So yesterday evening, while waiting to ask directions in a hotel lobby, I was standing behind an American woman and her two kids. They were all obese, all a deep red shade of sunburn, all sorta loud. The mother was ordering room service. “You have pizza, right?” she said.
“Yes, of course,” said the employee.
“Can you put pineapple and bacon on that?”
“Uh … pineapple and bacon?” came the reply.
I laughed—but only out of a sense of un-patriotic embarrassment. You’re in Italy … in Rome—and you order a pizza as if you’re at Pizza Hut? What?
But then I started thinking—about the pineapple-and-bacon pizza; about other things I’ve seen in my various international trips through the years. And my conclusion is this: Americans are fucked up.
OK, perhaps “fucked up” is too strong. But something’s wrong with us, and I’m not sure what it is. Here in Italy, there seems to be a genuine investment in environmental betterment. Everything—absolutely everything—is recycled. The cars are smaller and much more efficient. People (gasp!) walk. Furthermore, while this may well be the land of churches, it’s certainly not the land of uncontrolled dogma. People believe, or sorta believe, or kinda believe. But it seems to be with something of a wink and a nudge. Hmm … maybe I’m off about the wink and the nudge. But it’s certainly not shoved in your face, a la a Rick Perry or Sarah Palin. It’s not a litmus test.
Most of all, I’ve never, ever, ever heard an Italian or Spaniard or even Frenchman yell or scream, “Our country’s the best! We’re No. 1!” But we insecure Americans do it all the time. We can’t mess with Lady Liberty! These colors don’t run! Freedom! Freedom! Freedom! I feel like, in all the bombast, we’ve lost any sense of intr0spection. It’s 2011—what are we the best at? Our health care still sucks, our schools are fading, our sciences blow, our political system—ha! I know … I know—we’ve got all the best actors. And singers. But, well, where are we? What are we doing? Which direction are we headed?
Are we a nation the strives for greatness? Or merely bacon and pineapple on our pizza?