took the first person to task for treating the clerk so badly to which the latter replied, “I am an American and I can treat these people any way I want!”

    The impression created by the rude American is the one that will remain in the memory of the hotel staff.

  8. Crimson Clupeidae says

    The good news is that most of the people in other countries are much better about not painting all of us USians with a broad brush.

    I encountered, first hand, one of these idiots when I lived in Germany. She just had to be from TX, of course, which reinforced all kinds of bad stereotypes: loud, whiny, wanting everything her way and being cheap about it. I apologized to the wait staff at the restaurant as we were leaving, and while they appreciated it (even as bad as my German is), they also made a point of noting that most Americans were not as obnoxious as that woman. I joked that if a customer was that rude, though, the odds were that they were American….I think they had to agree on that point, but they joked that the French were almost as bad.

  9. Raucous Indignation says

    I hate seeing other Americans when I am abroad. I am frequently disgusted and embarrassed by their behavior. I feel like I should apologize for them.

    Of course, I feel that way when I’m in the US too, so …

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