sitting in orientation for my rotary scholarship this weekend i discovered something i didn’t expect.

a common nuerosis.

it isn’t really that severe…but sometimes i think of it that way. the feeling of paranoia tand discomfort hat befalls me whenever someone who “looks like me” does something that i see as embarassing or stereotypica.

the guy sitting next to was russian- born and raised. he was also ridiculously well traveled. coincidentally there was another russian there. and as training programs often do, we were broken into small groups and made to act out one thing or another.

for her part, the russian woman was the “russian fairy” and kept saying things to that affect. and true to the character she was playing, she urged the guy in her skit to stay loud and obnoxious like a good american.

at her first mention of being “the russian fairy” he groaned and rolled his eys. by the second he was muttering to himself, and possibly to me, that all russians didn’t act that way.

i nudged him and smiled.

“i never thought about other groups doing that,” i told him. i was excited but dismayed. here he was, suffering from the same irrational embarrassment that i do when i watch the news and pray that whatever new foulness or stupidty that is about to be aired is not the result of browness.

for his part, wise beyond my short sighted thinking, he said, “any time you are the minority you are subject to these feeilngs of paranoia and embarrassment.”

and he’s right. when i travel abroad and i see an american acting out as athe trademark  “ugly american” i am ashamed. if people from my university do something idiotic i am shamed. when folks from the south seem to fit the stereotype of the south, i cringe.

but it is stupid. i didn’t think that that woman’s behavior was a)particularly shameful or b)in any way indicitive of russians at large any more than the rude germans i traveled with in southern africa make up my feelings for germans.

that said, i know for some people it does. for some people, a bad experience with a rental car will represent the shotty workmanship of a ford and a texan with a twang will be the entire lone star state. that said, that known, i don’t think i should hold myself responsible for the behavior of every person in the world i might have some connection to…six degrees of  me is a heck of a lot of guilt to play with.

as for russians, i think of them like i think of most nationalities…it takes all kind but i’m glad i met the ones i did. hopefully they think the same of me

1 Comment on a lesson learned

  1. AJ says:

    i like this one, "…six degrees of me is a heck of a lot of guilt to play with." that's why i try to keep mine down to 3 degree, even that's alot in my world!

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